November 22


Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #42 June - August, 1998

Recommended 1997
SF & Fantasy Titles
by Scott Imes

Science Fiction
        Thanks to your recommendations, I have been steered toward many fine books published in 1997. Among the excellent science fiction books issued during 1997, I especially enjoyed two time travel novels by newer authors, J. R. Dunn's Days of Cain ($3.99) and Kay Kenyon's The Seeds of Time ($5.99). In Dunn's book, a supervisor of time travelers who attempt to keep humanity evolving in a particular way must find and stop one time traveler who decides she can make the future better by changing events at the WWII Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. In Kenyon's first novel, time travelers avoid disasterous consequences to their degraded present by visiting the past in other parts of the galaxy on their search for plants which might survive when introduced to ecologically degraded Earth. Richard Paul Russo's Carlucci's Heart ($6.50) follows police detective Carlucci through the anarchy of an isolated 21st century San Francisco Tenderloin as he attempts to discover the facts behind a disappearance and the connection to illegal biomedical research.
        John E. Stith's Reckoning Infinity ($23.95, $5.99 pb due early July) was interesting enough to overcome my objection to the formula, "go to a big new place and look around." When an alien artifact enters the solar system, the crew of the only ship available to investigate must contend with personal relationship difficulties as they travel to and into the giant construct. Stith's crew could have used a member of the Fool's Guild from Sarah Zettel's Fool's War ($5.99), set at the time when the best space ships hire a Fool to help with morale and say with impunity those things the captain needs to hear. Zettel focuses on a spaceship operated like a business by a Muslim woman who runs the ship under Islamic law, down to the veils and family obligations. Zettel also features an artificial intelligence theme.
        I was delighted to see a volume of Alfred Bester's short work join reprints of The Stars My Destination (1996, revised, $11.00) and The Demolished Man (1996, revised, $11.00). From one of science fiction's best short story writers, Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester ($14.00) includes 15 reprinted stories, one new story and one fragment. Another treasure, Thunder and Roses: The Complete Short Stories of Theodore Sturgeon, Volume 4 ($25.00), continues the chronological publication of all Sturgeon's short fiction, both published and previously unpublished. Fans of Kornbluth's short work will prize the lovely NESFA Press edition of His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth ($27.00).
        One of the first 1998 publications I read was a sequel to Katharine Kerr and Mark Kreighbaum's Palace (1996, $5.99), the story of what happens in an interstellar federation cut off from the rest of the galaxy by a computer failure. Mark Kreighbaum's solo sequel, The Eyes of God (1998, $5.99), continues the story of attacks on the human_dominant society, while some people assess the sapience of a native species and the few remaining programmers attempt to repair the fragmented AIs. More on 1998 publications on another occasion.
        Other recommendable science fiction books from 1997 include the following: Patricia Anthony's story of extraterrestrials and the Portuguese Inquisition, God's Fires ($22.95, $6.50 pb due early June); Kim Antieau's novel of self-discovery, The Gaia Websters ($12.95); Greg Bear's story of psychology and nanotechnology, Slant ($6.99); Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover novel, The Shadow Matrix ($22.95); C. J. Cherryh's Union-Alliance series novel, Finity's End (22.00); John Cramer's first contact story, Einstein's Bridge ($3.99); Tony Daniel's alternate intelligence novel, Earthling ($22.95); Alan Dean Foster's Jed the Dead ($5.99), the story of a good_old_boy and the dead alien from the Roswell crash; Molly Gloss' generation spaceship novel with Quaker themes, The Dazzle of Day ($12.95); Joe Haldeman's thematic sequel to The Forever War (1975, $5.99), The Forever Peace ($21.95); three Peter F. Hamilton series books, Emergence ($5.99), Expansion ($5.99) and A Quantum Murder ($6.99); Howard V. Hendrix's Lightpaths ($5.99), an artificial intelligence story set in an orbiting biodiversity preserve; John Kessel's Corrupting Dr. Nice ($14.95), featuring a time traveling con artist, a baby dinosaur and religious themes; Walter M. Miller's Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman ($23.95), sequel to A Canticle for Leibowitz (1960, $11.95); Larry Niven's lost colony story, Destiny's Road ($6.99); Matt Ruff's zany conspiracy adventure starting in the utility tunnels under 21st century New York, Sewer, Gas & Electric ($23.00, $6.99 pb due mid-August); Robert J. Sawyer's first contact story and murder mystery, Illegal Alien ($21.95); Melissa Scott's artificial intelligence novel with an arts theme, Dreaming Metal ($22.95, $13.95 trade pb due mid-August); Sharon Shinn's lost colony story, Jovah's Angel ($6.50), sequel to Archangel (1996, $6.50); Dan Simmons' fourth and concluding novel in the Hyperion (1989, $6.50) sequence, The Rise of Endymion ($23.95, $6.50 pb due early July); Allen Steele's A King of Infinite Space ($23.00), which points out the possible downside of reanimation after years of cryonic suspension; Tricia Sullivan's Someone to Watch over Me ($5.99), the tale of an artificial intelligence's attempt to create a method of surviving within a human being; Michael Swanwick's retelling of the Faust story, Jack Faust ($23.00, $12.50 trade pb due early August); Sheri S. Tepper's The Family Tree ($6.99), a time travel story involving genetic manipulation and a very special weed; David Weber's latest Honor Harrington book, In Enemy Hands ($22.00); Scott Westerfeld's story of a shapeshifter, Polymorph ($5.99); Tad Williams' first of a virtual reality series, City of Golden Shadow ($6.99); Walter Jon Williams' City on Fire ($6.99), sequel to Metropolitan (1995, $6.50); and Roger Zelazny and Jane M. Lindskold's virtual reality novel, Donnerjack ($24.00).

        I enjoyed many fantasy books during the past year. Among the best, Terry Goodkind's Temple of the Winds ($26.95, $7.99 pb due early August) leaves unresolved some plot threads from the previous three books, but brings the story of War Wizard Richard Rahl and Mother Confessor Kahlan Amnel to a natural pausing point. Laurell K. Hamilton's seventh Anita Blake book, The Killing Dance ($6.99), brings no resolution to any of the major questions remaining from previous adventures, but remains a guilty pleasure for me.
        I liked Peg Kerr's debut novel, Emerald House Rising ($5.99), which incorporates gem cutting into a tale of a young artisan's attempt to understand her magical abilities and acquire Guild certification to make jewelry, despite her being a woman pursuing a man's trade. In Katharine Eliska Kimbriel's Kindred Rites ($5.99), a young woman learns midwifery and studies magic with her aunt in pioneer era America. Lynn Flewelling's second novel, Stalking Darkness ($5.99), concludes the story of Luck in the Shadows (1996, $5.99), in which a necromancer plans to use a deadly magical artifact to bring forth an ancient evil in his bid for power. Megan Lindholm, writing as Robin Hobb, concludes her trilogy with Assassin's Quest ($6.50), in which FitzChivalry, thought dead, struggles to regain his health and independence from the wolf telepathically bonded to him. Meanwhile, disparate forces loyal to the rightful king, who searches for help repelling terrifying invaders, rally to overcome the treason of the usurper which threatens the Seven Duchies. J. Gregory Keyes also explores political themes in The Blackgod ($6.99), sequel to The Waterborn (1996, $5.99), which features a sentient river god, its attempts to know and control the world through human servants and the efforts of a religious sect to control the river god. In Vonda N. McIntyre's Nebula Award winning novel, The Moon and the Sun ($23.00), a captured mermaid may prove the key to immortality for Louis XIV in 17th century France. Michaela Roessner's The Stars Dispose ($6.99) includes culinary themes as it visits 16th century Florence, dominated by the de Medici family. Patricia Kennealy-Morrison continues her story of Celts in space with Blackmantle: A Triumph ($24.00). The King Arthur legend also remains a popular theme. Among the best novels relating to the Arthur milieu are A. A. Attanasio's The Eagle and the Sword ($6.50) and Jack Whyte's The Eagle's Brood ($6.99 pb or $25.95 signed hc).
        Robert Holdstock's Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn ($24.95) returns to the realm inhabited by mythical creatures, Ryhope Wood, setting of the Mythago Wood (1984) series. Robin McKinley uses "Beauty and the Beast" as inspiration for Rose Daughter ($16.00). On the lighter side, A. J. Jacobs' Fractured Fairy Tales ($19.95) collects together the zany fairy tales from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Emma Donoghue also twists fairy tale themes in Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins ($14.95). A. S. Byatt features women in traditional fairy tale settings in The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye ($20.00), while Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling edit an anthology reworking traditional fairy tales, Black Swan, White Raven ($23.00).
        Michael Moorcock's Fabulous Harbors ($12.00) contains short stories which fit into the milieu of Blood: A Southern Fantasy (1995, $12.00) and The War Amongst the Angels ($24.00).
        Many other recommended fantasy books from 1997 include the following: Janet Berliner and George Guthridge's Children of the Dusk ($5.99), third in their WWII alternate history series;James P. Blaylock's ghost story, Winter Tides ($21.95); Terry Brooks' tale of a demon and a steel town labor action, Running with the Demon ($25.95, $6.99 pb due early June); Steve Brust and Emma Bull's political novel in epistolary form, Freedom and Necessity ($6.99); Charles de Lint's story of swapped personalities set in the artists' colony, Newford, Trader ($6.99); Diane Duane's The Book of Night with Moon ($12.99), a tie_in to the So You Want to Be a Wizard? (1983, $6.50) series in which magical cat guardians must save the Earth when evil forces invade through the New York subway system; the first of a new series from Alis A. Rasmussen writing as Kate Elliott, King's Dragon ($6.99); Patrick O'Leary's The Gift ($22.95), the tale of a gift from the gods and the price it exacts; Tim Powers' Earthquake Weather ($24.95), sequel to Last Call (1992, $13.00) and Expiration Date (1996, $6.99); Terry Pratchett's Diskworld novels, Interesting Times ($5.99) and Maskerade ($22.00); Philip Pullman's The Subtle Knife ($5.99), sequel to The Golden Compass (1996, $5.99); Will Shetterly's story of family life and prejudice at a 1950s Florida theme park, Dogland ($25.95, $14.95 trade pb due mid-July); Michael Shea's The Mines of Behemoth ($5.99), a new tale of Nifft the Lean; and Sean Stewart's story of two Canadian cities' recovery from a magical outbreak, The Night Watch ($21.95, $6.50 pb due early August).
        Thanks again to everyone for all the great recommendations! Please continue to alert me to your favorites.

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        Over a decade ago, Jennifer Roberson began a very enjoyable series of fantasies about Del, a female swordswoman from the frigid North sworn to vengeance against those who murdered her family and sold her brother into slavery, and Tiger, a male chauvinist sword-dancer from the desert South who is forced very much against his will to respect Del and eventually fall in love with her. The stories were told in the distinctive voice of Tiger, but in a manner that communicated Del's very different personality. Four books came out in a five year period, Sword-Dancer ($5.99), Sword-Singer ($5.99), Sword-Maker ($5.99), and Sword-Breaker ($5.99). By the end of the fourth book, Del and Tiger have accomplished their goals and both are no longer welcome anywhere on the continent. At the end of the fourth book they set sail to a new land neither has seen before, in part searching for clues about where Tiger really came from, since he doesn't physically resemble the native people of the South. After a seven year wait, Sword-Born ($22.95) has finally arrived to continue their story. Sure, there are pirates and fighting and strange cultures, but the most interesting conflict remains between Tiger and Del. I didn't enjoy this book quite as much as the first four, but I still enjoyed it a lot. This series should be read in order.

        I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading The Two Georges by Richard Dreyfuss and Harry Turtledove ($6.99), since I enjoy most of Turtledove's novels and especially his alternate histories. I suspect that it might have had something to do with Dreyfuss getting top billing. I was very pleasantly surprised when I finally got around to reading it.
        This is a police procedural set in 1996 in an alternate history where the American Revolution never took place. The main character, Colonel Thomas Bushnell, is the chief of the Royal American Mounted Police of Upper California, headquartered in New Liverpool (which used to be called Los Angeles before the British Empire took it away from the Franco-Spanish Holy Alliance). The Two Georges of the title is a famous painting of the presentation of George Washington to King George III as the leading American member of the privy council overseeing British administration of the North American colonies--a painting so famous and beloved that it is on the money and in all government offices. A group of radical extremists called the Sons of Liberty (who are crazy enough to think that North America could prosper independent of the British Empire) steal The Two Georges and hold it for ransom. (During the theft, a much disliked and distrusted used car salesman called Tricky Dick gets killed--just one of many cameo appearances by people from our timeline.) After the theft, Bushnell and others chase all over North America trying to solve the mystery before King-Emperor Charles III arrives on a state visit to North America, thereby providing the reader with clues to both the crime and the manner in which the history that Bushnell is familiar with differs from our own. There are plenty of subplots and false leads, as well as interesting characters both good and bad. The Two Georges works very well both as a police procedural and as an alternate history novel.

        Heroes Die by Matthew Woodring Stover ($12.95, due early August) alternates between science fiction and fantasy, and actually manages to make the combination work. The science fiction portion takes place in and near San Francisco of what could either be our future or a slightly alternate Earth. Society is locked into a very rigid caste system. (One character of the Administrator caste is ashamed of the fact that his father, the Administrator of a Midwestern hospital, married a lower caste wife--a Professional who worked at the hospital, a mere thoracic surgeon. This error was compounded by the fact that he then actually allowed her to continue to do mere Professional work (surgery), thereby making it impossible to pull string to upcaste her to Administrator caste.) At some point in the past, a scientific discovery was made--a way to explore alternate universes. While most of these alternate universes are extremely hostile to human life, an alternate world that has come to be called Overworld is very hospitable. Specially trained individuals from Earth have transmitters hard-wired into their heads to broadcast their Overworld experiences back to equipment in San Francisco, and are then sent to Overworld. Overworld has humans, elves, trolls, magic, gods that meddle in day-to-day affairs--lots of interesting stuff. What started as a method for exploration has now become extremely lucrative mass entertainment.
        Hari Michaelson is a superstar on Earth because of his adventures on Overworld as Caine--fighter, hero, assassin. On Earth, he is trapped in the caste system. (His parents had been Professionals (college professors), but when the social police discovered that his father had been reading and hoarding forbidden material (writings of Thomas Jefferson, JFK, Heinlein, etc.) the family had been downcaste to Labor caste and eventually his father was locked away.) As long as Hari does what the studio wants, he is temporarily upcaste to Professional caste, he is rich, and his father stays alive if heavily drugged. If Hari doesn't do as he is told, he goes back to Labor and his father dies. So, if Hari is told to assassinate somebody on Overworld that will lead to a civil war that will kill thousands of people in order to keep the ratings high--he'll do it. After all, the way the people on Overworld are treated by the upper castes of Earth isn't much worse than the way the lower castes of Earth are treated.
        But when Hari's wife gets in over her head during an adventure on Overworld, he has to overcome both the rulers of Earth and Overworld to try to save her. When rage-filled but outwardly submissive Hari becomes foul-mouthed, kick-ass Caine to be sent to Overworld to kill somebody in a position of power, the pacing of the writing changes with the character shift. (And billions of powerless people on Earth can't wait to experience Caine's latest adventure, which the powerful elite of Earth are just beginning to realize might become a problem.) The action is vivid and fast paced, but Caine must outsmart as well as outfight his enemies on Overworld while concealing his true motives from the studio back on Earth. This is a hard book to put down--getting to the climax of the book resulted in my staggering into work the next morning after only three hours sleep. Although the novel tells a complete story, the author is working on a sequel, which I'm looking forward to.

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