Sunday, May 01, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-04-30)

Another eclectic mix of genre books arrived at the o' Stuff abode this week. Shall we proceed?

Zendegi by Greg Egan (Trade Paperback 05/5/2011 Night Shade Books) – Egan is one of the preeminent Hard SF writers, this is a trade paperback reissue of the hardcover published last year.

In the near future, journalist Martin Seymour travels to Iran to cover the parliamentary elections. Most would-be opposition candidates are disqualified and the election becomes the non-event the world expects. But shortly afterward a compromising image of a government official captured on a mobile phone triggers a revolutionary movement that overthrows the old theocracy. Nasim Golestani, a young Iranian scientist living in exile in the United States, is hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project - which aims to construct a detailed map of the wiring of the human brain - but when government funding for the project is canceled and a chance comes to return to her homeland, she chooses to head back to Iran.

Fifteen years after the revolution, Martin is living in Iran with his wife and young son, while Nasim is in charge of the virtual world known as Zendegi, used by millions of people for entertainment and business. When Zendegi comes under threat from powerful competitors, Nasim draws on her old skills, and data from the now-completed Human Connectome Project, to embark on a program to create more lifelike virtual characters and give the company an unbeatable edge. As controversy grows over the nature and rights of these software characters, tragedy strikes Martin's family. Martin turns to Nasim, seeking a solution that no one else can offer... but Zendegi is about to become a battlefield.

Central Park Knight by C.J. Henderson (Tor , Trade Paperback 05/10/2011) – Second in an urban fantasy series that should appeal to fans of Harry Dresden and Indiana Jones.

Professor Piers Knight is the Brooklyn Museum’s very own Indiana Jones. His specialties include lost civilizations, arcane cultures, and more than a little bit of the history of magic and mysticism. What his contemporaries don't know is that in addition to being a scholar of all these topics, he is also proficient in the uses of magical artifacts.

Knight receives a chilling message from Tian Lu, a former lover and an agent for the Chinese government. Years ago, they made a frightening discovery at an archeological dig when out of the depths rose… a living, fire-breathing dragon. Now, the dragons are waking from their slumber before their scheduled time. And one particularly diabolical dragon is set on eliminating the others and taking over the world.

As civilization plunges into panic, Knight, Lu, Knight’s seventeen-year-old techie intern George Rainert, and an untrustworthy dragon ally must use all their resources— magical and otherwise—to stop the destruction before it’s too late.

Steelhands by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett (Bantam Spectra Hardcover 08/02/2011) – This is the fourth novel set in the author team’s in a “magicpunk” fantasy series featuring dragons made of magic and mechanics. The author team impressively jumped from trade paperback to hardcover with this volume. I’ll say this for their books, the cover designs are awesome.

With Havemercy, Shadow Magic, and Dragon Soul, the acclaimed writing team of Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett has fused magic and technology into something that can only be termed “magicpunk.” Their distinctive style, featuring a chorus of quirky first-person narrators and brilliantly sophisticated world-building, has won these young writers the plaudits of fans and critics.

In the Volstov capital of Thremedon, Owen Adamo, the hard-as-nails ex–Chief Sergeant of the Dragon Corps, learns that Volstov’s ruler, the Esar, has been secretly pursuing the possibility of resurrecting magically powered sentient robot dragons—even at the risk of igniting another war. That Adamo will not allow. Though he is not without friends—Royston, a powerful magician, and Balfour, a former corpsman—there is only so much Adamo and his allies can do. Adamo has been put out to pasture, given a professorship at the University. Royston, already exiled once, dares not risk the Esar’s wrath a second time. And Balfour, who lost both hands in the climactic battle of the war, is now a diplomat who spends most of his time trying to master his new hands—metal replacements that operate on the same magical principles as the dragons and have earned him an assortment of nicknames of which “Steelhands” is the least offensive.

But sometimes help comes where you least expect it. In this case, from two first-year university students freshly arrived in Thremedon from the country: Laurence, a feisty young woman whose father raised her to be the son he never had, and Toverre, her fiancé, a brilliant if neurotic dandy who would sooner share his wife-to-be’s clothes than her bed. When a mysterious illness strikes the first-year students, Laurence takes her suspicions to Adamo—and unwittingly sets in motion events that will change Volstov forever.

Embassytown by China Miéville >(Del Rey, Hardcover 05/17/2011) – Miéville turns his pen to far-future (some might say space opera) in what looks to be another terrific, and at the very least, interesting novel.

China Miéville doesn’t follow trends, he sets them. Relentlessly pushing his own boundaries as a writer—and in the process expanding the boundaries of the entire field—with Embassytown, Miéville has crafted an extraordinary novel that is not only a moving personal drama but a gripping adventure of alien contact and war.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi (Hardcover 5/10/2011 Tor ) – When this book published in the UK last year, many touted Rajaniemi as a bold new voice in SF, sort of the new author SF may have been wanting. Well, the book looks beautiful and I’ll be giving it a shot.

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur….

The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

Eclipse Four edited by Jonathan Strahan (Night Shade Books Trade Paperback May 2011) – This is the fourth in Strahan’s acclaimed annual, unthemed anthology series of original fiction. I thought the first one was good and Dan liked both the second and the third installments.

Award-winning editor Jonathan Strahan continues the spectacular and award winning original genre fiction series, Eclipse. Continuing in the spirit of the genre's previous groundbreaking, original anthology series (Universe, Orbit, Starlight), Eclipse provides a high profile home for cutting-edge genre fiction, helping define what the fantastic genres can aspire to be in the twenty-first century.

Continuing in the footsteps of the multiple-award-nominated anthologies Eclipse One, Eclipse Two, and Eclipse Three, Eclipse Four delivers new fiction by some of the genre's most celebrated authors, including Andy Duncan's tale of a man's gamble that he can outrun a bullet; Caitlin R. Kiernan's story of lovers contemplating the gravity of a tiny black hole; Damien Broderick's chronicle of a beancounter who acquires a most curious cat; Michael Swanwick's tale of the grey man who pulls an unhappy woman from the path of an oncoming train; Nalo Hopkinson's story of ghosts haunting a shopping mall; and Gwyneth Jones's story of an alien priest who suffers a crisis of faith...

The Big Switch (The War That Came Early) by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Hardcover 07/19/2011) – Another re-imagining of the outcome of World War II from the writing machine that is Harry Turtledove. Over the past couple of years, I’ve probably received over a dozen Turtledove books for review..

In this extraordinary World War II alternate history, master storyteller Harry Turtledove begins with a big switch: what if Neville Chamberlain, instead of appeasing Hitler, had stood up to him in 1938? Enraged, Hitler reacts by lashing out at the West, promising his soldiers that they will reach Paris by the New Year. They don’t. Three years later, his genocidal apparatus not fully in place, Hitler has barely survived a coup, while Jews cling to survival. But England and France wonder whether the war is still worthwhile.

Weaving together a cast of characters that ranges from a brawling American fighter in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain to a woman who has seen Hitler’s evil face-to-face, Harry Turtledove takes us into a world shaping up very differently in 1941. The Germans and their Polish allies have slammed into the gut of the Soviet Union in the west, while Japan pummels away in the east. In trench warfare in France, French and Czech fighters are outmanned but not outfought by their Nazi enemy. Then the stalemate is shattered. In England, Winston Churchill dies in an apparent accident, and the gray men who walk behind his funeral cortege wonder who their real enemy is. The USSR, fighting for its life, makes peace with Japan—and Japan’s war with America is about to begin.

A sweeping saga of human passions, foolishness, and courage, of families and lovers and soldiers by choice and by chance, The Big Switch is a provocative, gripping, and utterly convincing work of alternate history at its best. For history buffs and fans of big, blood-and-guts fiction, Harry Turtledove delivers a panoramic clash of ideals as powerful as armies themselves.

Dancing with Bears by Michael Swanwick (Nightshade Books , Hardcover 05/11/2011) – Swanwick is a major writer in the genre so whenever a new book from him publishes, it is good news. This one sounds like a lot of fun:

Dancing With Bears follows the adventures of notorious con-men Darger and Surplus: They've lied and cheated their way onto the caravan that is delivering a priceless gift from the Caliph of Baghdad to the Duke of Muscovy. The only thing harder than the journey to Muscovy is their arrival in Muscovy. An audience with the Duke seems impossible to obtain, and Darger and Surplus quickly become entangled in a morass of deceit and revolution. The only thing more dangerous than the convoluted political web surrounding Darger and Surplus is the gift itself, the Pearls of Byzantium, and Zoesophia, the governess sworn to protect their virtue.

Star Wars: Choices of One by Timothy Zahn (Hardcover 7/19/2011 Del Rey). Zahn is the author who helped to really launch the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. Here he returns to the “Classic” era.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Timothy Zahn comes a brand-new Star Wars adventure, set in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring the young Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and the beloved Mara Jade.

The fate of the Rebellion rests on Luke Skywalker’s next move.
But have the rebels entered a safe harbor or a death trap?

Eight months after the Battle of Yavin, the Rebellion is in desperate need of a new base. So when Governor Ferrouz of Candoras Sector proposes an alliance, offering the Rebels sanctuary in return for protection against the alien warlord Nuso Esva, Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie are sent to evaluate the deal.

Mara Jade, the Emperor’s Hand, is also heading for Candoras, along with the five renegade stormtroopers known as the Hand of Judgment. Their mission: to punish Ferrouz’s treason and smash the Rebels for good.

But in this treacherous game of betrayals within betrayals, a wild card is waiting to be played.

Don’t miss the new novella by Timothy Zahn, “Crisis of Faith,” featured in the 20th anniversary edition of Star Wars: Heir to the Empire

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