Butcher’s New Dresden Novel, Time Travel from Gregory, Harris Launches Texas Trilogy, Paull’s Debut of the Month | SF/Fantasy Reviews

So much of speculative fiction is obsessed with ideas of time. Often the questions of sf are what the future might bring. Daryl Gregory’s Afterparty and ­Stephen Baker’s The Boost both look at near-future society and imagine how technological shifts both large and small might change us. The genre might also consider a world centuries or millennia from now. Michael J. ­Sullivan’s Hollow World leaps far ahead into our future but provides a 20th-century time-traveling protagonist to ease the way. Sf can even return to the past with alternate history like Jo Walton’s My Real Children or steampunk like Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’s Dawn’s Early Light, each of which, in their own way, reflects how history could have unspooled differently.

In a very real way much of the literature of fantasy is a means of reimagining the past and how it might have looked if there was magic in the world. Lots of epic fantasy borrows heavily from Europe’s medieval times, but anthologies such as Long ­Hidden show us different slices of history. Felix ­Gilman’s The Revolutions takes a stab at creating what an enchanted Victorian age might have looked like. Mary ­Robinette Kowal has likewise reinvented the Regency period with a very specific kind of decorative magic in Valour and Vanity. Whether you look forward or back, what most of these novels try to illuminate is the ways that human nature is the same, no matter how human society has changed.

redstarButcher, Jim. Skin Game: A Novel of the Dresden Files. ROC: NAL. May 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780451464392. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698157897. FANTASY

skingame041714Butcher (Cold Days) brings back wizard Harry Dresden for his 15th adventure fighting a rogue’s gallery of supernatural villains, but this time in a caper story. Harry has recently taken on the mantle of the Winter Knight, servant to Mab, the Faerie Queen of Air and Darkness, and she has a job for Harry. Mab has a debt to pay to Nicodemus Archleone, Knight of the Blackened Denarius, so she is loaning him Harry’s assistance. As holders of one of Judas’s pieces of silver imbued with a fallen angel, the Knights are very bad news. Worse for Harry is that the job Nicodemus plans is a raid on the vault of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. Dresden is no cream puff himself, but something of an amalgam of his own intelligence and cunning mixed with Harry Potter–like devotion to his friends and the cause of good. ­VERDICT This is urban fantasy par excellence, with magical action, moral dilemmas, and a wonderful cast. Series fans will love this, and there is enough backstory for newcomers.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., ­Wisconsin Rapids

redstarGregory, Daryl. Afterparty. Tor. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780765336927. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466829282. SF

AfterpartyIn the near future, designer drugs can be produced by anyone with a chemjet printer. As the lead developer of a drug called ­Numinous, Lyda Rose knows the dangers of these new pharmaceuticals firsthand. ­Numinous was supposed to cure schizophrenia but instead caused uncontrollable visions taking the form of a very real, very personal manifestation of God. The hallucinations meant the drug was too dangerous to develop and also put Lyda in a mental hospital. When a girl on the ward with Lyda shows every sign of having taken Numinous, Lyda and her paranoid and usefully dangerous lover ­Olivia break out of the hospital to find and stop the other creators of the drugs. The tension grows as they get closer to the secret of who is producing Numinous, with the stakes made more real because of the amazing characters of Lyda and Olivia. VERDICT International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) William L. Crawford Fantasy Award winner Gregory (Pandemonium; Raising Stony Mayhall) takes on the pharmaceutical industry, drug dealers, religion, and the intricacies of how our brains work. The way the author combines the energy of a thriller with the ideas of sf is reminiscent of William Gibson’s best one-step-into-the-future novels like Pattern Recognition.

redstarHarris, Charlaine. Midnight Crossroad: A Novel of Midnight, Texas. Ace. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780425263150. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101598795. FANTASY

midnightcrossroad041714From the author of the Sookie Stackhouse 2001–13 fantasy/mystery series (Dead Until Dark; Dead Ever After) comes the launch of a new trilogy about a small Texas town at the intersection of Witch Light Road and Davy Highway, where everybody has a past and a freaky side. The townsfolk also respect secrets, so as the story unfolds complexities abound. Life centers on a 24-hour pawn shop, the Antique Gallery and Nail Salon, the Gas N Go, and the Home Cookin Restaurant. These spots are populated by a witch, a vampire, a reverend, a new psychic in town, and their closer-to-normal friends. When the disappearance of a citizen turns out to be a murder, the characters delve into their backstories to solve the crime. VERDICT As intimate and deep as the Stackhouse novels, but with a lighter load of gore and death, Harris’s latest displays her skills at interweaving the lives of her characters. Recommended for those who prefer a mystery that perhaps calls for accepting the unbelievable and fantastical.—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

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Baker, Stephen. The Boost. Tor. May 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780765334374. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466810686. SF

Buettner, Robert. Balance Point. Baen. (Orphan’s Legacy, Bk. 3). Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781476736440. pap. $15. SF

Canavan, Trudi. Thief’s Magic. Orbit: Hachette. (Millennium’s Rule, Bk. 1). May 2014. 560p. ISBN 9780316209274. $20; ebk. ISBN 9780316324984. FANTASY

DiLouie, Craig. Suffer the Children. Gallery. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781476739632. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476739649. HORROR

Fletcher, Charlie. The Oversight. Orbit: Hachette. May 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780316279512. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780316279499. FANTASY

Gilman, Felix. The Revolutions. Tor. Apr. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780765337177. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466831360. FANTASY

Kowal, Mary Robinette. Valour and Vanity. Tor. (Glamourist Histories, Bk. 4). May 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780765334169. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466808393. FANTASY

McClellan, Brian. The Crimson Campaign. Orbit: Hachette. (Powder Mage Trilogy, Bk. 2). May 2014. 608p. ISBN 9780316219082. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316219099. FANTASY

McIntosh, Will. Defenders. Orbit: Hachette. May 2014. 512p. ISBN 9780316217767. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780316217750. SF

Painter, Kristen. House of the Rising Sun. Orbit: Hachette. (Crescent City, Bk. 1). May 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780316278270. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780316278287. FANTASY

Pettersson, Vicki. The Given. Harper Voyager. (Celestial Blues, Bk. 3). May 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780062066206. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062064141. FANTASY

Shea, Kieran. Koko Takes a Holiday. Titan. Jun. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9781781168608. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781781168615. SF

Sullivan, Michael J. Hollow World. Tachyon. Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781616961831.pap. $15.95. SF

Walton, Jo. My Real Children. Tor. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780765332653. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466800793. FANTASY

QUOTABLE “ ‘Confused today,’ they wrote on her notes. Confused. Less Confused. Very Confused. That last was written frequently, sometimes abbreviated by the nurses to just ‘VC,’ which made her smile, as if she were sufficiently confused to be given a medal for it.”—Jo Walton, My Real Children

Collections & Anthologies

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. Crossed Genres. May 2014. 363p. ed. by Rose Fox & Daniel José Older. ISBN 9780991392100. pap. 19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780991392117. FANTASY

Nebula Awards Showcase 2014. Pyr: Prometheus. May 2014. 320p. ed. by Kij Johnson. ISBN 9781616149017. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781616149024. SF

Additional SF/Fantasy

Doyle, Tom. American Craftsmen. Tor. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780765337511. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466834576. FANTASY

Mass Market Paperback of Note

Dawn's Early LightBallantine, Pip & Tee Morris. Dawn’s Early Light. Ace. (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Bk. 3). Apr. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780425267318. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781101621455. FANTASY

Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences agents Eliza Braun and ­Wellington Books are out of favor and out of the country in the latest installment of this steampunk series (after 2013’s The Janus Affair). The pair team up with their American counterparts for a simple case involving missing airships off the Atlantic coast. But the mystery grows dangerous when it looks like Thomas ­Edison himself might be involved. VERDICT The romantic tension between Eliza and Wellington is given a nudge in this volume while retaining the bickering and humor that make this series a good bet for steampunk fans.

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