Sunday, December 13, 2009

Books in the Mail (W/E 12/12/2009)

My usual readers know the drill – every Sunday I post the books I received for review the prior week.

Catalyst (A Tale of the Barque Cats) by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough (Del Rey , Hardcover 01/05/2009) – I’ll be right up front with this: books about cats are one of my reading cooties* so I will not be reading this one myself. That said, Scarborough and McCaffrey have impressive bibliographies on their own and together, so this book probably has a decent built-in audience. .

*Reading Cooties term thanks to Elizabeth Moon

Pilot, navigator, engineer, doctor, scientist—ship's cat? All are essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Since the early days of interstellar travel, when Tuxedo Thomas, a Maine coon cat, showed what a cat could do for a ship and its crew, the so-called Barque Cats have become highly prized crew members. Thomas's carefully bred progeny, ably assisted by humans—Cat Persons—with whom they share a deep and loving bond, now travel the galaxy, responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting human crews to potential environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers.

Even among Barque Cats, Chessie is something special. Her pedigree, skills, and intelligence, as well as the close rapport she has with her human, Janina, make her the most valuable crew member aboard the Molly Daise. And the litter of kittens in her belly only adds to her value.

Then the unthinkable happens. Chessie is kidnapped—er, catnapped—from Dr. Jared Vlast's vet clinic at Hood Station by a grizzled spacer named Carl Poindexter. But Chessie's newborn kittens turn out to be even more extraordinary than their mother. For while Chessie's connection to Janina is close and intuitive, the bond that the kitten Chester forms with Carl's son, Jubal, is downright telepathic. And when Chester is sent into space to learn his trade, neither he nor Jubal will rest until they're reunited.

But the announcement of a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws their future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals. Not even the Barque Cats will be spared.

With the clock racing against them, Janina, Jubal, Dr. Vlast, and a handful of very special kittens will join forces with the mysterious Pshaw-Ra—an alien-looking cat with a hidden agenda—to save the Barque Cats, other animals, and quite possibly the universe as they know it from total destruction.

Sons of Dorn (An Imperial Fists Novel) by Chris Roberson (Black Library , Mass Market Paperback 12/29/2009) –I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read by Roberson as well as the Warhammer universe so I’ll get to this one at some point.

The Imperial Fists Space Marine Chapter is know for their brutal recruitment regime and three new recruits, rivals Zatori, du Queste and Taloc have survived long enough to advance to the Ranks of Scout. Their latest mission is to join their Imperial Fists battle brothers in action on Vernalis, a planet blighted by Chaos. Here their loyalty to the Emperor and their fortitude in battle will be sorely tested, as they must overcome the power of the Roaring Blades Traitor Guard and prevent these old enemies from bringing their downfall.

Galileo's Dream by Kim Stanley Robinson (Spectra Hardcover 12/29/2009) – Robinson is one of the biggest names in American Science Fiction and this is no doubt a major release for him and the genre itself. Although I couldn’t get through Red Mars, I’m definitely giving this one a try and maybe, just maybe I’ll revisit his Mars books one more time.

The winner of every major science fiction award, Kim Stanley Robinson is a novelist who looks ahead with optimism even while acknowledging the steep challenges facing our planet and species: a clear-eyed realist who has not forgotten how to dream. His new novel offers his most audacious dream yet. At the heart of a brilliant narrative that stretches from Renaissance Italy to the moons of Jupiter is one man, the father of modern science: Galileo Galilei.

To the inhabitants of the Jovian moons, Galileo is a revered figure whose actions will influence the subsequent history of the human race. From the summit of their distant future, a charismatic renegade named Ganymede travels to the past to bring Galileo forward in an attempt to alter history and ensure the ascendancy of science over religion. And if that means Galileo must be burned at the stake, so be it.

Yet between his brief and jarring visitations to this future, Galileo must struggle against the ignorance and superstition of his own time. And it is here that Robinson is at his most brilliant, showing Galileo in all his contradictions and complexity. Robinson's Galileo is a tour de force of imaginative and historical empathy: the shining center around which the novel revolves.

From Galileo's heresy trial to the politics of far-future Jupiter, from the canals of Venice to frozen, mysterious Europa, Robinson illuminates the parallels between a distant past and an even more remote future—in the process celebrating the human spirit and calling into question the convenient truths of our own moment in time.

Starfist : Wings of Hell by David Sherman & Dan Cragg (Del Rey, Hardcover 12/30/2008) – This is the 13th entry in a Military Science Fiction saga set in the 25th Century. This marks the third time I’ve received a copy of this book, after the ARC and hardcover. Sherman and Cragg have Military experience, so maybe that translates into the books. I haven’t seen much chatter about the books online or at SFFWorld, either they are not that good or an overlooked gem.

No one captures the action and sacrifice of war better than real combat vets David Sherman and Dan Cragg. Now their blazing space epic Starfist continues as Marines of the Confederation’s Thirty-fourth Fleet Initial Strike Team (FIST) go head-to-head against the deadly Skinks. Of course, Company L’s third platoon has fought these aliens before, but never before in these numbers. . . .

Planet Haulover has been invaded by Skinks. Until now the aliens’ existence has been kept confidential. But Force Recon’s shocking report leaves the Confederation no choice but to mount a military campaign and reveal to the public its biggest secret: the threat of fierce alien predators bent on human destruction. What’s no secret is that the four army divisions and two Marine FISTs sent to Haulover aren’t nearly enough to defeat the well-entrenched aliens, who have a tunnel system second to none.

Back home, the Confederation’s president is being denounced as a warmonger bent on exterminating “harmless” aliens. And if she loses the upcoming elections, the Confederation will have a lot more Skinks than those on Haulover to worry about.

Newly promoted Lieutenant Charlie Bass and his third platoon have more pressing concerns, such as staying alive. But what would be a suicidal mission for most–whether it’s raiding a well-defended Skinks base or destroying the enemy’s most lethal weapons during a desperate firefight–is for them just another job.

Starfist: Double Jeopardy by David Sherman and Dan Cragg (Del Rey, Hardcover 12/29/2009) – This would be the ‘finished copy’ of the ARC I received about a month ago. Y’know, after receiving so many of these StarFist books, I really ought to give them a try.

The thrilling pace of the Starfist space epic quickens as the explosive series rockets to dazzling new heights, packed with the hell-for-leather action only two battle-hardened and decorated combat vets like David Sherman and Dan Cragg can provide.

The Confederation has finally disclosed the existence of Skinks, fierce aliens bent on wiping out humankind, and announced its plan to find and destroy their home world. While the rest of the universe grapples with the news, the Skink-savvy Marines of the Confederation's Thirty-fourth Fleet Initial Strike Team (FIST) have their own take on the situation.

Though they're no longer in danger of being exiled to a ghastly netherworld for spilling the beans about the deadly aliens, the men still can't transfer out of the unit where they've been confined since they first laid eyes on the Skinks. The reason is obvious: Who else but the legendary Thirty-fourth FIST has the skills and experience to spearhead the invasion of the Skinks' home world?

Morale isn't improved by a report of Skinks on the uncolonized world of Ishtar near a mercenary force engaged in slave-driven mining operations there—which means that FIST must turn around and head right back into the jaws of hell with no downtime. But none of that matters to Lieutenant Charlie Bass and the third platoon of Company L. They're Marines, they're the best, and they've got a job to do.

The Marines will find a planet ripped apart by all-out war, with enemies on all sides. The only certainty is that the fighting will rage red-hot and relentless, and Charlie Bass and his men will be right in the thick of the action.

Spellbent by Lucy Snyder (Del Rey , Mass Market Paperback 12/29/2009) – Snyder’s been publishing short stories for a few years, this is her debut novel. Although the cover here, on one hand, is very typical for the tough-midriff-bearing-hot-female, the other elements really help it stand out – the colors and the cool-looking skeletal serpent.

In the heart of Ohio, Jessie Shimmer is caught up in hot, magic-drenched passion with her roguish lover, Cooper Marron, who is teaching her how to tap her supernatural powers. When they try to break a drought by calling down a rainstorm, a hellish portal opens and Cooper is ripped from this world, leaving Jessie fighting for her life against a vicious demon that's been unleashed.

In the aftermath, Jessie, who knows so little about her own true nature, is branded an outlaw. She must survive by her wits and with the help of her familiar, a ferret named Palimpsest. Stalked by malevolent enemies, Jessie is determined to find out what happened to Cooper. But when she moves heaven and earth to find her man, she'll be shocked by what she discovers—and by what she must ultimately do to save them all.

Trade of Queens (Merchant Princes #6) by Charles Stross (Tor Hardcover 03/16/2010) – That B&W scan is the only image I could find of the cover. I’ve read some of Stross’s SF and enjoyed it, but this is the final and 6th book in a six-book series.

A dissident faction of the Clan, the alternate universe group of families that has traded covertly with our world for a century or more, has carried nuclear devices between the worlds and exploded them in Washington, DC, killing the President of the United States. Now they will exterminate the rest of the Clan and keep Miriam alive only long enough to bear her child, the heir to the throne of their land in the Gruinmarkt world.

Mike Fleming, late of US intelligence, has just survived an attack on his life in Massachusetts and knows the worst and deepest secret: behind the horrifying plot is a faction of the US government itself, preparing for a political takeover in the aftermath of terrifying disaster. There is no safe place except, perhaps, in the third alternate world, New Britain — which has just had a revolution and a nuclear incident of its own.

Charles Stross’ Merchant Princes series reaches a spectacular climax in this sixth volume. Praised by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman as “great fun,” this is state-of-the-art, cutting-edge SF grown out of a fantastic premise.

Shadow King (A Tale of the Sundering) by Gav Thorpe (Black Library , Mass Market Paperback 03/13/2010) – Thorpe sent almost a decade and ahalf with Games Workshop so he’s got a good feel for the worlds. This book is the second in a series of stories set in the (I think) pre-history of the Warhammer Fantasy world.

When his family is betrayed and slain, Alith Anar, ill-fated prince of the Nagarythe, is forced to walk a dark path. With the island of Ulthuan in the grip of a civil war with their evil counterparts, the druchii, Alith Anar follows his destiny to become the Shadow King. Hunting his enemies from the darkness, he is now on a quest for vengeance that will never end.

No comments: