Selected SF/F Previews for 12/2013

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.

Selected SF/F Previews for 11/2013

Continuing a little project from September and October, I’ve read all the available Amazon previews of new SF/F linked in SFSignal’s November round-up, and I’ve chosen a few titles to highlight, below.

Previously, I’ve sort of skirted the issue of what counts as new, because SFSignal seems not to care. I think I’ll go with “either truly recent or at least offering something new to me,” because that gets to the heart of why I’m bothering. I’m delighted that The Invisible Man, Riddley Walker, The Princess Bride, and other classics have new editions, but what I’m doing is casting a wide net to discover new-ish things, not celebrate old stuff.

  • Miyuki Miyabe, Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo. Miyabe writing ghost stories full of historical details about Japan? Unquestionably the book on this list that I’m most interested in reading.
  • Peter Watts, Beyond the Rift. I was surprised Watts’s short stories hadn’t already been collected somewhere. I’ve read “The Things” and “The Island” before, and I’d be glad to read more by him.
  • Gail Carriger, Curtsies & Conspiracies. I’ve heard this YA series is decent. The style seems affected, but it sort of suits the genre, and I liked the strange test the main character took in the preview.
  • Rachel Bach, Fortune’s Pawn. This is another one I’d heard positive things about, and the preview was basically fun. It appears to be a space opera written in a breezy contemporary first-person style I associate with urban fantasy.
  • Terry Pratchett, Raising Steam. I’ve always been sort of lukewarm about the “Industrial Revolution” Discworld novels (Moving Pictures, Going Postal, etc.). I like them, but not as much as the other sub-series. I’m sure I’ll read this though.
  • Daniel Abraham, Balfour and Meriwether in The Incident of the Harrowmoor Dogs. Another affectatious Victorian fantasy, but it seems above average and conjures up its world pretty effectively in the preview.
  • J. Kathleen Cheney, The Golden City. An urban fantasy featuring selkies and sirens … in Portugal in 1902. The choice of setting alone makes this one stand out. The story appears to have a straightforward crime/mystery plot, but the prose seems OK.
  • Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, Trade Secret. The preview isn’t really convincing, but I’ll probably read this eventually based on the strength of the Clan Korval sub-series in the same setting, though I’m well aware not all Liaden Universe books are equally good.
  • Alex Bledsoe, Swords Are My Business. Kindle omnibus edition of a fantasy noir series I had somehow never encountered, although it seems to be reasonably popular. The preview shows it to be ordinary pulp crime fiction, just with swords, but it seems at least as good as Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I.

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).