Selected SF/F Previews for 10/2013

As I mentioned last week, I’m reading every single one of the available Amazon previews linked in SFSignal’s monthly round-ups of new SF/F–at least for a while–and choosing 5-10 titles to highlight. So here are my selections based on the list for October 2013:

  • Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice. I’m cheating a little, because I’ve read the whole book and it was excellent (it’s like unexpectedly finding a new Culture novel to read), but the preview actually is good too.
  • Scott Lynch, The Republic of Thieves. I may be biased by having read Lynch’s earlier work, but the preview holds up OK, though I wish it hadn’t mostly been a flashback to Locke’s youth.
  • Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two. Again, having read the first part of this series, I’m probably biased in its favor, but even if these books are a little too absurd and fairy tale-ish to read straight through, it’s evident that Valente is still coming up with terrific imagery for them.
  • David Weber & Jane M. Lindskold, Treecat Wars. I was all set to write this off as a fairly ordinary juvenile SF adventure until I got to the treecat POV sections, which were a delightful surprise and made me want to read a lot more.
  • Jonathan L. Howard, Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute. I appreciated the dry wit, and then it became clear this would have strong connections to H.P. Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, at which point I was sold.
  • Ray Russell, Haunted Castles. Gothic horror stories. Based on the strength of the preview, I bought this and read it a couple of weeks ago, and it turns out the preview showcases the best story, but the prose is consistently good, even if the stories overall are thematically repetitious and trite.
  • David Dalglish, A Dance of Cloaks. Yet another fantasy assassin novel, but it seems pretty readable, and the preview suggests there will be Game of Thrones-ish twists to sustain interest.
  • James A. Moore, Seven Forges. I’m not sure this rises above standard fantasy, but I liked several atmospheric details in the preview, and it otherwise seemed passable.
  • J. Lincoln Fenn, Poe. The 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Finalist in Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, this has an unusual starting point and seems to tackle several genres I like at once.

Selected SF/F Previews for 09/2013

I’ve been tracking new SF/F on Goodreads for a while now, but I’m really not sure that particular approach to discovering stuff to read has been helpful to me or others. I’ll keep trying for a while longer, but I’ve also decided to try something else that’s similarly comprehensive and systematic, similarly biased by the available data, but even more subjective.

What I’m going to do for at least a few months is read the available Amazon ‘Look Inside’ previews for all ~200 new books in each monthly gallery of new SF/F at SFSignal, and then I’ll read Goodreads reviews for many and select 5-10 titles that still seem interesting from my own point of view. Not all books have previews at Amazon, but since that’s the primary ‘data,’ they’ll be skipped. Some books have previews that are very long, and in that case, I may only read a chapter or two.

Anyway, based on the September 2013 cover gallery at SFSignal, here’s an initial selection:

  • V. E. Schwab, Vicious. This had some nice ‘teaser’ sentences, succinctly pointing at intriguing backstory (GR).
  • Brandon Sanderson, Steelheart. My recent positive reaction to The Emperor’s Soul may have predisposed me to like this, and I’m a fan of comic book superheroes in general. So liking that preview could involve significant personal bias, but I’ve also had weak responses to Sanderson’s earlier stuff, evening things out a little (GR).
  • Jonathan Stroud, Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase. I haven’t read Stroud’s extremely well-known Bartimaeus books, but I may like ghost stories in fantasy fiction more than other folks, and this seemed decent (GR).
  • Elliott James, Charming. Male POV urban fantasy, reminiscent of Jim Butcher and Richard Kadrey in that it’s sometimes successfully witty (GR).
  • Tamora Pierce, Battle Magic. This mostly served as a reminder to go back and catch up on the Circle of Magic series and related works, because there seems to be neat stuff going on even in later books (GR).

Board game rank change report for 2013Q3

Noticeable rank changes at since June 30, 2013. The format for this report has changed slightly; it’s now sorted by the current rank, followed by the change in rank over the last quarter.

Fast, positive movers among 'Board games':
054 (+133) Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island
107 (+393) Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
368 (+132) Trains
375 (+125) Bruges
397 (+103) Targi

Fast, positive movers among 'Strategy games':
186 (+306) Trains
194 (+263) Bruges
283 (+217) Ascension: Immortal Heroes

Fast, positive movers among 'War games':
024 (+476) EastFront II
090 (+410) 1775: Rebellion
123 (+377) The Guns of Gettysburg
146 (+354) D-Day Dice
148 (+352) Lost Battles
179 (+321) WestFront II
223 (+277) Mordheim: City of the Damned
279 (+221) Star Trek: Attack Wing

Fast, positive movers among 'Family games':
057 (+443) Forbidden Desert
171 (+329) Carcassonne: Wheel of Fortune
209 (+291) The Little Prince: Make Me a Planet
235 (+265) The Red Dragon Inn 3
287 (+213) Samurai Sword
289 (+211) Dungeon Roll

Fast, positive movers among 'Collectible games':
056 (+444) Kanzume Goddess
098 (+363) X610Z
113 (+387) Guerra De Mitos

Fast, positive movers among 'Thematic games':
007 (+493) Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords - Base Set
054 (+446) Archipelago
060 (+440) Duel of Ages II
134 (+366) The Red Dragon Inn 3
186 (+314) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Deck-Building Game
191 (+309) Samurai Sword
196 (+304) Fief
202 (+225) Nothing Personal
262 (+238) Dragon Rampage
278 (+222) Firefly: The Game
281 (+219) Zpocalypse
293 (+207) Cave Evil