Science Fiction/ Fantasy Reviews | March 15, 2013

The approach of spring brings not only an abundance of new growth and new life, but also signals an eruption of new titles with fresh, challenging ideas and plenty of action and intrigue. Both sf and fantasy bring some heavy hitters to the table this month.

A pair of sf novels addresses the current ecological crisis. Neal Asher’s The Departure launches a space opera featuring social drama of cosmic proportions as desperate people seek refuge from a dying Earth. Deb Taber’s Necessary Ill offers an uncomfortable treatment for many of the world’s problems. M. John Harrison’sEmpty Space: A Haunting (shortlisted for the BSFA Awards; see the Newsworthy box on page 96) demonstrates the literary potential of the genre, while Tom Holt’s Doughnut presents a roller-coaster ride through the world of physics and the origins of the universe.

Fantasy makes a strong showing with Guy Gavriel Kay’s new alternate history, River of Stars, inspired by China’s Song Dynasty. Betsy Dornbusch’s Exile launches an epic fantasy series that promises a rich, brooding atmosphere, while Zachary Jernigan’s debut, No Return, starts a saga involving war in the world of mortals and the world of gods. Lee Carroll’s The Shape Stealer continues the tale of the last of the Watchtowers and her search for her 400-year-old lover. Dana Cameron’s paranormal series opener, Seven Kinds of Hell, revolves around a fractious family of werewolves, oracles, and vampires, while Paul Cornell’s London Fallingcombines urban fantasy and police procedural with ease and grace.

Two anthologies, Steve Rascnic Tem’s curious Onion Songs and The Apes of Wrath, a primate-centered collection of classic and modern stories and essays, provide solid reading for fans of short fiction. Finally, another round of award nominations and short lists offer suggestions for reading for those who like to keep up with the winners and near-winners.

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewHolt, Tom. Doughnut. Orbit: Hachette. Mar. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780316226103. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316226097. SF

Physicist Theo Bernstein loses his job when he accidentally blows up Switzerland’s Very Very Large Hadron Collider. As his life plummets into chaos, he receives an unexpected inheritance from an old friend, Professor Pieter van Goyen, and careens into a world of impossible possibilities that not only defy the laws of physics but also demand a rewrite. In between, Theo travels to many worlds; meets a cast of friends, relatives, and enemies; and even encounters an alien or two as well. VERDICT Holt (Lucia in Wartime; Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages) adds to his repertoire of comedic sf, one of the most difficult genre acts to master. Theo is an engaging hero; his brilliance is counteracted by his laziness and his compassion, which is matched by his sense of survival. Place this title alongside Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, Pratchett’s “Discworld” series, and the absurdist works of mainstream authors such as John Barth and Gilbert Sorrentino.

Kowal, Mary Robinette. Without a Summer. Tor. (The Glamorist Histories, Bk. 3). Apr. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780765334152. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466808386. FANTASY

Late in the spring of 1816, Sir David and Lady Jane Vincent have recovered from their war experiences and are spending time with Jane’s parents in the English countryside. Accepting a glamural commission in London, the Vincents invite Melody, Jane’s younger sister, to join them, hoping to brighten her mood and provide better opportunities for making a good match. But the couple must also fend off demands from Vincent’s estranged family, protect misunderstood coldmongers, determine the truth from lies told, and still work their artistry. VERDICT Koval’s third historical fantasy title (after Shades of Milk and Honey and Glamour in Glass) will delight series fans as they reconnect with favorite characters in new situations. The underlying fantastical nature of this Regency England continues to flourish, making a unique backdrop for discussing complex topics of social inequality, superstition obscuring scientific fact, and political corruption. Even as the intricate natural and social elements engage readers, it is the sweet, strong emotional connections that draw them back for more.—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewAsher, Neal. The Departure. Night Shade. (The Owner, Bk. 1). Mar. 2013. 392p. ISBN 9781597804479. pap. $15.99. SF

On an overpopulated, high-tech future Earth where most humans are deemed zero-asset citizens and destined for destruction, the Committee enjoys total control. It has also abandoned the Antares Base colony on Mars, dooming the colonists. Alan Saul, a former prisoner of the Committee, escapes death by incineration only to discover that his memories are missing and that he shares his mind with a powerful, rogue AI that provides him with enhanced mental and physical abilities. On Mars, Varalia Delex joins a movement to attempt to save Antares Base. VERDICT Asher (Brass Man; Cowl) begins a new saga that tells the stories of two worlds struggling for freedom and self-determination. A feast for fans of high-tech sf and space adventure/suspense. [Zero Point, the second volume, will publish in May—Ed.]

The following titles are reviewed in the March 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.


Cameron, Dana. Seven Kinds of Hell. 47North: Amazon. (Fangborn, Bk. 1). Mar. 2013. 422p. ISBN 9781611097955. pap. $16.95. FANTASY

Carroll, Lee. The Shape Stealer: A Watchtower Novel. Tor. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780765325990. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429948159. FANTASY

Cornell, Paul. London Falling. Tor. Apr. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780765330277. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781429946728. FANTASY

Dornbusch, Betsy. Exile: The First Book of the Seven Eyes. Night Shade. Mar. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781597804523. $26.99. FANTASY

Harrison, M. John. Empty Space: A Haunting. Night Shade. (Kefahuchi Tract, Bk. 3). Mar. 2013. 241p. ISBN 9780575096301. pap. $14.99. HORROR

Jernigan, Zachary. No Return. Night Shade. Apr. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781597804561. $26.99. FANTASY

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewKay, Guy Gavriel. River of Stars. Roc: Penguin. Apr. 2013. 575p. ISBN 9780451464972. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101608937. FANTASY

Smith, Chandler Klang. Goldenland Past Dark. ChiZine. Mar. 2013. 270p. ISBN 9781927469354. $16.95; pap.ebk. ISBN 9781927469378. HORROR


The Apes of Wrath. Tachyon. Mar. 2013. 384p. ed. by Richard Klaw. ISBN 9781616960858. pap. $15.95. FANTASY

Tem, Steve Rasnic. Onion Songs. Chomu. Mar. 2013. 370p. ISBN 9781907681219. pap. $17. FANTASY