Sunday, May 15, 2011

Books in the Mail (W/E 2011-05-14)

A big haul this week at the o' Stuff, many of which are the second and third copies of books I'd already received. It's been a couple of months, so I might as well drop in the semi-regular disclaimer about these Books in the Mail posts:

As a reviewer for SFFWorld and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday").

Conviction: (Fate of the Jedi Book Seven) by Aaron Allston (Hardcover 5/09/2011 Del Rey). Seventh book, and last contribution from Allston, in the latest series involving that pesky Skywalker clan. I received a copy last week and this week, so three in total counting the ARC.

Chief of State Natasi Daala has been overthrown, and the Jedi Order has taken control of the Galactic Alliance. But while the new governors dismantle Daala’s draconian regime, forces still loyal to the deposed official are mobilizing a counterstrike. And even the Jedi’s new authority may not be enough to save Tahiri Veila, the former Jedi Knight and onetime Sith apprentice convicted of treason for the killing of Galactic Alliance officer Gilad Pellaeon.

Meanwhile, Luke and Ben Skywalker are relentlessly pursuing Abeloth, the powerful dark-side entity bent on ruling the galaxy. But as they corner their monstrous quarry on the planet Nam Chorios, the two lone Jedi must also face the fury of the Sith death squadron bearing down on them. And when Abeloth turns the tables with an insidious ambush, the Skywalkers’ quest threatens to become a suicide mission.

The Measure of the Magic (Legends of Shannara) by Terry Brooks (Hardcover 8/30/2011 Del Rey) – I've said it before, I find him a frustrating writer in that I like the concepts of what he wants to do, but my reading sensibilities don't always agree with his execution of those concepts. I really enjoyed The Scions of Shannara when I read it and think Brooks is one of the most important fantasy writers of the last 25-30 years.

After more than three decades of captivating epic fantasy readers, the storytelling magic of New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks’s Shannara saga continues to enthrall. Now the fascinating chronicle of Shannara’s prehistory reaches a thrilling new peak in the sequel to Bearers of the Black Staff.

For five hundred years, the survivors of the Great Wars lived peacefully in a valley sanctuary shielded by powerful magic from the blighted and dangerous outside world. But the enchanted barriers have crumbled, the borders have been breached by predators, and the threat of annihilation looms large once more. Sider Ament, bearer of the last black staff and its profound power, devoted his life to protecting the valley and its inhabitants—and, in his final moments, gave stewardship of the black staff to the young tracker Panterra Qu. Now the newly anointed Knight of the Word must take up the battle against evil wherever it threatens: from without, where an army of bloodthirsty trolls is massing for invasion; and from within, where the Elf king of Arborlon has been murdered, his daughter, Princess Phryne Amarantyne, stands accused, and a heinous conspiracy is poised to subjugate the kingdom. But even these will pale beside the most harrowing menace Panterra is destined to confront—a nameless, merciless figure who wanders the devastated land on a relentless mission: to claim the last black staff . . . and the life of he who wields it.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon by Peter David (Del Rey Mass Market Paperback 05/24/2011) – With the new Transformers movie comes another novelization, this time from a man familiar with novelizations (comic books, fantasy, and ‘stuff’) Peter David:


All humankind was watching that fateful day in 1969. But only a handful knew the real mission behind America’s triumph in space. Now the treacherous Decepticons have set their sights on unearthing government secrets. The only hope of averting a crisis rests on the Autobots—yet who knows what remains in the shadows, hidden from man and machine?

Dwarfs by Nick Kyme and Gav Thorpe (Black Library Trade Paperback 6/07/2011) – One of the best things Black Library does, as I’ve said in the past, is keep their titles in print through handy ominbii. This is the most recent and if you can’t guess the running theme throughout the novels and stories contained within, then you’re a little short on brainpower.

The story
The dwarfs are a stoic and long-lived race. Their unbending will and pride serve them as fearsome warriors on the battlefield and the greatest craftsmen across the Old World. But cross them at your peril, as a dwarf grudge is never forgotten, a quest for revenge handed down from generation to generation until the debt is settled in blood…

About the book

In this action-packed omnibus, the bravery and resilience of the dwarfs is brought to life as they wage war against the twisted powers of Chaos, vile skaven ratmen, brutal greenskins and their oldest adversaries, the mysterious and powerful elves. From the ancient dwarf holds to the killing fields of the Empire, war will be waged in the name of Grungni , Grimnir and Valaya, and no foe shall forget the day they met these unbreakable warriors in battle. Contains the novels Grudgebearer, Oathbreaker and Honourkeeper.

Bloodforged (Ulrika the Vampire #2) by Nathan Long - (Black Library , Mass Market Paperback 06/07/2011) – Nathan Long is another of Black Library’s top new writers, this is his second novel about Ulrika the Vampire, set in the “Old World” of Warhammer Fantasy.

Unable to adapt to Lahmian society, Ulrika seeks her own way, striking out to the Chaos-besieged city of Praag to seek old friends and glory in battle. On her arrival, she finds a devastated but defiant people and the invaders repelled. But the Ruinous Powers can take many forms, and now a more insidious threat is rising from within – a Slaaneshi cult that seeks to claim dominion in Praag. Shunned by her Lahmian sisters, decried by the humans she seeks to protect, Ulrika treads a lonely path as she tries to find the root of this destructive plot. Caught between the will of the vampires and the insane designs of Chaos sorcerers and cultists, Ulrika must call upon all of her cunning and savagery if she is to triumph...

Wayfinder (Book Two of The Worldwalker Duology) by C.E. Murphy (Trade Paperback 09/6/2011 Del Rey) – Crossover fantasy featuring a Boston woman fighting in the world of Faery. .


Lara Jansen is a truthseeker, gifted—or cursed—with the magical ability to tell honesty from lies. Once she was a tailor in Boston, but now she has crossed from Earth to the Barrow-lands, a Faerie world embroiled in a bloody civil war between Seelie and Unseelie. Armed with an enchanted and malevolent staff which seeks to bend her to its dark will, and thrust into a deadly realm where it’s hard to distinguish friend from foe, Lara is sure of one thing: her love for Dafydd ap Caerwyn, the Faerie prince who sought her help in solving a royal murder and dousing the flames of war before they consumed the Barrow-lands.

But now Dafydd is missing, perhaps dead, and the Barrow-lands are closer than ever to a final conflagration. Lara has no other choice: she must harness the potent but perilous magic of the staff and her own truthseeking talents, blazing a path to a long-forgotten truth—a truth with the power to save the Barrow-lands or destroy them.

Nights of Villjamur (Book #1 of Legends of the Red Sun) by Mark Charan Newton (Bantam Spectra Trade Paperback 05/24/2011) – This is the third copy of the book I received, after the ARC and the published copy, I reviewed the book back in November of last year.

The world is at the nadir of civilization and on the brink of an impending winter, order is crumbling with chaos knocking on the door of the castle. Set against this backdrop is what seems to be a murder mystery and the ascension of a new ruler. Thus you have the beginnings of Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur, a novel that arrived in the States with a great deal of pomp based on very high praise from outside the States when it was publisher a year ago.

The world in which Newton has set his novel could very well be our own, perhaps an age or two before the Dying Earth made so famous by Jack Vance. Specifically, the focal region of this world is an archipelago empire whose emperor is going insane. The empire is awaiting his heir whilst, fearing the empire’s lack of stability and the threat of a dooming ice age, a stranger is investigating a seemingly set of connected murders. Stolen identities and political machinates comprise a majority of the drive behind the character’s actions, though there are battles and action scenes to counter-balance.

Pinning down a main character outside the city of Villjamur itself would be difficult in this large cast of characters. It could be Brynd Lathraea, a commander in the army of the empire who must keep the peace and status quo when the Emperor Johynn takes his own life. Coming to assume the role of Empress is Johynn’s niece Jamur Rika to rule. Complicating the situation is Rika’s sister, Eir, and her developing relationship with her appointed sword-master, the man who goes by the name of Randur Estevu. Jeryd, the rumel (a humanoid race with a tail that has inhabited the world for at least as long as humans) is the investigator who is tasked with finding the person responsible for a string of political deaths. Perhaps the most intriguing character is Jurro, the sole member of the Dawnir race how posses vast knowledge of both magic and technology. The plot is further thickened when refugees from the Empire’s outlying regions arrive in Villjamur hoping to receive protection from the much-feared and predicted cataclysmic ice age. Clearly, much chaos is in the air of Villjamur.

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW Trade Paperback 06/02/2011) – This is the second version of the book I’ve received, after getting the Hardcover last year around this time.

An award-winning literary author presents her first foray into supernatural fantasy with a novel of post-apocalyptic Africa.

In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue.

Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny-to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture-and eventually death itself.

Haven (A Trial of Blood and Steel #2) by Joel Shepherd (Pyr, Trade Paperback, 05/23/2011) – Fourth and final volume in Shepherd’s historical fantasy, the first book of which received some good reviews.

The great powers of the Saalshen Bacosh are falling. The feudal army of the Regent Balthaar Arosh marches victorious across Rhodaan and Enora, determined to restore the old human ways that were abolished by the serrin of Saalshen two centuries before. The army of Lenayin marches in their wake, in shame. The greater battle was won, yet Lenayin’s part in it was defeat, their king slain, their warriors sent running from the field.

Sashandra Lenayin marches with her people, yet she sees the carnage the Regent’s armies are inflicting upon her former allies, and like most Lenays, she feels dishonored. Sasha leads three quarters of the army of Lenayin to defect and fight for Saalshen, leaving her brothers Koenyg and Myklas with the Verenthane hardliners to fight for the Regent.

All forces now converge on the city of Jahnd, an Enoran word meaning “Haven.” A city of humanity’s refugees in Saalshen, its serrin hosts have allowed it to build into a major power over the centuries, humankind’s only outpost in Saalshen. But the Saalshen Bacosh’s third province, the mountainous land of Ilduur, refuses to come to the aid of its neighbors and without it victory is impossible. Sasha must lead a delegation to the Ilduuri capital, to combat the xenophobic Ilduuri regime’s retreat into isolation, and convince the Ilduuri army to defy their own leaders and rise up in rebellion to fight a foreign war that most Ilduuris do not want.

To save Saalshen and all that she loves about Lenayin, Sasha must become a true Lenay warlord, feared and hated by her enemies, uncompromising and all conquering. But will her own people now inflict upon her one of her worst nightmares, by insisting that she, and not her brother Damon, should assume the Lenay throne and lead her people in the greatest battle that the land of Rhodia has ever seen?

Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove (Del Rey Trade Paperback 05/24/2011) – I easily get more books by Harry Turtledove than any author, and more often than not, I get at least two copies of the same book, or in this case, three counting the ARC, Hardcover release and Trade Paperback release. I’ve yet to read one of them. It seems as if he’s re-imagined so many facets of WWII that one day, he’ll re-imagine if Hitler brushed his teeth at 9:45 AM rather than 9:15 AM.

What if British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had defied Hitler? What if the Munich Accord had gone unsigned, and Nazi Germany had launched its bid for conquest sooner? How would World War II have unfolded—and with what consequences? Dean of alternate history Harry Turtledove has the stunning answers in his breathtaking sequel to Hitler’s War.

In the wake of Hitler’s bold invasion of Czechoslovakia, nations turn against nations, old enemies form new alliances, and ordinary men and women confront extraordinary life-and-death situations. An American marine falls in love with a Russian dancer in Japanese-held Singapore, as Chinese guerilla resistance erupts. A sniper on the frontlines of France finds a powerful new way to ply his deadly art—while a German assassin hunts him. In the icy North Atlantic, as a U-boat with a secret weapon wreaks havoc on British ships, occupying Nazi forces target Denmark. And in Germany, a stranded American woman encounters Hitler himself, as a Jewish family faces the rising tide of hatred. From Siberia to Spain, armies clash, sides are chosen, new weapons raise the deadly ante, and new strategies seek to break a growing stalemate. But one question hangs over the conflict from West to East: What will it take to bring America into this war?

Vortex (Spin Cycle #3) by Robert Charles Wilson (Tor Hardcover 05/31/2011) – Spin is one of the best SF novels I’ve ever read, and one of the best of the past decade. Human, big ideas, and terrific storytelling. RCW is slowly becoming one of my favorite SF writers. This is the third and final book in the sequence, but I still need to catch up with the second.

Vortex tells the story of Turk Findley, the protagonist introduced in Axis, who is transported ten thousand years into the future by the mysterious entities called “the Hypotheticals.” In this future humanity exists on a chain of planets connected by Hypothetical gateways; but Earth itself is a dying world, effectively quarantined.

Turk and his young friend Isaac Dvali are taken up by a community of fanatics who use them to enable a passage to the dying Earth, where they believe a prophecy of human/Hypothetical contact will be fulfilled. The prophecy is only partly true, however, and Turk must unravel the truth about the nature and purpose of the Hypotheticals before they carry him on a journey through warped time to the end of the universe itself.

1 comment:

Seth Skogerboe said...

I envy your mailbox. :-D