In an ongoing effort to discover more of what’s up in current SF/F, I’ve sampled all the available Amazon previews of new titles linked in SFSignal’s March round-up, and I’ve chosen a few to highlight.
- Mark Smylie, The Barrow. Immediately upon reading this preview, I sent a bunch of my friends a one-line note: “Holy crap, it’s an Artesia novel!” At least three of us bought it instantly. Whatever its flaws may be, don’t mistake this first novel for a typical grim fantasy GRRM knock-off/D&D campaign journal. Smylie’s Artesia is easily the richest and most thoughtful sword & sorcery comic book I’ve ever read–the setting, plot, and characters are all amazing. The novel may be rougher. Certainly, there’s prolific cursing, and others’ reviews promise there are disturbing sex scenes, which I’d count as a negative. But Artesia was so good that it has bought Smylie an awful lot of latitude with me as a reader.
- Brad Aiken, Small Doses of the Future: A Collection of Medical Science Fiction Stories. Aiken is a practicing physician, so these stories ought to be well-informed if nothing else. The preview seems well-written in a careful, precise sort of way. And I’m especially intrigued by the context, because this seems to be part of a relatively new series called Science and Fiction by Springer, a scientific publisher.
- Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer, The Time Traveler’s Almanac. Like The Weird, this seems to be the VanderMeers’ attempt at a comprehensive anthology synopsizing a very large SF/F sub-genre, and looking at the table of contents, I think they may have been successful once again. The stuff included in the preview reminds me how many old time travel stories are a little too pat and almost silly. But then we get some Ursula Le Guin, and I’m hooked.
- Menna van Praag, The House at the End of Hope Street. What a charming magical realist premise: a woman is given an opportunity to stay in a house where many famous women have figured out what to do with their lives and where, apparently, their portraits on the walls will talk her through the same problem. The preview seems warm and inviting itself.
- Andrzej Sapkowski, Baptism of Fire. This is the third novel in Sapkowski’s Witcher Saga, and the preview seems typical. I can see why these books are so popular in Europe. They’re clear, straightforward sword & sorcery stories that put dark magic and difficult ethical dilemmas into the foreground. They’re what Warhammer Fantasy novels seem to aspire to be.
- Chris Wooding, The Iron Jackal. I’m not sure this is new even in the US, but it’s new to me. It’s the third in a series that I’ve heard described as a “steampunk Firefly,” and the preview fits that description pretty well, which means I’m sold.
- Leslye Walton, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. This is a young adult magical realist novel in which a girl is born with wings. I’m not sure I like how the preview spends so much time on the multi-generational backstory. Fortunately, it delivers the magic right up front very vividly, and the multi-generational part is written well enough that I remain hopeful about the return to the main character.
To arrive at a rough guess of the popularity of all original Star Trek novels to date, I began with Wikipedia’s list of Star Trek novels, and I built Goodreads shelves for original novels related to each of the Star Trek TV series and one shelf for crossover/miscellaneous original fiction titles, separating out adaptations and young adult novels onto their own shelves as well. Then, I calculated the cube of the current rating for each novel (expressed as a percentage) times the log of the number of folks rating the novel, resulting in the rankings below. As usual, I’ve eliminated the Goodreads data, leaving only the orderings. YMMV.
The 57 most popular of 570 original Star Trek novels
- David Mack, Lost Souls (Misc.; Star Trek: Destiny, #3)
- Andrew J. Robinson, A Stitch in Time (DS9)
- David Mack, Mere Mortals (Misc.; Star Trek: Destiny #2)
- David Mack, Gods of Night (Misc.; Star Trek: Destiny #1)
- Diane Duane, Spock’s World (TOS)
- Peter David, Q-Squared (TNG)
- Peter David, Imzadi (TNG)
- David Mack, The Persistence of Memory (TNG; Star Trek TNG: Cold Equations, #1)
- Judith Reeves-Stevens, Federation (TOS)
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: Unworthy (VOY)
- Marco Palmieri, The Lives of Dax (DS9)
- Janet Kagan, Uhura’s Song (TOS)
- David R. George III, Raise the Dawn (Misc.; Star Trek: Typhon Pact, #7)
- Judith Reeves-Stevens, Prime Directive (TOS)
- A.C. Crispin, Time for Yesterday (TOS; Star Trek: The Yesterday Saga, #2)
- Peter David, Stone and Anvil (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #14)
- A.C. Crispin, Sarek (TOS)
- Diane Duane, My Enemy, My Ally (TOS; Star Trek: Rihannsu, #1)
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: Full Circle (VOY)
- S.D. Perry, Unity (DS9)
- Peter David, Q-In-Law (TNG; Star Trek: The Next Generation, #18)
- A.C. Crispin, Yesterday’s Son (TOS; Star Trek: The Yesterday Saga, #1)
- James Swallow, The Poisoned Chalice (Misc.)
- David Mack, A Ceremony of Losses (Misc.)
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: The Eternal Tide (VOY)
- Peter David, Gods Above (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #13)
- Diane Duane, Doctor’s Orders (TOS)
- Peter David, Requiem (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #9)
- David Mack, Silent Weapons (TNG; Star Trek TNG: Cold Equations, #2)
- David Mack, Storming Heaven (Misc.; Star Trek: Vanguard, #8)
- Peter David, House of Cards (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #1)
- David Mack, Reap the Whirlwind (Misc.; Star Trek: Vanguard, #3)
- Christie Golden, Homecoming (VOY; Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming, #1)
- Peter David, Renaissance (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #10)
- Peter David, Restoration (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #11)
- Una McCormack, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never Ending Sacrifice (DS9)
- Peter David, Once Burned (Misc.; Star Trek: The Captain’s Table, #5)
- William Shatner, Collision Course (TOS; Star Trek: Academy, #1)
- William Shatner, The Return (TOS; Star Trek: Odyssey, #2)
- Barbara Hambly, Ishmael (TOS; Star Trek, No 23)
- Peter David, Being Human (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #12)
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: Children of the Storm (VOY)
- Greg Cox, The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh (TOS; Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, #1)
- Peter David, Into the Void (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #2)
- Peter David, Fire on High (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #6)
- Julia Ecklar, The Kobayashi Maru (TOS; Star Trek: The Original Series, #47)
- Peter David, End Game (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #4)
- Jean Lorrah, The Vulcan Academy Murders (TOS)
- Jeri Taylor, Mosaic (VOY)
- John de Lancie, I, Q (TNG)
- Margaret Wander Bonanno, Strangers from the Sky (TOS)
- Peter David, The Two Front War (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #3)
- Peter David, After the Fall (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #15)
- Greg Cox, The Eugenics Wars, Vol. 2: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh (TOS; Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, #2)
- S.D. Perry, Avatar Book Two (DS9)
- Peter David, Dark Allies (Misc.; Star Trek: New Frontier, #8)
- S.D. Perry, Avatar Book One of Two (DS9)
The 20 most popular of 195 original Star Trek: TOS novels
- Diane Duane, Spock’s World
- Judith Reeves-Stevens, Federation
- Janet Kagan, Uhura’s Song
- Judith Reeves-Stevens, Prime Directive
- A.C. Crispin, Time for Yesterday (Star Trek: The Yesterday Saga, #2)
- A.C. Crispin, Sarek
- Diane Duane, My Enemy, My Ally (Star Trek: Rihannsu, #1)
- A.C. Crispin, Yesterday’s Son (Star Trek: The Yesterday Saga, #1)
- Diane Duane, Doctor’s Orders
- William Shatner, Collision Course (Star Trek: Academy, #1)
- William Shatner, The Return (Star Trek: Odyssey, #2)
- Barbara Hambly, Ishmael (Star Trek, No 23)
- Greg Cox, The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, #1)
- Julia Ecklar, The Kobayashi Maru (Star Trek: The Original Series, #47)
- Jean Lorrah, The Vulcan Academy Murders
- Margaret Wander Bonanno, Strangers from the Sky
- Greg Cox, The Eugenics Wars, Vol. 2: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek: The Eugenics Wars, #2)
- Diane Duane, The Romulan Way (Star Trek: Rihannsu, #2)
- Diane Carey, Best Destiny
- J.M. Dillard, The Lost Years (Star Trek: The Lost Years, #1)
The 12 most popular of 120 original Star Trek: TNG novels
- Peter David, Q-Squared
- Peter David, Imzadi
- David Mack, The Persistence of Memory (Star Trek TNG: Cold Equations, #1)
- Peter David, Q-In-Law (Star Trek: The Next Generation, #18)
- David Mack, Silent Weapons (Star Trek TNG: Cold Equations, #2)
- John de Lancie, I, Q
- Peter David, Vendetta: The Giant Novel
- David Mack, A Time to Kill
- Diane Duane, Dark Mirror
- David Mack, The Body Electric (Star Trek TNG: Cold Equations, #3)
- Keith R.A. DeCandido, A Time for War, A Time for Peace
- David Mack, A Time to Heal (Star Trek: The Next Generation: Time, #8)
The 6 most popular of 57 original Star Trek: DS9 novels
- Andrew J. Robinson, A Stitch in Time
- Marco Palmieri, The Lives of Dax
- S.D. Perry, Unity
- Una McCormack, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Never Ending Sacrifice
- S.D. Perry, Avatar Book Two
- S.D. Perry, Avatar Book One of Two
The 4 most popular of 39 original Star Trek: Voyager novels
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: Unworthy
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: Full Circle
- Kirsten Beyer, Star Trek: Voyager: The Eternal Tide
- Christie Golden, Homecoming (Star Trek: Voyager: Homecoming, #1)
The 2 most popular of 13 original Star Trek: Enterprise novels
- Andy Mangels, The Good That Men Do
- Christopher L. Bennett, Rise of the Federation: A Choice of Futures
The 11 most popular of 109 miscellaneous original Star Trek universe novels
- David Mack, Lost Souls (Star Trek: Destiny, #3)
- David Mack, Mere Mortals (Star Trek: Destiny #2)
- David Mack, Gods of Night (Star Trek: Destiny #1)
- David R. George III, Raise the Dawn (Star Trek: Typhon Pact, #7)
- Peter David, Stone and Anvil (Star Trek: New Frontier, #14)
- James Swallow, The Poisoned Chalice
- David Mack, A Ceremony of Losses
- Peter David, Gods Above (Star Trek: New Frontier, #13)
- Peter David, Requiem (Star Trek: New Frontier, #9)
- David Mack, Storming Heaven (Star Trek: Vanguard, #8)
- Peter David, House of Cards (Star Trek: New Frontier, #1)
The 4 most popular of 38 original Star Trek young adult novels
- John Vornholt, Capture the Flag
- Rick Barba, The Delta Anomaly (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, #1)
- Rudy Josephs, The Edge (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, #2)
- Alan Gratz, The Assassination Game (Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, #4)
As part of my ongoing experiment to discover more of what’s up in SF/F as a whole, I’ve tried all the available Amazon previews of new titles linked in SFSignal’s February round-up, and I’ve chosen a few to highlight.
- Andy Weir, The Martian. A fairly gripping survival thriller about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Surprisingly, he’s pretty phlegmatic about it and intends to survive the four years it’ll take to get rescued.
- Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation. This appears to be a weird fiction take on Roadside Picnic. I have minor qualms about the prose, but I love the basic premise of explorers going into extremely mysterious and dangerous terrain that’s been mythologized because of past discoveries and extraordinary failures therein.
- Charles Adler, Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction. This is sort of like a “physics of Star Trek” book, except it has a good bit more math in it and a much greater focus on written SF, making it more intriguing to me than most pop sci books about SF/F. I could definitely see this being used as a textbook in a “physics for poets” class.
- Sharon Lee, Carousel Sun. The sequel to Carousel Tides, which I have not read yet either. It’s sort of an urban fantasy set at a beach town in Maine and featuring a carousel owner who is also part dryad? OK, well, that’s unusual. It’s also smoothly written and warm in tone, which is typical for Sharon Lee.
- Daniel Price, The Flight of the Silvers. A very cinematic SF story about two sisters saved from death twice by some folks with strange powers. Somehow, I got sort of a Heroes or FlashForward vibe from it, but I may have imagined it—looking at the description, those shows may not reflect the direction the book goes in.
- Ian McDonald, Empress of the Sun. This seems to be an exaggerated and somewhat campy YA SF adventure novel combining steampunk, parallel Earths, and the discovery of an Alderson disk. The first in the series is Planesrunner.
- M. D. Waters, Archetype. A dystopic thriller about a woman whose memory and identity have been manipulated to make her an ideal wife in a society where women are scarce. I suspect the reader’s own experience of gender dynamics may be critical to appreciating it fully, but I can understand it having an audience.
- Tahereh Mafi, Ignite Me. Apparently, this is the conclusion to a YA series that’s kind of a big deal, although I had never heard of it. The prose is certainly distinctive, which is an accomplishment, but it’s pushed nearly to the point of self-parody. Still, part of what I’m doing here is learning about new things in SF/F, and when I went back and looked at the preview for the first book, Shatter Me, it became clear the series is at least noteworthy.
Continuing a little experiment, I’ve tried all the available Amazon previews of new SF/F linked in SFSignal’s January round-up, and I’ve chosen a few to highlight.
- Jo Walton, What Makes This Book So Great. I wasn’t fond of the same author’s novel Among Others in part because of the many unilluminating references to familiar books. But here, there are enough things to mentally praise or dispute as you read that it’s like shooting the breeze with an SF/F-loving friend.
- Simon Morden, Arcanum. Very neat insertion of grim fantasy action into an interesting and relatively unused corner of semi-historical Europe.
- Seanan McGuire, Indexing. I like the idea of a folklore index being especially meaningful in an urban fantasy world, and as usual, McGuire’s work is ultra-readable.
- Marko Kloos, Lines of Departure. This is actually the second novel in a series, and the first (Terms of Enlistment) was on the January list too. But I liked the preview of the sequel best. It begins the story at a more intriguing place, and it seems to stand alone.
- Joanna Wiebe, The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant. Maybe it’s just that I like boarding school novels and tend to read them less critically, but I read the 73-page preview (minus a few “not included” pages) without noticing the time passing.
- Karen Traviss, Halo: Mortal Dictata. The author’s Star Wars novels are extremely popular, and apparently, she’s doing well with Halo too, in spite of irritating a few fans with her treatment of one character. I have essentially no previous experience with the setting, but I liked the AI and alien characters here, and I’m persuaded there’s something interesting happening in Halo branded fiction in general (certainly the authors are famous: Greg Bear, William C. Dietz, Tobias Buckell, Eric Nylund, etc.).
- Brian Staveley, The Emperor’s Blades. The prologue and the character names didn’t instill much hope, but later chapters were pretty fun, and this seems to be the fat fantasy that a bunch of folks are excited about this month.
As I’ve done in past years, I’ve taken the feature films that IMDb counts as 2013 releases and multiplied their IMDb Bayesian average rating times their Rotten Tomatoes critic percentages. Excluded were films with fewer than 2000 ratings, films with fewer than 20 critic reviews, and all documentaries. And so here are the top ~30 films—all that scored over 6.0:
Votes IRaw Bayes RT% RT%*B Title
====== === ===== == ===== ===================================
31521 8.6 8.499 97 8.244 12 Years a Slave (imdb)
220952 8.3 8.287 97 8.038 Gravity (imdb)
41002 8.1 8.044 98 7.883 Before Midnight (imdb)
13099 8.1 7.941 96 7.623 The Past, a.k.a. Le passé (imdb)
4653 8.6 8.089 93 7.523 Her (imdb)
68849 8.1 8.066 93 7.501 Captain Phillips (imdb)
81273 8.3 8.266 89 7.357 Rush (imdb)
9505 8.0 7.809 94 7.340 Inside Llewyn Davis (imdb)
43115 7.9 7.856 93 7.306 American Hustle (imdb)
159357 8.2 8.184 89 7.284 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (imdb)
9374 8.0 7.807 93 7.261 Dallas Buyers Club (imdb)
16064 8.1 7.967 90 7.170 Blue is the Warmest Color, a.k.a. La vie d'Adèle (imdb)
50570 8.1 8.054 89 7.168 Frozen (imdb)
9367 7.8 7.642 93 7.107 The Great Beauty, a.k.a. La grande bellezza (imdb)
15170 7.6 7.518 94 7.067 Fruitvale Station (imdb)
4576 8.1 7.735 91 7.039 Nebraska (imdb)
5950 7.9 7.648 92 7.036 Philomena (imdb)
7723 7.3 7.218 96 6.929 Enough Said (imdb)
27158 7.6 7.552 91 6.872 Blue Jasmine (imdb)
245632 7.9 7.892 87 6.866 Star Trek Into Darkness (imdb)
15028 7.5 7.430 92 6.836 The Spectacular Now (imdb)
6779 7.2 7.132 93 6.633 All Is Lost (imdb)
128729 8.1 8.082 82 6.627 Prisoners (imdb)
43054 8.7 8.620 76 6.551 The Wolf of Wall Street (imdb)
144990 7.6 7.590 86 6.527 The Conjuring (imdb)
48653 7.5 7.476 85 6.355 The Way Way Back (imdb)
78896 7.1 7.095 89 6.314 The World's End (imdb)
16809 7.8 7.704 81 6.240 Saving Mr. Banks (imdb)
170667 8.2 8.185 75 6.139 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (imdb)
9942 7.2 7.150 84 6.006 Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (imdb)
And here are the top documentaries:
Votes IRaw Bayes RT% RT%*B Title
====== === ===== == ===== ===================================
12483 8.1 7.934 98 7.775 Blackfish (imdb)
5715 7.8 7.567 100 7.567 Sound City (imdb)
3237 6.7 6.776 93 6.302 We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (imdb)
Noticeable rank changes at Boardgamegeek.com since October 4, 2013.
Fast, positive movers among 'Board games':
157 (+343) Caverna: The Cave Farmers
160 (+340) Nations
220 (+280) Russian Railroads
233 (+142) Bruges
256 (+112) Trains
261 (+198) Forbidden Desert
287 (+213) Eldritch Horror
321 (+179) Spyrium
342 (+158) Coup
355 (+145) Lewis & Clark
376 (+116) Yedo
387 (+113) Amerigo
Fast, positive movers among 'Strategy games':
054 (+446) Caverna: The Cave Farmers
058 (+442) Nations
088 (+412) Russian Railroads
160 (+340) Lewis & Clark
168 (+231) Spyrium
204 (+296) Amerigo
214 (+286) Concordia
252 (+248) Glass Road
254 (+246) Francis Drake
282 (+218) 1775: Rebellion
299 (+201) Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
Fast, positive movers among 'War games':
093 (+407) Cuba Libre
095 (+405) A Distant Plain
249 (+251) Navajo Wars
Fast, positive movers among 'Family games':
077 (+423) Evo (second edition)
135 (+365) Coal Baron
149 (+351) Timeline: Historical Events
172 (+328) Rampage
Fast, positive movers among 'Collectible games':
028 (+472) Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Original Series
049 (+451) Berserk: War of the Realms
050 (+450) Serpent's Tongue
095 (+308) Epic Trading Card Game
162 (+338) Eragra: The Game of Eras and the First Step
Fast, positive movers among 'Thematic games':
022 (+478) Eldritch Horror
078 (+200) Firefly: The Game
085 (+218) Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy
147 (+353) Freedom: The Underground Railroad
197 (+303) Dawn of the Zeds (Second edition)
199 (+301) Level 7 [Omega Protocol]
223 (+277) Star Trek Deck Building Game: The Original Series
270 (+230) Dark Darker Darkest
275 (+225) Lost Legends
283 (+217) Carnival Zombie
As part of an ongoing exercise, I’ve read the available Amazon previews of new SF/F linked in SFSignal’s December round-up, and I’ve chosen a few to highlight.
- Isabel Greenberg, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. Thoroughly charming fantasy Earth folklore in graphic novel form. I’ve already picked up a copy, because it’s that neat.
- Ian Tregillis, Something More Than Night. In the future (at a point after weather satellites are no longer operational), an angel with an apparent fondness for noir fiction enigmatically narrates what he’s doing to handle the death of the archangel Gabriel. It’s a premise that wouldn’t normally appeal to me, but the writing in the preview is pretty solid.
- George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Dangerous Women. The preview features stories by Joe Abercrombie and Megan Abbott, both of whom I like, so this has my attention even if anthology previews are a little tricky to judge.
- Joseph Wallace, Invasive Species. Zoological thriller. The preview reminds me of a Michael Crichton novel and/or 1970s zoological horror flicks, which aren’t my favorite things, but it’s better written than most things out this month.
- David Garnett, Lady into Fox. Originally published in 1922, this is a short novel I had never heard of about a man living with his wife after she has literally turned into a fox. The situation is apparently dealt with in a straightforwardly accepting way, sort of like Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (published in 1915) with less existential angst. Reviews suggest the gender dynamics and ultimate resolution of the story may be problematic, but the preview is both intriguing and well-written.