Selected SF/F Previews for 7/2015

Here are the titles I’ve chosen to highlight from SF Signal’s round-ups of books and comics released in July 2015.

  • China Miéville, Three Moments of an Explosion. I wasn’t aware before this summer that Miéville had even written any short fiction (at least, not more than one story), but I was instantly interested in reading all of it. The preview offers a look at two stories. The first was strange, as expected, and I liked what I could read of the second one: a magical realist story about icebergs that suddenly appear in the air over London and mostly just float there.
  • Dennis Mahoney, Bell Weather. In a fantasy world loosely inspired by Earth’s 18th century, a woman with amnesia arrives in a small town by unusual means: drifting unconscious in the river’s annual flood of flowers. That and other enigmatic natural phenomena made this preview stand out for me.
  • Max Gladstone, Last First Snow. I’ve read the first book in this series, which combines the breezy tone of an urban fantasy novel with an intriguingly weird fantasy setting—one in which people manage bizarre gods via magic and (oddly enough) legal process. The preview for this fourth book in the series leaps right into that stuff, and I appreciate fantasy novels that put the fantastic elements front and center.
  • Jodi Taylor, No Time Like the Past. Judging from the preview of its fifth volume, The Chronicles of St. Mary’s seems to be a light, witty, and mildly absurd time travel series blending historical details with simple fun. In this episode, the historians from St. Mary’s visit their own institution during the English Civil War.
  • D.B. Jackson, Dead Man’s Reach. I’ve been meaning to try the Thieftaker Chronicles, which take place in a magic-infused colonial Boston on the verge of the Revolution. This is the fourth book, and I thought it started reasonably well by introducing numerous series characters without making too many assumptions while still getting into some plot issues quickly.
  • E.R. Eddison (trans.), Egil’s Saga. I had no idea fantasy fiction pioneer E.R. Eddison had translated Egil’s Saga, but much more interesting was the fact that he chose to maximize the use of vocabulary with Germanic rather than Latinate roots so that the translation would sound more like the original. Based on the preview, I don’t think the result is something I could read all the way through, but sampling it was interesting, and I’m glad someone tried it as an experiment.

Selected SF/F Previews for 6/2015

Here are the Amazon previews that I enjoyed out of those linked in SF Signal’s June round-ups of new SF/F books and comics.

  • Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology. The VanderMeers are responsible for several of the very best SF anthologies, and I’m delighted to see that they’ve assembled a collection of feminist SF that appears to include both classic and lesser-known but intriguing stories. Insta-buy.
  • Garth Nix, To Hold the Bridge. The major selling point for this collection of Nix’s short fiction seems to be that it has an Old Kingdom story, i.e. something set in the same world as his YA novels, and the preview for it seems decent. The collection doesn’t seem to have any Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz stories in it, though, which would interest me even more.
  • Taiyo Fujii, Gene Mapper. A blurb says this SF novel about GMOs, augmented reality, and other contemporary issues was a self-published hit in Japan. The preview’s breathless litany of science news imagery reminded me of Ramez Naam’s Nexus, which I also enjoyed.
  • Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams. Tolkien and Lewis were a big part of my childhood, but I haven’t maintained the connection. What appeals to me just as much about this is its focus on literary friendships and its scholarly detail.
  • Matthew Meyer, The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits: An Encyclopedia of Mononoke and Magic. This is volume two of a guide to Japanese folklore. Evidently it was funded via Kickstarter, which may explain the high cost of the print edition. The electronic version, though, still seems pretty nice. Volume one is The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai.
  • Jon Morris, The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History. This encyclopedia of odd and mostly discarded superheroes appeals to me on many levels: it’s funny and informative, but it’s also easy to imagine a slightly alternate universe in which these heroes had more fans or better writers to help them gel into something more lasting.
  • Sebastien de Castell, Knight’s Shadow. This is the second book in the Greatcoats series, and I found its preview slightly more compelling than that of the first, though I had almost been persuaded to try the first one a while back. Anyway, it’s a musketeers-ish fantasy series that promises to deliver a lot of swashbuckling action.
  • Paul Tremblay, A Head Full of Ghosts. Contemporary horror novels are often not my thing, but the preview for this one seemed smoothly written and cleverly topical, in view of reality shows, Paranormal Activity, etc. Certainly it left me wondering what had happened and wanting to know more, so … success.
  • Andrew MacLean, ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times. This graphic novel about a girl and her cat companion poking around in a post-apocalyptic landscape seems light and well-illustrated, but I also liked that the writer would drop in the text of an aria in French and footnote it as if to say to non-speakers, “Look it up.”