Selected SF/F Previews for 12/2014

SFSignal’s December round-up of new releases seemed especially full of things I’d seen before (reprints of classics or things on the same list in previous months) combined with many, many titles with either no preview at Amazon or not enough of a preview. I can’t say I intentionally chose proportionally fewer titles to highlight, but that seems to have been the outcome.

  • Catherine Asaro, Undercity. Many years ago, I read and enjoyed the first few books in Asaro’s space-fantasy-romance series, the Saga of the Skolian Empire, and I was glad to read the preview of this (15th?) installment too. It’s chattier and more straightforward than I remember the other books being: perhaps my recollection is poor, but the main character’s voice reminded me more of an urban fantasy protagonist’s than one I associate with space opera. In any case, the breezy style and inverted gender dynamics seemed fun.
  • Jim C. Hines, Rise of the Spider Goddess: An Annotated Novel. Hines revisits his first, unpublished novel and provides snarky comments on all his writing mistakes. I have to say I like the idea of this book, even though I have doubts about reading the main part of the text. It’s not quite like the Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics series, because the comments are more amusing than instructive and because the main book is something less than a classic. What it reminds me of are Eye of Argon readings or Mark Reads Fanfiction occurring within the slightly kinder circumstance of self-critique.
  • John Dixon, Phoenix Island. Based on the preview, I have no idea how the SF elements of this YA novel will play out, but the characterization in the opening chapter about a court appearance by a juvenile offender with a background in boxing struck me as reasonably vivid and humanizing, and the author bio may have something to do with that (“former Golden Gloves boxer, youth services caseworker, prison tutor, and middle school English teacher”). I see the book itself being compared to Lord of the Flies, Battle Royale, Cool Hand Luke, and The Island of Dr. Moreau. That’s an impressive list of things to call to mind.
  • Liv Spector, The Beautiful and the Wicked. The premise of this novel seems to be that Lila Day, formerly a detective with Miami PD, has a billionaire acquaintance who has discovered the secret to time travel, and to solve cold cases (perhaps always involving the wealthy?), he keeps sending her back in time. Back to, like, the 90s. Or the mid 2000s. It’s a surprisingly prosaic thing to do with time travel, and I can’t tell whether any of the SFnal ramifications are worked out. But accepting this as sort of a TV show pitch, OK, and simply put, the preview reads quickly and leaves me wondering where it will go. The first book in the series is actually The Rich and the Dead.