Sunday, August 10, 2008

Books in the Mail (W/E 8/9/2008)

The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker - First came Edgar Rice Burroughs' view of the Red Planet, then the romance of Leigh Brackett, the poetic visions of Ray Bradbury, and the hard sf underpinnings of Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy. Now, added to that estimable list, we have Kage Baker, who makes Earth’s nearest neighbor all her own. When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated there in droves--only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn’t turn a profit on Mars. This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It’s the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan, of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another Company entirely, all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world.

Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, The Empress of Mars is a rollicking novel of action, offworld romance and high adventure.

Acacia Book One: The War with the Mein by David Anthony Durham – I read and reviewed this just before it published about a year ago. The copy that came in the mail this week was/is the mass market paperback. A nice looking one at that. From my review:
David Anthony Durham, already acclaimed as an author of historical novels, switches genres with Acacia Book One: The War with the Mein, the launch of a fantasy trilogy. The land of Acacia is a gilded one, the royals live a life free of struggle while the life that affords them this luxury is one of dark trades and immoral practices, such as drug trafficking, slavery, and human consignment. Durham does a convincing job of both setting up this dichotomy and reinforcing it throughout the novel without brow-beating the subject.

As this review suggested earlier, Durham maintains a palpable level of tension throughout. What he does with even more skill is flavoring the entire novel with an air of mythic resonance. However, this air of myth is something Durham builds slowly. It comes through first in the stories Arkan tells his children about the history and prehistory of their nation and world. In particular, Leodan tells his children the story of Basher and Cashen, two brothers who initially were very close but were ultimately torn apart by their own lust and craving for power. The air of myth builds as further stories and myths are brought into the fold. In the second third of the novel, the style changes somewhat as Durham begins to relay the "where are they now" of the Akaran children with a mythic voice.
Quofum: A Novel of the Commonwealth by Alan Dean Foster - Bestselling author Alan Dean Foster’s new adventure takes place in the amazing Humanx Commonwealth, home of the ever-popular Pip & Flinx. Although the dynamic redhead and his daring minidrag do not appear in Quofum, this knockout thriller sets the stage for their explosive date with destiny in the duo’s final climactic adventure, Flinx Transcendent. The mission to planet Quofum is supposed to be a quickie for Captain Boylan and his crew. Boylan is tasked with delivering four scientists–two men, one woman, and one thranx–to the unknown world, setting up camp while the experts investigate flora and fauna, then ferrying them safely home. The first surprise is that Quofum, which regularly slips in and out of existence on Commonwealth monitors, is actually there when Boylan and company arrive. The second surprise is more about what Quofum is not: The planet is not logical, ordered, or rational.

To Rescue Tanelorn by Michael Moorcock - Elric of Melniboné. The name is like a magic spell, conjuring up the image of an albino champion and his cursed, vampiric sword, Stormbringer. Elric, the last emperor of a cruel and decadent race, rogue and adventurer, hero and murderer, lover and traitor, is mystery and paradox personified–a timeless testament to the creative achievement of Michael Moorcock, the most significant fantasy writer since Tolkien.

Now comes the second in this definitive series of Elric volumes. Gorgeously illustrated by acclaimed artist Michael Wm. Kaluta and including a new Introduction by Michael Moorcock, this collection features, along with Elric, such renowned characters as Erekosë, Rackhir the Red Archer, and Count Renark von Bek. Readers will delight in adventures that include “To Rescue Tanelorn . . .,” “Master of Chaos,” “The Singing Citadel,” “The Black Blade’s Song,” and the novella version of “The Eternal Champion.”

The Company by K.J. Parker - Hoping for a better life, five war veterans colonize an abandoned island. They take with them everything they could possibly need - food, clothes, tools, weapons, even wives. But an unanticipated discovery shatters their dream and replaces it with a very different one. The colonists feel sure that their friendship will keep them together. Only then do they begin to realize that they’ve brought with them rather more than they bargained for.

For one of them, it seems, has been hiding a terrible secret from the rest of the company. And when the truth begins to emerge, it soon becomes clear that the war is far from over.

Just One Bite (A Dead-End Dating Novel) by Kimberly Raye – With comparisons to Bridget Jones Diary and Carrie from Sex in the City, I highly doubt I’ll be reading this one. Lil Marchette, vampire extraordinaire and owner of Manhattan’s hottest hook-up service, is an expert at matching up the lonely and desperate (and sometimes dead). And thanks to the popular local reality dating show Manhattan’s Most Wanted, Lil has plenty of fresh blood to add to the mix–including the biggest, baddest vampire in the Big Apple. Vinnie Balducci, Brooklyn representative for the Snipers of Otherworldly Beings, is making Lil an offer she can’t refuse: find him the perfect woman or she’s going to be swimming with the fishes.

But Lil may not be the only one taking the plunge. The three hunky demon Prince brothers are poking around Lil’s office–hot on the trail of a rogue spirit trying to escape the land down under (not Australia) by possessing some poor, clueless human soul. Then Lil makes a startling discovery: The oblivious human vessel is none other than her loyal assistant, Evie. Between saving Evie from eternal damnation and saving herself from Vinnie’s lethal ultimatum, Lil is sure to be in for the most hellish ride of her afterlife.

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