Selected SF/F Previews for 3/2015

SF Signal’s March 2015 roundup of new SF/F releases included 361 titles, and their roundup of comic / graphic novel releases included 188 more. That’s … a lot. I’ve been spending less and less time sampling titles in sub-genres that I’m unlikely to respond to well, but I’ve made an effort in each case, nonetheless. Anyway, here’s what I’d highlight from March.

  • Brandon Graham and Simon Roy, Prophet, v. 4: Joining. I had never heard of this science fiction comic before, but it looks amazing. The art is strange and Moebius-like, the characters are intriguing, and the story (at least in this volume) spans millennia. Poking around on the web a bit, I see a number of very positive reviews as well.
  • John Joseph Adams (ed.), Operation Arcana. This is a collection of original fantasy stories with military themes. The title is strongly reminiscent of Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos / Operation Luna, a classic “magitech” series I always liked, and that’s basically what the first story here reminds me of too. However, looking ahead in the contents, contemporary magitech stories don’t seem to be the only focus (maybe not even the primary focus).
  • George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois (eds.), Old Venus. I’m fond of planetary romances and early SF set on Venus in general (e.g. Burrough’s Carson Napier of Venus, Lovecraft’s “In the Walls of Eryx,” Leigh Brackett’s Venusian stories, etc.), and that’s exactly what this anthology of new/original stories intends to bring back. Based only on the preview, I wasn’t as sure of its earlier companion volume, Old Mars, but I’m sold on that now too (both begin with stories by Allen Steele set in the same universe, so seeing them together supplies a better picture of what’s going on).
  • Daryl Gregory, Harrison Squared. This novel delves into the backstory of the key character from Gregory’s Nebula-nominated novella We Are All Completely Fine (which is being adapted for TV by Wes Craven). Based as much on reading the novella as sampling the novel, I expect a light, fast-paced horror/adventure story full of Lovecraftian themes.
  • Terry Pratchett, A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction. Pratchett didn’t write a lot of short fiction, but what he did write was delightful: no Discworld fan should miss this. I haven’t read much of his non-Discworld fiction, but what’s on preview at Amazon is essentially juvenilia of relatively mild interest.
  • Catherynne M. Valente, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland. Valente’s Fairyland novels are wonderfully imaginative, and now she appears to be changing them up a little. This fourth volume in the series introduces a new protagonist, and instead of being a human who goes to Fairyland, he’s a kid from Fairyland being raised in Chicago. I’d worry that it might be dull in comparison to the other books, but the preview is reassuringly strange.
  • Paul Kirkley, Space Helmet for a Cow: The Mad, True Story of Doctor Who (1963-1989). This book aims to be “as entertaining a history of Doctor Who as possible,” and based on the preview, it does seem to be a very light, readable, opinionated, and amusing overview of the classic years of the show.
  • Ian Tregillis, The Mechanical. A world dominated by a Dutch empire that exploits steampunk robots as labor? To me, that’s a pretty interesting start by itself, but the opening chapter of the book also tells a good story. I’ve enjoyed Tregillis’s earlier work, so I’m looking forward to this.
  • Rachel Hartman, Shadow Scale. This is the sequel to Seraphina, which I greatly enjoyed. But what I didn’t know until recently was that both books are sequels to Hartman’s minicomic Amy Unbounded, which was thoughtful and charming and awesome, but also very, very low key. So when I read reviews of Shadow Scale suggesting its pacing is a bit slow in parts, I remain hopeful that just means it’s more like Amy Unbounded than Seraphina.
  • Mark Teppo (ed.), Thirteen: Stories of Transformation. I’d never heard of this anthology or even its publisher before, but at least five of the contributors are familiar to me and make me feel optimistic about it. The theme of “transformation” seems very broad, so I’m not sure what it’s all about. But the first story offers a hint that it’s going to be sort of literary in its aspirations but for sure pretty weird.
  • Joanne Merriam (ed.), How to Live on Other Planets: A Handbook for Aspiring Aliens. This is a Kickstarter-funded collection of SF short stories about the immigrant experience. I recognize a ton of the contributors, and overall, the contents look great. In the preview, you only get to read a little of Ken Liu’s story, but it starts by explaining a short Lisp program to students from the very far future, which seems fun.
  • Paige McKenzie (with Alyssa B. Sheinmel ghost-writing most of the novel), The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. Sunshine Girl is evidently kind of a big deal. Here’s the New York Times business section discussing the publication of this novel, which is based on a YouTube channel with over 300k subscribers. I like ghost stories, print media, and keeping up with popular culture, so the novelization of the YouTube stuff sounds pretty good to me on the face of it. I don’t know if the preview would have caught my attention without this backstory to it, but it seems interesting enough.

Selected SF/F Previews for 2/2015

It’s been a while since I last posted about new releases in SF/F, but I haven’t given up. Here are the titles that stood out to me as I went through the available Amazon previews linked in SF Signal’s February round-up. In February, SF Signal began listing comics and graphic novels separately, and I went through those as well.

  • Victoria Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic. A smoothly written story about multiple, magical, interconnected Londons, I can imagine breezing through this in an evening.
  • Joe Abercrombie, Half the World. This is the second volume in Abercrombie’s YA fantasy series, set in a world loosely based on the medieval Baltic Sea. What caught my attention was that it switched to a new POV character with a completely new set of problems.
  • Kate Elliott, The Very Best of Kate Elliott. Kate Elliott mostly writes novels, e.g. Cold Magic, and I wasn’t aware she wrote short fiction at all. So I was intrigued by the existence of this collection, which seems to include essays on gender and fantasy fiction too.
  • Steph Swainston, The Castle Omnibus. I’ve been hearing about Swainston’s weird fantasy “Fourlands” series for years, but I’ve never sampled it before. The setting seems to be a sort of medieval fantasy world at war with giant insects, and there’s also a gang of immortals, at least one of whom can travel to some other alternate reality with living dirigibles, turtle people, and shopping malls. There’s a lot of dialogue too, so I found it easy to imagine all that as a comic book or anime.
  • Neal Asher, Dark Intelligence. The start of a new subseries in the Polity universe, this appears to be a space opera revenge story about a war veteran and the AI that killed him. Just as noteworthy is the re-release of Asher’s The Gabble and Other Stories, in which grotesque alien biologies seem to be the focus.

Board game rank change report for 2015Q1

Earlier this week, I compiled the usual lists of the board games that have shown large positive movement within BGG‘s top 500 in the past three months. My standard caveats about recategorization, new editions (etc.) apply.

Fast, positive movers among 'Board games':
032 (+331) Star Wars: Imperial Assault
078 (+142) Castles of Mad King Ludwig
120 (+122) Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
139 (+361) Roll for the Galaxy
148 (+221) Sheriff of Nottingham
158 (+342) Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition)
167 (+333) Alchemists
201 (+131) King of New York
220 (+193) Viticulture
257 (+220) Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men
269 (+165) Xia: Legends of a Drift System
280 (+220) Pandemic: The Cure
290 (+210) Arcadia Quest
305 (+195) Deus
320 (+180) Fields of Arle
327 (+173) AquaSphere
335 (+165) Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
363 (+137) Kanban: Automotive Revolution
364 (+136) Mysterium
368 (+132) Patchwork

Fast, positive movers among 'Strategy games':
064 (+436) Roll for the Galaxy
097 (+403) Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation (Deluxe Edition)
115 (+228) Fields of Arle
124 (+376) Blood Bowl (Third Edition)
236 (+264) Level 7 [Omega Protocol]
272 (+228) Paperback
275 (+225) Orléans

Fast, positive movers among 'War games':
087 (+413) Nexus Ops
171 (+329) Diplomacy
281 (+219) Wings of Glory: WW1 Rules and Accessories Pack

Fast, positive movers among 'Family games':
064 (+436) Paperback
181 (+319) Lost Legacy: The Starship
196 (+276) Tales & Games: The Hare & the Tortoise
260 (+240) Samurai Spirit
272 (+228) VivaJava: The Coffee Game: The Dice Game

Fast, positive movers among 'Collectible games':
025 (+475) Dungeons & Dragons Dice Masters: Battle for Faerûn
038 (+462) Ascension: Apprentice Edition
129 (+371) ApocalypZe Card Game

Fast, positive movers among 'Thematic games':
076 (+424) XCOM: The Board Game
109 (+391) Race! Formula 90
131 (+369) Scoville
167 (+333) Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem
188 (+312) Fallen
189 (+311) Argent: The Consortium

Selected SF/F Previews for 1/2015

Confirming my prior assumptions is the opposite of what I aim for when reading the available previews linked in SF Signal’s round-ups of new SF/F/H releases. However, as I worked through January, I only found two titles that appealed to me, and they were both related to things I had read before. I’m glad to know about them though.

  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch, A Murder of Clones. I read the novella that started the “Retrieval Artist” series at some point close to its original publication around 15 years ago, and I’m pleased to see it’s still chugging along. To me, it has the feel of 1960s SF. A space detective / space patrol series with a lot of random alien species would have been perfectly at home on the shelves with Retief, Sector General, Gil Hamilton, James Schmitz’s Zone Agents, etc. This is volume 10 and the third in a sub-series, so I guess it’s pretty far from being an introduction. But there was nothing hard to follow in the preview, and I liked that it just got a story going quickly.
  • Harry Connolly, The Way into Magic. It looks like SF Signal may have missed announcing the first volume of Connolly’s new epic fantasy series, “The Great Way,” but jumping straight into this, the second volume, probably helped me to see it as an eventful story with a lot of D&Dish magical stuff going on. I’ve read one volume of the same author’s urban fantasy series, “Twenty Palaces,” and I thought it was alright: certainly, it moved along, even if it stuck closely to familiar tropes of urban fantasy. If this new series achieves something similar within its genre, then it should find an audience.

The most highly rated films of 2014

As I’ve done in the past, I’ve taken each feature film IMDb counts as a 2014 release and multiplied its IMDb Bayesian average rating times its Rotten Tomatoes critic percentage. Excluded were films with fewer than 2000 ratings, films with fewer than 25 critic reviews, and all documentaries. And so here are the top ~50 films—all with a combined score over 6.0:

 Votes  IMDb  Bayes  RT%   RT%*B   Title
======  ====  =====  ===   =====   ===================================
 11646  8.8   8.635   96   8.290   Whiplash (imdb)
 89725  8.4   8.381   98   8.213   Boyhood (imdb)
 20608  8.7   8.608   93   8.005   Birdman (imdb)
 55829  8.1   8.076   95   7.672   Nightcrawler (imdb)
  2236  8.1   7.671  100   7.671   Leviafan (imdb)
171881  7.9   7.893   96   7.577   The Lego Movie (imdb)
 18801  8.4   8.315   90   7.483   The Imitation Game (imdb)
222804  8.1   8.094   92   7.446   The Grand Budapest Hotel (imdb)
357306  8.2   8.196   90   7.376   Guardians of the Galaxy (imdb)
325608  8.1   8.096   91   7.367   X-Men: Days of Future Past (imdb)
127592  8.0   7.990   92   7.351   How to Train Your Dragon 2 (imdb)
  9183  8.0   7.873   93   7.322   Pride (imdb)
  4788  7.7   7.529   97   7.303   Paddington (imdb)
215839  8.3   8.293   88   7.298   Gone Girl (imdb)
 10789  8.7   8.531   85   7.251   Kis uykusu (imdb)
  5349  8.2   7.965   91   7.248   Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (imdb)
  4852  8.3   8.028   90   7.225   Mommy (imdb)
252439  8.0   7.995   90   7.196   Edge of Tomorrow (imdb)
  5751  7.9   7.724   93   7.183   What We Do in the Shadows (imdb)
 35426  8.2   8.159   88   7.180   Big Hero 6 (imdb)
  3817  7.5   7.336   97   7.116   '71 (imdb)
200887  7.8   7.795   91   7.093   Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (imdb)
  8546  7.5   7.417   94   6.972   Deux jours, une nuit (imdb)
301090  7.8   7.796   89   6.938   Captain America: The Winter Soldier (imdb)
  3727  7.0   6.939   97   6.731   Mr. Turner (imdb)
 31117  6.9   6.894   97   6.687   The Babadook (imdb)
  3913  7.5   7.339   91   6.678   Wild (imdb)
 20332  7.5   7.463   89   6.642   Calvary (imdb)
 32602  7.7   7.671   85   6.520   John Wick (imdb)
380387  8.9   8.894   73   6.493   Interstellar (imdb)
 22221  7.3   7.275   89   6.475   The Drop (imdb)
  9861  7.6   7.518   86   6.465   Foxcatcher (imdb)
 21628  7.0   6.987   92   6.428   Frank (imdb)
 73260  7.3   7.292   88   6.417   Chef (imdb)
148218  8.0   7.991   80   6.393   The Fault in Our Stars (imdb)
  4174  7.5   7.347   87   6.392   Still Alice (imdb)
 57398  8.1   8.076   79   6.380   The Raid 2: Berandal (imdb)
 31704  7.0   6.991   91   6.362   A Most Wanted Man (imdb)
  4162  7.3   7.186   87   6.252   The Good Lie (imdb)
  2845  7.1   6.999   89   6.229   Top Five (imdb)
 15750  7.7   7.641   81   6.189   The Theory of Everything (imdb)
  2570  7.5   7.279   85   6.187   Kraftidioten (imdb)
 21082  6.8   6.796   91   6.184   The Guest (imdb)
 96022  7.9   7.888   78   6.153   Fury (imdb)
  8651  7.5   7.418   82   6.083   The Book of Life (imdb)
 10267  7.0   6.974   87   6.067   The Skeleton Twins (imdb)
150296  7.2   7.197   84   6.045   22 Jump Street (imdb)

And here are the top documentaries, using the same criteria:

 Votes  IMDb  Bayes  RT%   RT%*B   Title
======  ====  =====  ===   =====   ===================================
  3317  8.1   7.778   98   7.622   Life Itself (imdb)
  2927  8.2   7.821   93   7.274   The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (imdb)
  3644  7.6   7.408   97   7.186   20,000 Days on Earth (imdb)
  2967  7.4   7.226   89   6.431   Bears (imdb)
  2969  7.7   7.451   81   6.035   Fed Up (imdb)

Board game rank change report for 2014Q4

Happy New Year! It’s the start of a new quarter, so I’ve compiled lists of the board games that have shown large positive movement within BGG‘s top 500 in the past three months. The usual caveats about recategorization (etc.) apply. Incidentally, FiveThirtyEight put out a very interesting article yesterday featuring graphs of some BGG user rating data: how user ratings related to board games’ year of publication, maximum number of players, and average play time. Anyway, on to the lists.

Fast, positive movers among 'Board games':
036 (+132) Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
112 (+304) Five Tribes
159 (+331) Imperial Settlers
220 (+280) Castles of Mad King Ludwig
242 (+258) Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game
332 (+168) King of New York
363 (+137) Star Wars: Imperial Assault
369 (+131) Sheriff of Nottingham
382 (+118) Sushi Go!

Fast, positive movers among 'Strategy games':
104 (+396) Castles of Mad King Ludwig
214 (+286) Lords of Vegas
221 (+279) Xia: Legends of a Drift System
258 (+242) Abyss
263 (+237) Alchemists
272 (+228) Pandemic: The Cure
273 (+227) Patchistory
278 (+222) Panamax

Fast, positive movers among 'War games':
010 (+490) War of the Ring (first edition)
075 (+425) The Battle of Five Armies
151 (+349) Warhammer: Diskwars
160 (+340) 1944: Race to the Rhine
222 (+278) Warmachine
257 (+243) Wir sind das Volk!
268 (+232) Warfighter: The Tactical Special Forces Card Game

Fast, positive movers among 'Family games':
030 (+470) King of New York
038 (+462) Sheriff of Nottingham
062 (+438) Abyss
066 (+434) Pandemic: The Cure
079 (+421) Eight-Minute Empire: Legends
094 (+406) Colt Express
138 (+362) Timeline: Diversity
144 (+356) Evolution
150 (+350) Port Royal
161 (+339) Black Fleet
170 (+330) Riff Raff
171 (+329) Pantheon
174 (+326) La Isla
200 (+300) Patchwork
220 (+280) Indigo
271 (+229) Red7
295 (+205) Viva Topo!

Fast, positive movers among 'Collectible games':
007 (+493) Marvel Dice Masters: Uncanny X-Men
009 (+491) Legendary: Villains – Marvel Deck Building Game
037 (+463) Blue Moon
059 (+441) Warmachine: High Command
075 (+425) Nature of the Beast: City vs. Suburb
099 (+401) Adventure Time: Card Wars – Finn vs. Jake
103 (+397) Battle Scenes
166 (+334) Shadowrun Duels

Fast, positive movers among 'Thematic games':
023 (+477) Star Wars: Imperial Assault
057 (+362) Shadows of Brimstone: City of the Ancients
073 (+427) Legendary: Villains – Marvel Deck Building Game
082 (+418) Arcadia Quest
088 (+237) The Battle of Five Armies
097 (+403) Shadows of Brimstone: Swamps of Death
101 (+399) Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Skull & Shackles – Base Set
126 (+374) Mysterium
142 (+358) Evolution
222 (+278) Greenland
223 (+277) The Battle at Kemble's Cascade
227 (+273) Thebes: The Tomb Raiders
290 (+210) Assault on Doomrock

Popular SF/F/H Novels of 2014

In 2014, SF Signal noted the upcoming appearance of over 3400 titles: January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December.

To prepare the lists below, I looked each title up at Goodreads, eliminating those for which Goodreads had no data or a publication date prior to 2014. Then I ranked the remaining ~2100 books by the cube of their current score (expressed as a percentage) times the log of the number of voters. Finally I broke them up into somewhat arbitrary categories to yield the “top X” lists below, and as usual, I removed the actual Goodreads data, leaving only the ordering. Note that this procedure significantly favors books released earlier in the year.

Here’s a key to the abbreviations and terminology:

  • F = Fantasy
  • H = Horror
  • PR = Paranormal Romance
  • Sequels = Titles likely to draw on information arising in earlier, related books by the same author
  • SF = Science Fiction
  • UF = Urban Fantasy
  • YA = Young Adult

Top 25 SF/F/H (Non-Sequels, Non-YA, and Non-UF/PR)

  1. Brian Staveley, The Emperor’s Blades (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne)
  2. Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
  3. Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs
  4. Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes: A Novel
  5. M.R. Carey, The Girl With All the Gifts
  6. Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor
  7. David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks
  8. Claire North, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
  9. Josh Malerman, Bird Box: A Novel
  10. Sebastien de Castell, Traitor’s Blade
  11. William Gibson, The Peripheral
  12. Daniel Suarez, Influx
  13. Stephen King, Revival: A Novel
  14. John Scalzi, Lock In
  15. Daniel Price, The Flight of the Silvers
  16. Nick Harkaway, Tigerman
  17. Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation: A Novel (Southern Reach Trilogy)
  18. Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel
  19. George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Rogues
  20. Dean Koontz, The City
  21. M. D. Waters, Archetype
  22. Peter Watts, Echopraxia
  23. Robin Spriggs, The Untold Tales of Ozman Droom
  24. K. J. Parker, Academic Exercises
  25. John Joseph Adams (ed.), The End is Nigh

Top 25 SF/F/H Sequels (Non-YA and Non-UF/PR)

  1. Brandon Sanderson, Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive, Book 2)
  2. Brent Weeks, The Broken Eye (Lightbringer)
  3. Brian McClellan, The Crimson Campaign (The Powder Mage Trilogy)
  4. Robin Hobb, Fool’s Assassin: Book One of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
  5. Anthony Ryan, Tower Lord (A Raven’s Shadow Novel)
  6. Lev Grossman, The Magician’s Land: A Novel (Magicians Trilogy)
  7. R. A. Salvatore, Night of the Hunter: Companions Codex, I
  8. John Gwynne, Valor (The Faithful and the Fallen)
  9. R. A. Salvatore, Rise of the King: Companions Codex, II
  10. Scott Sigler, Pandemic: A Novel (Infected)
  11. James S.A. Corey, Cibola Burn (The Expanse)
  12. Patrick Rothfuss, The Slow Regard of Silent Things
  13. Charles Stross, The Rhesus Chart (Laundry Files)
  14. H. Paul Honsinger, For Honor We Stand (Man of War)
  15. Patrick W. Carr, Draw of Kings, A (The Staff and the Sword)
  16. Douglas Hulick, Sworn in Steel: A Tale of the Kin
  17. Jonathan L. Howard, The Brothers Cabal
  18. Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch)
  19. Sam Sisavath, The Fires of Atlantis (Purge of Babylon, Book 4)
  20. Hannu Rajaniemi, The Causal Angel (Jean Le Flambeur)
  21. John Ringo, Islands of Rage and Hope (Black Tide Rising)
  22. Django Wexler, The Shadow Throne: Book Two of the Shadow Campaigns
  23. Marcus Sakey, A Better World (The Brilliance Saga, Book Two)
  24. Peter F. Hamilton, The Abyss Beyond Dreams: A Novel of the Commonwealth (Commonwealth: Chronicle of the Fallers)
  25. Evan Currie, Out of the Black (Odyssey One, Book 4)

Top 25 Young Adult SF/F/H/UF/PR (Non-Sequels)

  1. Pierce Brown, Red Rising
  2. Leslye Walton, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
  3. Mary E. Pearson, The Kiss of Deception (Remnant Chronicles)
  4. Melissa Landers, Alienated
  5. Marie Lu, The Young Elites
  6. Rachel Hawkins, Rebel Belle
  7. Danielle Jensen, Stolen Songbird
  8. Joe Abercrombie, Half a King (Shattered Sea Series)
  9. Amy Engel, The Book of Ivy
  10. Maggie Stiefvater, Sinner (Shiver)
  11. Danielle Paige, Dorothy Must Die
  12. Katie Alender, Famous Last Words
  13. Victoria Scott, Fire & Flood
  14. Josephine Angelini, Trial by Fire
  15. Claudia Gray, A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
  16. Sally Green, Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy)
  17. Joseph Delaney, A New Darkness
  18. A.S. King, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future
  19. Rae Carson, The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories
  20. Alisa Krasnostein, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories
  21. R.C. Lewis, Stitching Snow
  22. Martina Boone, Compulsion (Heirs of Watson Island)
  23. Kiersten White, Illusions of Fate
  24. Julie Kagawa, Talon (The Talon Saga)
  25. Juliet Marillier, Dreamer’s Pool: A Blackthorn & Grim Novel

Top 25 Young Adult SF/F/H/UF/PR Sequels & Related Works

  1. Marissa Meyer, Cress (Lunar Chronicles)
  2. Tahereh Mafi, Ignite Me (Shatter Me)
  3. Sarah J. Maas, The Assassin’s Blade: The Throne of Glass novellas
  4. Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods
  5. Richelle Mead, Silver Shadows: A Bloodlines Novel
  6. Alexandra Bracken, In the Afterlight: A Darkest Minds Novel
  7. Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone)
  8. Neal Shusterman, UnDivided (Unwind Dystology)
  9. Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Cycle #3: Blue Lily, Lily Blue
  10. Veronica Rossi, Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky)
  11. Pittacus Lore, The Revenge of Seven (Lorien Legacies)
  12. Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising
  13. Victoria Schwab, The Unbound (An Archived Novel) (The Archived)
  14. Gena Showalter, The Queen of Zombie Hearts (White Rabbit Chronicles)
  15. Cassandra Clare, The Course of True Love (and First Dates) (The Bane Chronicles)
  16. Julie Kagawa, The Forever Song (Blood of Eden)
  17. Ransom Riggs, Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Children)
  18. Cecilia Bernard, Inside Divergent: The Initiate’s World
  19. Rick Yancey, The Infinite Sea (5th Wave)
  20. Kasie West, Split Second (Pivot Point)
  21. Erin Hunter & Dan Jolley, Warriors Super Edition: Bramblestar’s Storm
  22. S. J. Kincaid, Catalyst (Insignia)
  23. Jennifer Estep, Killer Frost (Mythos Academy Novels)
  24. Scott Sigler, THE CHAMPION
  25. Robin LaFevers, Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)

Top 5 Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance (Non-YA and Non-Sequels)

  1. J. D. Horn, The Line (Witching Savannah, Book One)
  2. Christopher Buehlman, The Lesser Dead
  3. Simone St. James, Silence for the Dead
  4. Seanan McGuire, Sparrow Hill Road
  5. C. J. Burright, Wonderfully Wicked

Note: This category has only 5 entries, because nothing else that fit the category appeared above the 25th item on any other list. I have to look each title up manually to make a decision about how to categorize them, and I’m sorry, but I suspect it would be quite a lot of work to find 20 more given the available data. In fact, including some of these entries stretches the definitions of urban fantasy and non-sequel. Even taking the “sequel bump” into account (scores tend to go up for sequels as readers bounce off earlier books), the dearth of high-scoring titles in this category is a surprising result because urban fantasy sequels simply dominate the top 200 results. Perhaps SF Signal has overlooked some series starters this year. Or maybe it’s a very difficult field to get noticed in at first.

Top 25 Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance Sequels (Non-YA)

  1. Jim Butcher, Skin Game (Dresden Files)
  2. Ilona Andrews, Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels)
  3. Diana Gabaldon, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood: A Novel (Outlander)
  4. Kim Harrison, The Undead Pool
  5. Patricia Briggs, Night Broken (Mercy Thompson)
  6. Kim Harrison, The Witch with No Name (Hollows)
  7. Darynda Jones, Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson)
  8. Sherrilyn Kenyon, Illusion: Chronicles of Nick
  9. Sherrilyn Kenyon, Born of Fury (League Novel)
  10. Anne Bishop, Murder of Crows: A Novel of the Others
  11. Darynda Jones, Seventh Grave and No Body (Charley Davidson Series)
  12. Nalini Singh, Shield of Winter (Psy/Changelings)
  13. Jeaniene Frost, Up from the Grave (Night Huntress)
  14. Deborah Harkness, The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy)
  15. Seanan McGuire, The Winter Long (October Daye)
  16. Faith Hunter, Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock)
  17. Kevin Hearne, Shattered: The Iron Druid Chronicles
  18. Christine Feehan, Dark Wolf (Carpathian)
  19. Larry Correia, Monster Hunter Nemesis
  20. Patricia Briggs, Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
  21. Faith Hunter, Broken Soul (Jane Yellowrock)
  22. Chloe Neill, Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires)
  23. Jonathan Maberry, Code Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel
  24. Larissa Ione, Revenant (Lords of Deliverance)
  25. Chloe Neill, Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires)

Top 25 Miscellaneous Works (Comics, Etc.)

  1. Joe Hill, Locke & Key Volume 6: Alpha & Omega
  2. Hajime Isayama, Attack on Titan 14
  3. Fiona Staples & Brian K. Vaughan, Saga Deluxe Edition Volume 1
  4. Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back (William Shakespeare Trilogy)
  5. Wizards RPG Team, Player’s Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
  6. Bryan Lee O’Malley, Seconds
  7. Zack Whedon, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind
  8. Tom Taylor, Injustice: Gods Among Us Vol. 2
  9. Ben Hatke, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures
  10. Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel: Volume 1
  11. Kieron Gillen, The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1
  12. Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell, The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel: Volume 2
  13. Ian Doescher, William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return
  14. Gene Luen Yang, The Shadow Hero
  15. Gene Luen Yang & Michael Dante DiMartino, Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift Part 2
  16. Masashi Kishimoto, Naruto 68: A Shinobi’s Dream!
  17. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale
  18. Tom Taylor, Injustice: Gods Among Us Year 2 Vol. 1
  19. Wizards RPG Team, Monster Manual (D&D Core Rulebook)
  20. Tim Minchin, Storm
  21. Marvel Comics, Black Widow Volume 1: The Finely Woven Thread
  22. Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn, Alex + Ada Volume 1
  23. Hayao Miyazaki, Art of Princess Mononoke
  24. Terry Pratchett, A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Nonfiction
  25. Bill Willingham, Fables Vol. 20: Camelot

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.

Selected SF/F Previews for 11/2014

I’ve finally finished going through all the available Amazon previews from SFSignal’s monthly round-up from November 2014, and I found quite a few things to admire. But I’m going to try to be brief, because it’s almost Christmas!

  • C. D. Rose, The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure. Imaginary authors, humorously described. Reminds me of Stanislaw Lem’s Imaginary Magnitude (prefaces to imaginary books) and Segal & Mager (eds.), The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature (blurbs/reviews of imaginary books).
  • Jennifer Brozek, Robert Smith?, and Lars Pearson (eds.), Chicks Dig Gaming: A Celebration of All Things Gaming by the Women Who Love It. The latest in a popular series, frequently nominated for the related work Hugo award. This seems pretty great: numerous authors I like telling personal stories about their experiences with a hobby I also enjoy.
  • Brandon Sanderson, Legion: Skin Deep. I read the novella Legion some time ago, perhaps as part of a Hugo packet, and I thought the idea of a Holmesian consulting detective who sees imaginary people and listens to them to understand his own thoughts was maybe an idea that trivializes mental health issues, but it works well enough on a story-telling level as just a way to externalize the main character’s deeply embedded hunches. Anyway, it seemed reasonably fun in the preview of this second installment.
  • Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Saga (Deluxe Edition HC, v. 1). A hardback collection of the hit space fantasy comic book series, which has won a Hugo and several Eisners. The preview at least shows off some of the weird imagery and the key development setting the story in motion.
  • Gavin Deas (a.k.a. Gavin Smith and Stephen Deas), Empires: Infiltration and Empires: Extraction. Two British SF/fantasy authors team up here to write a linked duology, telling the story of Earth’s invasion by aliens from different points of view. I liked the preview for Gavin Smith’s contribution quite a bit more than the other preview, but I’ve enjoyed Stephen Deas’s work in the past.
  • Delia Sherman, Young Woman in a Garden: Stories. In the preview story, Sherman writes a tiny bit of fantasy into the margins of art history, inventing a lesser-known French painter and poking around in a little museum devoted to his work for details about what inspired his paintings. At least one of the stories in this volume, “The Ghost of Cwmlech Manor,” is available in full online, but I don’t know about the others.
  • Nick Mamatas, The Nickronomicon. Mamatas typically writes Lovecraftian short stories with a contemporary aspect to them. The ones in the preview (as well as the one I’d read previously) are clever, though not as ornate or as cosmically weird as HPL’s own work.
  • Peter V. Brett, Messenger’s Legacy. Some reviews complain that this fantasy novella is too expensive, but I appreciated its preview as a small taste of Brett’s Demon Cycle, which I’ve heard people praise very highly. The story’s beginning was straightforward, but the prompt introduction of a creepy/dangerous monster lurking right outside the main character’s house seemed to speak volumes about what the series might be like.
  • Frank Herbert, The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert. Who knew Frank Herbert wrote so many short stories? I’ve read at least six of his novels, but I had no idea, maybe because I read them all as a teenager and then stopped investigating his oeuvre. The preview suggests many of these could have a strong 50s feel to them, but I’m OK with that.
  • Lexie Dunne, Superheroes Anonymous. I’m loving the superhero novel trend, and this one seems pretty fun. It’s a tongue-in-cheek story of a sort of Lois Lane-like character, under constant threat from supervillains, who acquires superpowers of her own.
  • Anonymous? [Malcolm C. Lyons (trans.)], Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange. It’s rare that I’ll choose to highlight a book for which the preview contains no sample matter from the main part of the text, but reading the introduction alone, I’m very intrigued by this new translation of a collection of Arabic folktales and legends that I’d never heard of. I’ve read the Signet Classics edition of the Thousand and One Nights, and I’m dimly aware of story collections like Hamadhani’s Maqamat and The Assemblies of Al Hariri, but this one was completely new to me. These articles make it sound like a blast, so I’m in.
  • Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey, The House of War and Witness. I’ve read some of Mike Carey’s work before and thought well of it, and I liked the premise of this book: an 18th C. military force holes up at a ghost-ridden estate on the Prussian border, and various mysteries unfold. The preview shows it to be very readable too, though like any ghost story it seems to be building up carefully.
  • Robin LaFevers, Mortal Heart. In 15th C. Brittany, young women join a convent where they’re trained to be assassins in the service of Saint Mortain, a god of death in a pantheon called The Nine. Well, why the heck not? Assassin fantasy is a very crowded subgenre, but this YA series aiming to add in a little romance and put a gender-balanced spin on the general idea seems pretty neat. So far as I could see them, I was OK with the alternate history elements just being sort of dropped into the world, and the writing seemed smooth. This is the third book in the series, though, so I’ll have to go back and try Grave Mercy first.

Selected SF/F Previews for 10/2014

I’m waaaaaay behind in commenting on SFSignal’s round-up of SF/F releases from October, but I didn’t give up on it! There were only 306 books to consider, so it should have been relatively easy, but there seemed to be an unusually large number of books that made the first cut, as well as the final cut. Anyway, here are the 14 books that I found most interesting.

  • Ann Leckie, Ancillary Sword. The sequel to last year’s terrific, multiple-prize-winnning Ancillary Justice gets off to a good albeit typical start for a space opera: a captain readying her ship and crew for a new mission. The situations, observations, and character interactions in the preview are all nice, so I’m very hopeful about the whole.
  • William Gibson, The Peripheral. I like it when Gibson focuses on technology and aesthetics, which is most of the time, so I was happy with this preview. There’s a steady stream of cultural/technological extrapolation here into the near future, and although I can’t say many of the earliest examples are really surprising, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic.
  • Garth Nix, Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen. The fourth novel in Nix’s Abhorsen / Old Kingdom series, this one begins well, dropping plenty of intriguing offhand references to setting details into clean, engaging prose. I’ve never read this series, but I’ve certainly heard about it from sources I appreciate, and now I’m interested. I also enjoyed another piece by Nix this month: his story in Fearsome Magics, edited by Jonathan Strahan. It’s set in a different fantasy milieu that features Sir Hereward and Mister Fitz, a weird god-killing pair of mercenaries who seem pretty great, and I’m willing to pick it up on the strength of that story alone.
  • John Twelve Hawks, Spark. This preview about a hired assassin suffering from Cotard’s syndrome (i.e. he thinks he’s already dead, or at least just a shell of a person) has a hard-boiled quality to it that I liked, but the idea that there’s still a “bright and pure and transcendent” spark inside the shell somewhere strikes me as very reminiscent of the divine spark concept associated with Gnosticism. It’s an interesting combination of possibilities, and I hope it pays off in the book.
  • Steven Brust, Hawk. Yay! I see Vlad is back in Adrilankha again, and this story is rumored to finally move the overall arc forward again. I’ve been reading this series for … almost thirty years? Wow. Anyway, I had become convinced it would never move forward again, because it looked like Brust had settled into writing a pattern more commonly found in crime novels where a troubled but likable first-person narrator just gets presented in some new situation every year or so, gets beaten up, does some beating up, and that’s that. Fine as far as it goes, and I don’t blame anyone for liking it that way, but this series has questions and long-standing issues that really merit some resolution. I don’t imagine this will wrap everything up, or I think I’d have heard, but maybe it’s something.
  • Patrick Rothfuss, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. This is apparently a 30,000 word vignette, focusing entirely on one character from Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle. I recall this character, Auri, having qualities perhaps justifying the MPDG tag I’ve heard her labeled with (minus being the love interest?). It’s been a while since I’ve read the book, but the M, P, D, and G characteristics each stick, I think. Anyway, as usual, Rothfuss’s prose glides along, and this seems to be a nice, atmospheric piece.
  • R. S. Belcher, The Shotgun Arcana. This seems to be a grim, Clint Eastwood-style Western with dark magic infused into it, and I could easily envision the opening scenes on film. It’s connected to Belcher’s first book, The Six-Gun Tarot, which I heard praised last year, so I’ll have to go back and give that a closer look as well.
  • Antal Szerb, Journey by Moonlight. This is a reprint of what is apparently a classic of Hungarian magical realism, but I’d never heard of it, and I was intrigued by the preview. The action has a strange, accidental quality to it, full of minor insights about mutual misunderstandings between ordinary people.
  • Marie Lu, The Young Elites. I think this is the second or third time this year I’ve seen someone putting superheroes int a secondary world fantasy, but I’m all for it. Both are genres I enjoy, and it’s got to work eventually. The preview here is straightforward stuff for YA fantasy, but it’s very readable, so I’m sold.
  • Richard K. Morgan, The Dark Defiles. I’ve read a couple of Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs SF novels, and they’re great, but I haven’t tried this grimdark fantasy series, A Land Fit for Heroes. This is the third book, and there’s a lot going on that is presumably based on earlier episodes, but not much exposition to catch the reader up. It seems to be more about character and action than setting stuff or big ideas, but I gather that mostly from all the characters’ just having fairly lively thoughts or interactions in the opening chapters. Incidentally, they’re profanity-laced thoughts and interactions, but Morgan reinforces them with stuff that better establishes the emotional stakes of what’s going on, if not the larger context. Anyway, I could see myself breezing through this contentedly.
  • Ysabeau S. Wilce, Prophecies, Libels & Dreams: Stories of Califa. Wilce is well-known for her Flora novels, a series for middle-grade/early teen readers. These stories seem to be set in the same world, a sort of steampunk California with more Aztec influences than in our universe. The first one has more bombast and “falder-a-oo” to it than I’d normally like, but I appreciate it when writers push things a bit, and I also saw potential in the setting and the fictional afterword to the story.
  • Tom Reynolds, The Second Wave. Only reading the preview, this strikes me as a straightforward, chatty superhero novel offering a first-person perspective on fairly archetypal superhero situations. And since I like superheroes and this seems pretty readable, I’m interested. It’s the sequel to Reynolds’s first novel, Meta, which I’ll have to check out further.
  • Brian Ashcraft & Luke Plunkett, Cosplay World. I suspect good cosplay photos are among the very easiest of things to find on the web, but this book appears to collect a bunch of older examples, placing cosplay into the larger historical context of costuming in fandom, which is interesting.