I’m a little late this month, but as usual, I’ve sampled the available Amazon previews linked in SFSignal’s monthly listing of new SF/F, selecting a few to highlight here.
Incidentally, I also did a little retrospective comparison with Tor.com’s Fiction Affliction column to see if it would be a better source for me than SFSignal. I like that Tor.com covers all the major releases well, includes blurbs, and breaks down their listings by sub-genre, but they omit an awful lot of small presses, UK releases, non-fiction, and re-issues of OOP titles. Looking over my past selections, those options evidently do matter to me, so I’ll stick with SFSignal.
- John James, Votan and Other Novels (Fantasy Masterworks). I had never heard of these historical novels before, but Neil Gaiman’s introduction compares the main character of two of them to George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman. And the preview reminded me of two of my very favorite books, the omnibus edition of Tom Holt’s The Walled Orchard and Frans Bengtsson’s The Long Ships. Anyway, the premise is that a Greek trader finds himself being worshipped as Odin. Historical comedy that fantasy fans will enjoy evidently ensues. I thought well of the writing too, so count me in.
- Alexey Pehov, Chasers of the Wind. First in a new trilogy by the “Russian George R. R. Martin”? OK, that’s not selling it, and the translation may have been too faithful, particularly with respect to colloquialisms that sometimes feel stiff or awkward. But by the time I was fifty pages into the preview, I realized I was pretty drawn in. It’s straightforward epic fantasy, but I liked the texture of it. Perhaps in part because of the awkwardness rather than in spite of it, it just has its own feel.
- Michael R. Underwood, Shield and Crocus. Right away, this had me wondering exactly what genre it’s in: fantasy? steampunk? magitech? science fantasy? It turns out it’s a New Weird fantasy novel about superheroes in a world unrelated to ours, which sounds awesome. The preview is also competently written and loaded with colorful details.
- Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising. This is the final book in the Grisha Trilogy, and reading its preview reminded me that I did enjoy the first book in the series. It’s set in a sort of fantasy Russia where some people grow up to have very well-defined talents and roles within a ruling order of magic users, but the main character is special even among the special, and complications arise. Book three seems good too, so I ordered book two to catch up.
- Matthew Johnson, Irregular Verbs and Other Stories. I bought this instantly on the strength of the first story, which is about being a part of a society that develops new words and grammatical structures on a daily basis. In particular, it focuses on being part of a couple in that society that develops their own private language (actually, something more like Vygotskyan inner speech in terms of its personal resonances and non-shared memories being paramount). But the second story got off to a good start as well, so I’m pretty psyched about reading more.
- James S. A. Corey [Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck], Cibola Burn. I’ve been meaning to try this series, “The Expanse,” and the preview for the fourth book was encouraging. This seems like pretty decent space opera that focuses on action more than I knew.
- P. C. Hodgell, The Sea of Time. This is the seventh book in the 32-year-old Kencyrath saga, and the preview is sort of infodumpy, I guess because it has been a while since book six. But I loved the first three books in the series, and I’m delighted to be reminded of them. I don’t doubt I’ll catch up at some point, but I liked the earlier books so much that I really want to re-read the whole thing.
Finally, some re-issued classics I knew about but had never read also piqued my interest: Robert Aickman, Dark Entries; T. J. Bass, The Godwhale; and A. & B. Strugatsky, Hard to Be a God. I’m not certain I’ve been consistent about how I’ve noted things like that in the past, but not only are these not new to me, I’m also not sure it was their previews that got my attention as much as the simple fact that they’d been re-issued or in one case re-translated.