Sunday, February 03, 2013

Books in the Mail (W/E 2013-02-02)

A big haul this week, with the monthly DAW mass market paperbacks arriving as well as several other goodies.

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams (Tor Trade Paperback 02/19/2013) – Adams is probably the pre-eminent editor of themed-anthologies today. I’ve read a handful of his anthologies and they’ve all been top-notch, which I expect will be the same for this anthology.

From Victor Frankenstein to Lex Luthor, from Dr. Moreau to Dr. Doom, readers have long been fascinated by insane plans for world domination and the madmen who devise them. Typically, we see these villains through the eyes of good guys. This anthology, however, explores the world of mad scientists and evil geniuses—from their own wonderfully twisted point of view.

An all-star roster of bestselling authors—including Diana Gabaldon, Daniel Wilson, Austin Grossman, Naomi Novik, and Seanan McGuire…twenty-two great storytellers all told—have produced a fabulous assortment of stories guaranteed to provide readers with hour after hour of high-octane entertainment born of the most megalomaniacal mayhem imaginable.

Everybody loves villains. They’re bad; they always stir the pot; they’re much more fun than the good guys, even if we want to see the good guys win. Their fiendish schemes, maniacal laughter, and limitless ambition are legendary, but what lies behind those crazy eyes and wicked grins? How—and why—do they commit these nefarious deeds? And why are they so set on taking over the world?
If you’ve ever asked yourself any of these questions, you’re in luck: It’s finally time for the madmen’s side of the story.

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett (Orbit Trade Paperback 02/12/2013) – With The Troupe, Robert Jackson Bennett wrote my favorite novel of 2012 and one of the best novels I read in the past five or ten years so yeah, you could say this is high on the anticipation list for 2013.

Ex-cop Mona Bright has been living a hard couple of years on the road, but when her estranged father dies, she finds she's had a home all along: a little house her deceased mother once owned in Wink, New Mexico.

And though every map denies Wink exists, Mona finds they're wrong: not only is Wink real, it is the perfect American small town, somehow retaining all the Atomic Age optimism the rest of world has abandoned.

But the closer Mona gets to her mother's past, the more she understands that the people in Wink are very, very different - and what's more, Mona begins to recognize her own bond to this strange place, which feels more like home every day.

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (Tor Hardcover 02/05/2013) – Brennan’s been writing about the courts of fae in The Onyx Court series for a few years now, and Mark / Hobbit of SFFWorld has enjoyed those books. This is something of a departure from those books and has been described as “Downton Abbey, But With Dragons!”

You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

Marie Brennan introduces an enchanting new world in A Natural History of Dragons.

Intruder (Foreigner #13) by C. J. Cherryh (DAW Hardcover 03/05/2013) – Mass Market reissue of last year’s hardcover version of the 13th installment of the long-running series. My (now) colleague at Jo Walton did a nice re-read of the series.

Civil war on the world of the atevi seems to be over, but diplomatic disputes and political infighting continue unabated. Bren Cameron, brilliant human diplomat allied with the dominant Western Association, has just returned to the capital from his country home on the coast. But his sojourn was anything but restful. Attacked by rebel forces hoping to kill not only him, but also Ilisidi, the grandmother, and Cajieri, the young son, of Tabini-aiji, the powerful head of the Western Association, Bren and his resourceful associates have had a small war of their own to contend with. And this small war has ended with a daring proposition: that their longtime enemy Machigi, having been double-crossed by his allies and approached by Ilisidi with an offer of alliance, will sign a trade agreement with her Eastern district-a situation which has upset both the rebels and the loyal north.

But Bren’s accustomed role as negotiator for Tabini, Ilisidi, and their associates has suddenly changed radically—for Machigi, to Bren’s utter shock, has evoked an ancient law. Bren wears the white ribbon that for the last few centuries has identified the single official human-atevi negotiator. But before humans landed, this white ribbon represented a specialized negotiator between atevi adversaries—a mediator who agreed to represent both sides with equal loyalty. These ancient mediators frequently ended up dead.

Now back in the capital, Bren finds that things are even more complicated than they previously were. He has now been put in the precaroius position of representing both Ilisidi and Machigi to the congress, and is becoming embroiled with both conservative and liberal factions. Meanwhile, Tabini-aiji is enraged to have lost the personal negotiator who has been his associate for decades, and is also jealous of any other party who stands to influence his young son.

But there are even more dangerous things afoot, for Bren’s bodyguard has warned him there is a crisis inside the immensely dangerous Assassins’ Guild, and that the recent dustup with the Shadow Guild, a rebellious faction within the Assassins, may be only the beginning.

The Plain Man (The Max August Magikal Thrillers #3) by Steve Englehart (Tor Hardcover 02/19/2013) – Englehart has written some of the most popular characters in comics, and their most acclaimed stories. This book is the third in his urban fantasy/mystery/thriller.

Legendary comics writer Steve Englehart returns to the adventures of Max August in The Arena Man, the fourth novel in his fantasy thriller series.

Max August was once a regular guy, before he learned the ways of magick and immortality and became a staunch crusader against the supernatural forces of evil. Though immune to the effects of time, Max is not indestructible, and now he must face the vast, worldwide conspiracy known as the Necklace.

Max has only a few allies in this fight among them: Pam, an apprentice in the alchemical arts, and Vee, a chanteuse with an uncanny knack for all things magick. But the Necklace is plotting a massive catastrophe fueled by the magical power of a demonic entity; using Black Ops helicopters to massacre tens of thousands of spectators in a domed stadium, re-awakening terrorist fears and destabilizing the U.S. government. Max will need all his magick, and all the help he can get, for him to have any chance to thwart the attack and survive to fight another day.

The Secret of Ji: Six Heirs by Pierre Grimbert (AmazonCrossing Trade Paperback 02/19/2013) – This is a translation from a popular, acclaimed French fantasy novel from Amazon’s imprint focusing on non-English/non-US authors.

The Known World is a sprawling region ruled by mortals, protected by gods, and plied by magicians and warriors, merchants and beggars, royals and scoundrels. Here, those with the gift of the Erjak share a psychic bond with animals; a far-reaching fraternity unites criminals of every persuasion in a vast army of villainy; and upon the mighty river Alt, the dead will one day sail seeking vengeance on the enemies of their descendants.

But for all the Known World’s wonders, splendors, and terrors, what has endured most powerfully is the strange legacy of Ji. Emissaries from every nation—the grand Goranese Empire; desolate, frozen Arkary; cosmopolitan Lorelia; and beyond—followed an enigmatic summons into the unknown. Some never returned; others were never the same. Each successive generation has guarded the profound truth and held sacred the legendary event. But now, the very last of them—and the wisdom they possess—are threatened. The time has come to fight for ultimate enlightenment…or fall to infinite darkness.

The Forever Knight by John Marco (DAW Hardcover 04/02/2013) – I’ve been enjoying John Marco’s books ever since I read his debut novel The Jackal of Nar. This one picks up the story John last told in The Sword of Angels

Lukien is the Bronze Knight, beloved by his kingdom and renowned in battle throughout his world. After betraying his king and losing his beloved, he wishes only for death, but rather than die, Lukien is given a chance for redemption: to be the protector of the Inhumans—those fragile mortals who live deep in the desert, far from the prying eyes of their world. These remarkable individuals have been granted magical powers in exchange for the hardships and handicaps life has handed them. And Lukien, now immortal himself, must be their champion. But how can one man, even an immortal warrior, protect hundreds from a world of potential enemies?

Midnight Blue Light Special (An InCryptid Novel #2) by Seanan McGuire (DAW Mass Market 03/05/2013) – McGuirre’s output is impressive, in terms of quantity and the praise I see heaped upon her work. This is the second in her latest series.

Cryptid, noun:
1. Any creature whose existence has been suggested but not proven scientifically. Term officially coined by cryptozoologist John E. Wall in 1983.
2. That thing that's getting ready to eat your head.
3. See also: "monster."

The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and when her work with the cryptid community took her to Manhattan, she thought she would finally be free to pursue competition-level dance in earnest. It didn't quite work out that way...

But now, with the snake cult that was killing virgins all over Manhattan finally taken care of, Verity is ready to settle down for some serious ballroom dancing—until her on-again, off-again, semi-boyfriend Dominic De Luca, a member of the monster-hunting Covenant of St. George, informs her that the Covenant is on their way to assess the city's readiness for a cryptid purge. With everything and everyone she loves on the line, there's no way Verity can take that lying down.

Alliances will be tested, allies will be questioned, lives will be lost, and the talking mice in Verity's apartment will immortalize everything as holy writ—assuming there's anyone left standing when all is said and done. It's a midnight blue-light special, and the sale of the day is on betrayal, deceit...and carnage.

The Books of Barakhai by Mickey Zucker Reichert (DAW Mass Market Paperback 03/05/2013) – This is an omnibus/two-in-one of the two Barakhai novels Reichert wrote. Crossover / Portal fantasy wherein a man from our world magically finds himself in world filled with shapeshifters and magic.

Benton Collins was a graduate student working in the bio lab to earn his way to his degree. When a white lab rat somehow managed to escape its cage, Ben found himself chasing the rat into a storeroom that would ultimately lead him through a secret gateway into the realm called Barakhai. And in Barakhai, Ben’s life would be forever changed, for this was a place peopled by inadvertent shapeshifters, humans forced to spend half their day—or night—in animal form.

Not everyone was happy with the life in Barakhai, a life where the general population was ruled by those few humans of royal blood who remained in their human form and were virtual dictators. Ben, by virtue of being born on Earth, was not a shapeshifter either. And a rebel named Zylas hoped that Ben could become the instrument to turn Barakhai around. So Zylas and his comrade rescued Ben from certain death. But if Ben agreed to join their cause, would he only be postponing the moment of his execution, and would he ever be allowed to return to his own world again?

Elsewhens (Glass Thorns #2) by Melanie Rawn (Tor Hardcover 02/19/2012) – A year passes and the second in Rawn’s Glass Thorns series publishes, following Touchstone.

Touchstone, the magical theater troupe, continues to build audiences. But Cayden is increasingly troubled by his “elsewhens,” the uncontrolled moments when he is plunged into visions of the possible futures. He fears that his Fae gift will forever taint his friendships; his friends fear that his increasing distance will destroy him.

But worldly success follows them—an apparent loss in the Trials leads to Touchstone being selected to travel to the Continent with a Royal Embassy to collect Prince Ashgar’s new bride. They are the first theater artists to appear outside Albeyn for at least seventy years—for magic is suspect and forbidden elsewhere, and the Kingdom’s easy race mixing and magic use horrifies the people they are to travel among.

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