After several slow weeks in genre literature the release schedule is finally picking back up, offering loads of fresh sci-fi, fantasy, and horror amidst the news of recent award noms and finalists.
An unfortunate truth of life is that there are a lot of bad writers out there. It’s difficult avoiding the hacks, rip-off artists, and uninspired regurgitations that plague the shelves and dilute the genre’s respectability. Finding a truly innovative novel shouldn’t be a needle-in-the-haystack search, but as anyone who’s ever tried to find their next good read in the SFF aisle of their local bookstore knows, that’s how the cookie usually crumbles. The best way to track down a great novel is to rely on positive word of mouth and, although the literary awards circuit (like any awards institution) is riddled with pretentious attitudes and copious amounts of unsupported bias, they are a good indicator of the medium.
Some prizes like the Hugo, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick awards are benchmarks of the industry, highlighting some of the best works the science fiction genre has to offer. Others, however, like the Prometheus award for best “Libertarian SF” may not be as distinguished, but they’re all great places to start a new search.
Ian McDonald’s Brasyl, a temporally fractured tale taking place in past, present, and future Brazil, has gone so far as to describe itself as “BLADERUNNER in the tropics,” yet it seems Gollancz can afford to put their money where their mouth is on this one. The sci-fi novel has racked up Hugo and BSFA nominations alongside Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, which also grabbed a nom for the Nebula last month.
M. John Harrison won the Philip K. Dick Award for best US novel with his far future alien mystery Nova Swing, locking out tough competition from Sean Williams (Saturn Returns) and Minister Faust (From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain).
This week’s release schedule features works from two of the nominated authors: Greg Egan, whose Hugo-nominated novella Dark Integers is being featured in the hardback collection Dark Integers and Other Stories and Joe Abercrombie, who has secured one of the finalist slots for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer with his 2007 debut The Blade Itself. Joe’s follow-up to The First Law series opener, Before They Are Hanged, has just hit the shelves in paperback. Here’s a sampling of the award nominations in the novel category along with the top sci-fi, fantasy, and horror picks of the week.
HUGO AWARD FINALISTS: BEST NOVEL
Brasyl, Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
Halting State, Charles Stross (Ace)
The Last Colony, John Scalzi (Tor)
Rollback, Robert J. Sawyer (Analog Oct 2006 - Jan/Feb 2007; Tor)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
PROMETHEUS AWARD FINALISTS: BEST NOVEL
Ragamuffin, Tobias S. Buckell (Tor)
The Execution Channel, Ken MacLeod (Tor)
Fleet of Worlds, Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner (Tor)
The Gladiator, Harry Turtledove (Tor)
Ha’Penny, Jo Walton (Tor)
PHILIP K. DICK AWARD FINALISTS: BEST US NOVEL
Grey, Jon Armstrong (Night Shade)
Undertow, Elizabeth Bear (Bantam Spectra)
From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, Minister Faust (Del Rey)
Nova Swing, M. John Harrison (Bantam Spectra)
Gradisil, Adam Roberts (Pyr)
Ally, Karen Traviss (Eos)
Saturn Returns, Sean Williams (Ace)
BSFA AWARD FINALISTS: BEST NOVEL
The Prefect, Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz)
Black Man, Richard Morgan (Gollancz)
Alice in Sunderland, Bryan Talbot (Jonathan Cape)
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
Brasyl, Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
The Execution Channel, Ken MacLeod (Tor)
CAMPBELL AWARD FINALISTS: BEST NEW WRITER
David Anthony Durham
David Louis Edelman
Mary Robinette Kowal
This Week’s Movers & Shakers: Peter F. Hamilton’s The Dreaming Void, Greg Keyes’ The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: The Born Queen, & Terry Brooks’ The Dark Wraith of Shannara
New in Hardcover:
The Dreaming Void, Peter F. Hamilton (Del Rey)
At the far edge of the known universe stands a Centurion Station, a research base built atop ruins two million years old, abandoned by aliens since the dawn of time. Recently however, this quiet zone is attracting notice because of signs that the dread Void has begun to stir again. Set several centuries after the events of Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained, Peter F. Hamilton's The Dream Void unfurls a large-scale space opera in the tradition of Heinlein, Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
The Entire and the Rose: A World Too Near, Kay Kenyon (Pyr Books)
In Bright of the Sky, Kay Kenyon introduced a milieu unique in science fiction and fantasy: The Entire, a five-armed radial universe that exists in a dimension without stars and planets and is parallel to our own universe. Stretched over The Entire is a lid of plasma, called the bright, which ebbs and flows, bringing day and twilight. Under the vast canopy of the bright live many galactic species, copied from our own universe. Former star pilot Titus Quinn loves The Entire, but now he must risk annihilating it by destroying the fortress of Ahnenhoon. To sustain a faltering Entire, Ahnenhoon's great engine will soon reach through the brane separating the universes and consume our own universe in a concentrated ball of fire. Quinn sets off on a journey across The Entire armed with the nan, a small ankle bracelet containing nanoscale military technology that can reduce Ahnenhoon and its deadly engine to chaos. He must pursue his mission even though his wife is held prisoner in Ahnenhoon and his own daughter has sent the assassin MoTi to hunt him down. As he traverses the galactic distances of The Entire, he learns more of the secrets of its geography, its fragile storm walls, its eons-long history, and the factions that contend for dominance. One of these factions is led by his daughter, who though young and a slave, has at her command a transforming and revolutionary power. As Quinn wrestles with looming disaster and approaches the fabled concentric rings of Ahnenhoon's defenses, he learns that in the Entire, nothing is what it appears. Its denizens are all harboring secrets, and the greatest of these is the nature of the Entire itself.
Jeff Hawke: Overlord, Willie Patterson (Titan Books)
Widely considered one of the most important sci-fi comic strips ever published, Jeff Hawke is a benchmark in intelligent, adult-oriented storytelling! Jeff Hawke’s not your average space-hero; focused on reasoning, diplomacy and moral virtues instead of brute force, he is frequently forced to be the ambassador — rather than the saviour — of mankind! His universe is populated with alien species that meet humankind by accident or for commerce, but hardly ever for invasion. Patterson’s subtle wit makes the strip’s plots and characters as fascinating as they are amusing, and Jordan’s highly expressive style fully captures the strangeness of the weird and wonderful aliens of Jeff’s universe! Illustrated by Sydney Jordan.
The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone: The Born Queen, Greg Keyes (Del Rey)
The conclusion to The Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone series, The Born Queen finds the heroes of the previous three books confronting humanity's darkest hour and their worst odds ever. As the world shivers, threatening to be ripped apart by forces barely comprehendible, Greg Keyes weaves a masterful finale to a series destined to be epic for decades to come.
Zombies vs. Robots vs. Amazons, Chris Ryall & Ashley Wood (IDW Publishing)
The Eisner Award-losing team of Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood took the "vs" concept as far as they could with the original Zombies vs. Robots, right? Wrong! They push things much further this time, by introducing the latest combatants to mix it up with rotting flesh and rusting steel - Amazons. Not to mention the threat of... the zombie minotaur!
Dark Integers and Other Stories, Greg Egan (Subterranean Press)
A brand new short story collection by one of science fiction's modern masters. This five tale, 80,000 word book includes “Luminous,” “Riding the Crocodile,” “Dark Integers,” “Glory,” and “Oceanic.” First Edition.
Torchwood: Trace Memory, David Llewellyn (Random House UK)
Tiger Bay, Cardiff, 1950: A mysterious crate is brought into the docks on a Scandinavian cargo ship, the Kungssangen. Its destination: The Torchwood Institute. As the crate is offloaded by a group of local dockers it explodes, killing all but one; a young Butetown lad called Michael Bellini. Fifty-eight years later a radioactive source somewhere inside Torchwood leads the team to discover the same Michael Bellini, still young and dressed in his 1950s clothes, cowering in the vaults. As they question the intruder, it becomes apparent that each of them has met him in the past. All of them remember him talking incoherently about terrifying "Men In Bowler Hats" and little more, but it's Jack who remembers him best of all...
Torchwood: Twilight Streets, Gary Russell (Random House UK)
It's the start of a Cardiff autumn - the days are getting shorter, the dark evenings settling in. There's a part of Cardiff that no one goes to much. No crime, no murders, just... they stay away. A collection of old rundown houses and gloomy streets. Something's not quite right there, something is off-kilter. Except now, the Council are renovating the area. And a new company have been employed to do this. And look: they're going to organize street parties to show off the gentrified area. Clown and face-painters for the kids, street magicians for the adults. None of this is Torchwood's problem. Except that Tosh recognizes the man sponsoring the street parties when she's passing one day: Bills Manger!
Torchwood: Something in the Water, Trevor Baxendale (Random House UK)
Dr. Bob Strong's GP surgery has being seeing a lot of coughs and colds recently - far more than is normal for the time of year. Bob contacts Owen Harper, an old student friend, who reluctantly agrees to look into it. Meanwhile, Toshiko and Gwen are investigating ghostly apparitions in the marshy areas of South Wales. It's been a dull month and they're just about to pack up when they discover a dead body. The Team find that there's been a massive spike in respiratory infections right across the UK. Captain Jack agrees that it's worth investigating, but at the moment his priority is Tosh and Gwen's work: they've brought the corpse back for examination. It's old, in an advanced state of decay...and still able to talk!
New in Paperback:
The First Law: Before They Are Hanged, Joe Abercrombie (Pyr Books)
Superior Glokta has a problem. How do you defend a city surrounded by enemies and riddled with traitors, when your allies can by no means be trusted, and your predecessor vanished without a trace? It's enough to make a torturer want to run - if he could even walk without a stick. Northmen have spilled over the border of Angland and are spreading fire and death across the frozen country. Crown Prince Ladisla is poised to drive them back and win undying glory. There is only one problem-he commands the worst-armed, worst-trained, worst-led army in the world. And Bayaz, the First of the Magi, is leading a party of bold adventurers on a perilous mission through the ruins of the past. The most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters-if they didn't hate each other quite so much. Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven-but not before they are hanged.
The Veil: The Lost Ones, Christopher Golden (Spectra)
Bestselling author Christopher Golden brings his epic, innovative trilogy, the Veil, to an astonishing conclusion as the mythic realm of heroes and monsters becomes the site of humanity’s last—and greatest—showdown. In the world of the legendary, every myth and folktale is real. That is what Oliver Bascombe learned on the other side of the Veil, where humanity's legends have hidden away for centuries. But even legends have legends, and Oliver has learned of a prophecy that many believe he and his sister, Collette, have come to the Two Kingdoms to fulfill. Before they can discover the truth, the Bascombe siblings must help to stop an apocalyptic war that threatens to destroy the Two Kingdoms, unravel a conspiracy, and prevent a powerful sorcerer from severing the world of humans from the realm of the legendary forever. But first Oliver will have to plot an escape from an impregnable palace dungeon where he and his allies have been imprisoned… for regicide. As old heroes and friends ally themselves for one last battle, even older enemies stand arrayed against them. Is humanity ready to face its legends head-on? For Oliver Bascombe, the price may be dearer than even he could ever imagine.
Wormwood: It Only Hurts When I Pee, Ben Templesmith (IDW Publishing)
This second collection of Eisner Award-nominated artist Ben Templesmith's Wormwood moves beyond the simply bizarre and into the sublime lunacy that is Lephrechaunia as Wormwood and his posse search for the Leprechaun Queen, the only being capable of lifting the terminal curse that our hero has contracted. But if rabid leprechauns and inter-dimensional travel isn't enough to get your head spinning, enter the Squidmen, a terrifying collective of "gatherers," hell bent on ingesting everything they can get their tentacles on!
Titus Alone, Mervyn Peake (Overlook TP)
With Overlook's new single-volume republication of Mervyn Peake's timeless Gormenghast novels in individual volumes, readers everywhere have embraced Titus Groan all over again. Peake's trilogy is an undisputed classic of epic fantasy, and finally Titus Alone, the final volume in the series, is available again. As the novel opens, Titus, lord of Castle Gormenghast, has abdicated his throne. Born and brought to the edge of manhood in the huge, rotting castle, Titus rebels against the age-old ritual of which he is both lord and prisoner and rushes headlong into the world. From that moment forward, he is thrust into a stormy land of a dark imagination, where figures and landscapes loom up with force and vividness of a dream--or a nightmare. This final installment in the Gormenghast trilogy is a fantastic triumph--a conquest awash in imagination, terror, and charm.
River of the World, Chaz Brenchley (Ace)
The city of Maras-Sund has stood for more than 20 years-two lands joined together by a magical bridge the Marasai used to conquer the Sundain. But the man known as Issel has magic of his own- an ability to manipulate water-which he will use to free his people. He finds an ally in Jendre, the daughter of a general in Maras's army, and a woman with her own vendetta against the regime. Her sister is held captive, along with others whose life essences power the magical bridge between her land and Sund. Her plan: to help Issel enter the palace and break the spell.
Marla Mason: Poison Sleep, T.A. Pratt (Spectra)
The bad girl of the magical underworld is back and badder than ever. Someone wants Marla Mason dead. Usually that’s not news. As chief sorcerer of Felport, someone always wants her dead. But this time she’s the target of a renegade assassin who specializes in killing his victims over days, months, or even years. Not to mention a mysterious knife-wielding killer in black who pops up in the most unexpected places. To make matters worse, an inmate has broken out of the Blackwing Institute for criminally insane sorcerers—a troubled psychic who can literally reweave the fabric of reality to match her own traumatic past. With her wisecracking partner Rondeau reluctantly in tow, Marla teams up with a “love-talker” whose dangerous erotic spells not even she can resist. Together they’re searching the rapidly transforming streets of Felport for a woman who’s become the Typhoid Mary of nightmares, infecting everything—and everyone—she touches with a chaos worse than death itself.
Jarvis: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Jesper Ejsing (Fantasy Flight Games)
Jarvis the Sorcerer's Apprentice tells the tale of Jarvis as he quests through a fantasy world facing unknown dangers and growing up along the way.
Gene Simmon’s Dominatrix, Sean Taylor & Flavio Hoffe (IDW Publishing)
When Dominique Stern, a professional dominatrix, becomes ensnared in a world of government cover-ups and international conspiracies. After a client loses his composure during an intense session and blurts out top-secret information, Dominique finds herself a reluctant superhero who must save herself, her friends, the government jerk who got her into this mess, and quite possibly her country.
Fruit of the Poisonous Vine, Kevin Tinsley (Stickman Graphics)
Murders, lies, and religion make for bad medicine when an influential corporate lawyer with a trunk filled with unregistered IVs of blood are discovered in the aftermath of gangland massacre. The investigation leads the Stonehaven Gang Related Task Force to Divinity Medical Center; a holistic hospital where alchemy, faith healing, and magic are practiced in conjunction with secular medicine. Secrets begin to unravel as Stonehaven's finest chart a course through legal courtrooms, necromantic inquiries, hospital politics, religious infighting, corporate intrigue and mob enforcers in the search for answers as to the relationship between the blood, a notorious CEO and a vigilante on the prowl for mobsters. The Stonehaven series is an adventure drama set in a modern day fantasy realm where magic and technology co-exist, and elves, ogres, and dwarves live side-by-side with humans in one of the largest cities in the world.
Dark Wraith of Shannara, Terry Brooks (Del Rey)
The first graphic novel set in the universe of Shannara. Possessing an awesome power he is only beginning to understand, young Jair Ohmsford must summon the devastating yet darkly seductive magic of the wishsong on a fateful mission to save his friends… and protect the future from the forces of evil. If you’ve never ventured into the wondrous world of Shannara, consider this an ideal opportunity. Prepare to enter the breathtaking realm of the Four Lands, where beings both noble and sinister have quested and clashed, crossed swords in the names of darkness and light, and engaged in adventures rich with mystery and majesty.
The Southern Vampire Mysteries: All Together Dead, Charlaine Harris (Ace)
Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has her hands full dealing with every sort of undead and paranormal creature imaginable. And after being betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Sookie must not only deal with a new man in her life-the shapeshifter Quinn-but also contend with the long-planned vampire summit. The summit is a tense situation. The vampire queen of Louisiana is in a precarious position, her power base weakened by hurricane damage to New Orleans. And there are some vamps who would like to finish what nature started. Soon, Sookie must decide what side she'll stand with. And her choice may mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe.
Star Trek DS9 Terok Nor: Day of the Vipers, James Swallow (Star Trek Books)
Before the Dominion War and the decimation of Cardassia... before the coming of the Emissary and the discovery of the wormhole...before space station Terok Nor became Deep Space 9™... there was the Occupation: the military takeover of an alien planet and the violent insurgency that fought against it. Now that fifty-year tale of warring ideologies, terrorism, greed, secret intelligence, moral compromises, and embattled faiths is at last given its due in the three-book saga of Star Trek's Lost Era... A seemingly benign visitation to the bountiful world of Bajor from the resource-poor Cardassian Union is viewed with cautious optimism by some, trepidation by others, and a calculating gleam by unscrupulous opportunists. What begins as a gesture of compassion soon becomes something very different. Seen through the eyes of participants on both sides -- including those of a young officer named Skrain Dukat -- the personal, political, and religious tensions between the Bajorans and the Cardassians quickly spiral out of control, irrevocably shaping the futures of both worlds in an emotionally charged and unforgettable tale of treachery, tragedy, and hope.
Spindrift, Allen Steele (Ace)
The EASS Galileo disappeared decades ago while investigating an unidentified object, code-named Spindrift. Now the Galileo's shuttle has returned carrying three surviving expedition members, who still appear to be the same age they were when they departed. They report that they have, indeed, made contact with an extraterrestrial race-and become enmeshed in a conflict that brought them face to face with the most apocalyptic force in the galaxy.
The Seeker’s Guide to Harry Potter, Geo Traverthen (O Books)
The Seeker's Guide to Harry Potter offers 'seekers' of all kinds profound and fascinating insights into the narrative themes, symbols and mythic elements encountered in the Harry Potter books. Drawing from diverse spiritual and scholarly sources, it is an open-minded guide to the rich layers of meaning and symbolism we encounter in all seven of the novels. The Seeker's Guide doesn't try to 'read' J.K. Rowling's mind about the symbolism she may or may not have meant to put in the books, but to read the symbols as they appear, with some of the layers of meaning that they have traditionally held. Drawing from anthropology, theology, psychology and the history of the human experience of the Sacred, The Seeker's Guide to Harry Potter offers fans of any or no spiritual faith a deeper sense of magic and meaning in the novels and in their own lives.
Giant Monster, Steve Niles (Boom Studios)
The ultimate giant monster story from Steve Niles, the writer-creator of the smash-hit vampire epic 30 DAYS OF NIGHT! The year is 2013. Astronaut Don Maggert's first space flight swallows him alive in the grip of an intergalactic horror, transforming him into something that throws the entire planet into peril! Featuring oversized Kaiju action and giant monster throw-downs! Illustrated by Nat Jones.
New in Audiobook:
Codex Alera: Captain’s Fury, Jim Butcher (Penguin Audio Unabridged)
After two years of bitter conflict with the hordes of invading Canim, Tavi of Calderon, now Captain of the First Aleran Legion, realizes that a peril far greater than the Canim exists-the mysterious threat that drove the savage Canim to flee their homeland. Now, Tavi must find a way to overcome the centuries-old animosities between Aleran and Cane if an alliance is to be forged against their mutual enemy. And he must lead his legion in defiance of the law, against friend and foe--or no one will have a chance of survival… Narrated by Kate Reading.
Landover: Wizard at Large, Terry Brooks (Brilliance Audio Unabridged)
It all began when the half-able wizard Questor Thews announced that finally he could restore the Court Scribe Abernathy to human form. It was his spell that had turned Abernathy into a Wheaten Terrier - though still able to talk. All went well - until the wizard breathed the magic dust of his spell and suddenly sneezed. Then, where Abernathy had stood, there was only a bottle containing a particularly evil imp. It had been in the collection of Michel Ard Rhi, former King of Landover, now exiled to Earth. Abernathy must now be a part of that collection! High Lord Ben Holiday set forth for Earth, taking his green but beautiful love, Willow, with him. Unfortunately, they were long in returning. And without the soil of Landover in which to root as a tree at times, Willow could not long survive. That left it up to Questor Thews to save them. Grimly he set out to seek help, knowing himself to be incompetent. And to make things worse, the imp had escaped and sought the help of the evil witch Nightshade, now back from exile in Faerie. Questor's only idea seemed impossible, but…
That’ll do it for this week’s Buzz y’all. Check back next Monday for all the latest info on current sci fi, fantasy, and horror book releases. Questions or comments? Hit me up at Pferrara.firstname.lastname@example.org.