December 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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December 2003 US Releases by Ernest Lilley                                           Last Month / Next Month

US Books received will be listed in this column if possible in their month of publication. Our address for submissions: 1405 Abingdon Dr. E #5, Alexandria, VA, 22314. Our preferred method of shipping: Media Mail.

Ace / Penguin Putnam

Conqueror's Moon by Julian May (Ace / Penguin Putnam HCVR $ 24.95 12/30/03) The author of The Many Colored Land begins a new saga of high fantasy, in which one man seeks to unite four island kingdoms under his rule with the aid of a princess sorceress from the harsh island of Moss. It's the beginning of a high adventure, and the setting and carefully thought out wizardy up reminds me a bit of LeGuin's Wizard of Earthsea and May turns a deft hand to the prose.

Storyteller by Amy Thompson (Ace / Penguin Putnam Trade $ 14 12/02/03) (See Lucy Schmeidler's review) If you come upon a storyteller in the market square, and stay to listen to the end of the tale, you must pay them. Of course, you can always slip away in the middle and not owe the teller a thing…but when the storyteller's prose is guided by an author like Amy Thompson, and when the stories are of an exotic land where telepathic sea creatures bond with downed spaceship pilots and the culture and history of a planet's people is passed by oral tradition…well, you'll probably forget to turn away soon enough, or to put down the book before you're hooked. 

Deprivers by Steven -Elliot Altman (Ace / Penguin Putnam Trade $ 13 12/02/03) (See Jeffrey Lyons review) Mutant, evolved or engineered, altered biology is having a field day in SF. In this X-Files sort of story, there's a new breed of humans, sprinkled in the mix, and their touch screws up the nervous system of whomever they make skin contact with. With some, it's for a few minutes, others it's a one way trip. Blindness, deafness, disorientation, they all have different gifts, including total paralysis, the perfect tool for a hit-man, which is what Robert Luxley is, until he finds out that he's not unique, and a war is shaping up between the factions of deprives and the normals. Now Luxley has to decide where he stands after a lifetime of standing outside.

The King Betrayed by Deborah Chester (Ace / Penguin Putnam PPBK $ 7.99 12/01/03) If you want romantic fantasy, then this continuance of The Sword, The Ring, and The Chalice trilogy will surely make your day. Peace reigns for the land of Nether ruled for seven years now by the half elven Dain and his Amazon queen Alexeika, but not everyone is happy about that and plots are afoot to separate them and turn the kingdom into turmoil. Will love prevail? I'm not telling, but I'm sure it's going to put up a hell of a fight.

Starship by Kevin D. Randle (Ace / Penguin Putnam PPBK $ 5.99 12/30/03) Every generation has to discover the "generation ship" novel for itself, I suppose. In the second of Randle's Exploration Chronicles mankind's first starship, the Apha, is hurtles towards it's destination, a planet circling a star a hundred year voyage away. Onboard we find the classic gambits, Earth a legend, society stratified and stilted, a young man who doesn't take things for granted, stuff like that. It's pretty engaging reading though, and Randle's series, which started with Signals, a UFOlogist as well as SF author, is worth looking investigating.

Baen

This Rough Magic by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer (Baen HCVR $ 26 12/01/03) Following The Shadow of the Lion with its alternate 16th Century Venice full of lovers and fighters comes a new book that starts off with Benito Valdosta, gentleman swordsman waving goodbye to his love, married to a fine man but not a wolf and sailing off to a new life on the isle of Corfu. But this isle is to become of strategic interest in the ongoing battle between the demon Chernogob and his immortal enemy The Lion of San Marcos, and the fates will send Benito after his Maria though it will be a longer quest than he can imagine and no doubt followed by a third book to finish the tale.

A State of Disobedience by Tom Kratman (Baen HCVR $ 22 01/01/04) This depiction of a near future American revolution against the overprotective state suffers a bit from the choppy narrative which jumps back and forth between characters and settings every other page. Further, the bad guys are pretty hard to believe, especially since they're clearly caricatures of the prominent left. But heck, it's easy to get sucked into the story and to want to cheer for the good guys. Lest you get confused though, the trio of attack choppers firing into a Texas mission full of kids that appears on the cover…they're not the good guys.

The Ship Show Saved The Worlds by Anne McCaffrey, Jody Lynn Nye (Baen HCVR $ 22 12/01/03) The first line on the inside of the jacket tells us that this is a compilation of two previously published books: The Ship Who Won and The Ship Errant, both set in the Ship Who Sang universe, where physically deformed humans (of whom a disproportionate number are women) are plugged into starships to go on brave missions to new worlds, along with their "brawn" partners. In these two books we follow Carialle (the ship) and Keff (the brawn) on missions to worlds with fuzzy aliens, sorcerers and slimy green frogs. I think the premise has outlived reason, but the stories are engaging nonetheless

Paying The Piper by David Drake (Baen PPBK $ 7.99 12/01/03) Originally out in hardcover in 2002, this is everything you could ask for in high intensity combat SF…right from the first page on. Tanks, hovercrafts, hypersonic slugs screaming by and through it all, Hammers Slammers doing what they're paid to do. It's not high art, but it's addictive.

The Human Edge by Gordon R. Dickson (Baen PPBK $ 6.99 12/01/03)
We are one tricky bunch of monkeys. That's what this collection of Gordon R. Dickson stories from the 50s and 60s sets out to prove. Danger: Human, the first of the dozen stories in this collection has always been one of my favorites, and I commend Jim Baen for suggesting that it lead the way. If the author stretches reality a bit to show how clever and dangerous humanity can be, I don't mind. It's good to have something to strive for. Highly Recommended.

Blood and Judgement by Lars Walker (Baen PPBK $ 6.99 12/01/03) Here's an interesting twist on an idea I haven't seen used in a while. A troupe of actors preparing for an amateur production of Hamlet gets whisked to an alternate reality where something is really rotten in the state of Denmark…and they are but the players in an all too real version of the play. Will Sverdrup was originally thrilled to be cast as Shakespeare's moody prince…but to live out the role to its bloody end is another matter.

Bantam-Spectra

The Shores of Tomorrow by Roger MacBride Allen (Bantam Books PPBK $ 6.5 12/01/03) Allen's finishes up his Chronicles of Solace trilogy (The Depths of Time, The Ocean of Years) with this intriguing tale of slower than light travel coupled with time travel to make interstellar transits essentially instantaneous. The plan to ignite a massive power source in orbit around a gas giant should be familiar to SF readers, but this clever author adds his own twists to whatever he does.

The Grand Crusade by Michael Stackpole (Bantam-Spectra Trade $ 14.95 12/30/03) Book Description: The hope of the fguture, Will Norrington, prophesized to bring down the northern tyrant Chytrine and redeem the world, is said to be dead, lost in in the heart of a fiery  volcano. The news has thrown the Council of Kings into a furor and drained the spirit from once -united factions. As questions  about as to Eill's legacy, and even his identity, emerge, one thing is clear: a divided alliance lacks power. This may be exactly the opening Cytrine needs to seize control-and capture the empowering artifact, the DragonCrown-once, and for all. Still, Will's friends and comrades remain true to his cause, prepared to continue the fight. Among them is the Viwanese hero, Kerrigan Reese, and Alyx , groomed to lead and army. Sayce, pregnant with Will's child, must remain guard as the new custodian of the Norrington future in case they fail. But even as they draw up battle plans, with the enemy near than they think, a shattering betrayal- and a stunning revelation - may change the course of everything.

Clade by Mark Budz (Bantam-Spectra PPBK $ 6.99 12/02/03) Somebody has to come up with a term for dystopic genetic engineering stories, something like biopunk, wetpunk, or something. I'm sure someone has and I'm just zoning on it for the moment. Ok, well, Mark Budz's debut novel is a wetpunk tale set on a ravaged near future Earth where massive die-off has been matched by modification of all genomes, and the development of human clades, groups based on similar genome tweaks, and bioengineered aversion to others. But what forces are shaping mankind's future? A vision of the road ahead, or a look over the shoulder at where we've come from?


The Golden Fool by Robin Hobb (Bantam-Spectra PPBK $ 6.99 12/02/03) Book two in the Fool's Errand trilogy. Now available in the US.

Daw / Penguin Putnam

A World Divided by Marion Zimmer Bradley (Daw / Penguin Putnam PPBK $ 7.99 12/02/03) Three stories from Bradley's Darkover saga come together in this omnibus edition. Darkover is a world colonized by a lost ship, ages ago, which descend to a feudal state and develop PSI talents. A few millennia later, the Terran Confederacy rediscovers them, and these stories come from the period where the lost colonists struggle with their identity in the larger cosmos, never an easy thing to do and not made any easier by their powers.


Sun in Glory by Mercedes Lackey (ed) (Daw / Penguin Putnam PPBK $ 6.99 12/02/03) The second Vlademar anthology includes a new novella ("Homecoming") by Lackey, who created the popular series about the Heralds of Valdemar and the intelligent beasts that they share their world with. It starts off with an engaging story by Catherine McMullen, who's been writing since she was just a kid, and is now twelve and winds its way through twelve other tales by authors of considerable talent, including Josepha Sherman and Tanya Huff.

New Voices in Science Fiction by Mike Resnick (ed) (Daw / Penguin Putnam PPBK $ 6.99 12/01/03) (See Ernest Lilley's review) Though I've given the editor grief over a few of his recent anthologies, Women writing as Men, Men writing as Women, and what not (Cats writing as Dogs?) he does have an eye for good writing, as witnesses this collection of Hugo, Aurora, Campbell and Dick award winning writers, all early in their careers, and all destined to leave their mark on the genre. It's an eclectic collection, though a certain amount of wit seems to permeate this new wave, whether they're on about the new space opera or modern fantasy, they all seem to be having fun doing it.

Del Rey / Random House

Coalescent by Stephen Baxter (Del Rey /Ballantine/ Random House HCVR $ 25.95 12/01/03) Set in the near future, George Poole comes home to Italy and the house he grew up in after his father's death. What he finds, besides the relics of his childhood in the attic (and Baxter forever endeared himself to me by having his character suggest we send Steve Zodiac to investigate a spatial anomaly…but you're too young) is that he has a sister he didn't know about, raised in a hive culture that's existed below the streets of Rome for two millennia that nobody knew about. Like Asimov and others before him, Baxter considers the possibility of hive-humanity, and asks whether it's mankind's future.


Dragon's Kin by Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey (Del Rey /Ballantine/ Random House HCVR $ 24.95 12/02/03) Todd McCaffrey wrote the 1999 Dragonholder about his mother's childhood and writing career, this is his first foray into fiction, and both author and book provides a welcome and enjoyable addition to the rich tapestry of Pern. The story follows the adventures of two young people as they uncover the talents of the dragon's undervalued cousins, the watch-whers, who will become an invaluable aid in the fight against Thread.

Starfist - Lazarus Rising by David Sherman and Dan Cragg (Del Rey /Ballantine/ Random House HCVR $ 19.95 12/02/03) The ninth Starfist novel, continuing the adventures of the Marine 34th Fleet Initial Strike Team (FIST) receives a well earned battlefield promotion to hardcover. In the storyline, the FIST has won its battle against the alien Skink invasion of the planet Kingdom, and separate plots move off as the more than decimated Marines head homeward for replenishment of equipment, personnel and shattered morale, while back on Kingdom a tyrant steps into the power vacuum and a group of brainwashed survivors from the conflict struggle to find out who and what they are. Fans of sf-mil-fic who haven't discovered the hard charging action that goes along with Starfist are missing a good bet.

Orphan Star by Alan Dean Foster (Del Rey /Ballantine/ Random House Trade $ 6.99 12/04/03) Trade reissue

Golden Gryphon Press

The Angel In The Darkness by Kage Baker (Golden Gryphon Press Trade $ 15.95 12/01/03) You can't get Kage Baker's latest chapbook from anywhere but the publisher, and given that it's another limited edition, you may not even be able to do that…though you should definitely try. The Angel of Darkness is another of Baker's "Company" stories, following her collection, Black Projects, White Knights (see our review) about the conflicts (internal and external) of a corporation flung across time with agents out to preserve things that will someday become valuable. I was initially disappointed in Black Projects, because I had expected it to be about the more conventional "Company"…you know, dark suits, thin ties, lots of deniability…but these stories are addictive in their own way, and well worth catching.

Orb

Mulengro - A Romany Tale by Charles de Lint (Orb Trade $ 14.95 12/01/03) Magical Realism or Contemporary Fantasy? Charles De Lint wanders back and forth between the two in this story of modern Gypsies, the Romany, for whom magic and the dark power that stalks them is all to real, and the modern world, which can not accept that truth.

Roc / Penguin Putnam

The Black Jewels by Anne Bishop (Roc / Penguin Putnam Trade $ 18 12/02/03) Along with a new introduction by the author, this ample collection of pages contains Dauhgter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows and Queen of Darkness, the story of the coming of a Queen to rule the realm of darkness, and the powers that seek to control her. Bishop's writing is rich in detail and metaphor, and this omnibus allows readers the opportunity to lose themselves in high-grade fantasy and the pomp and treachery of the court.

By Temptations and By War (MechWarrior: Dark Age) by Loren L. Coleman (Roc / Penguin Putnam Trade $ 12.95 12/01/03) BattleTech authors Loren Coleman is back with his eleventh MechWarrior novel, and the first of a new series: Dark Age). The hyper-light-speed comm system between worlds is down, and the Capellan Confederation sees a chance to take back worlds lost to the Republic of the Sphere. To this end it sends a freedom fighter back to his homeworld, along with an agent who has betrayed him once before, and represents his only chance of success.

Ill Wind by Rachel Caine (Roc / Penguin Putnam PPBK $ 6.99 12/02/03)
Reviewer: Laurie J. Marks [lauriejmarks@aol.com] Issue: 1203
Contemporary fantasy about Wardens, mages who control the elements, and keep the Earth habitable for humans. Joanne Baldwin has the power to control the weather, with a wave of her hand, she's also got a classic musclcar and an eye for men. But at the moment she's on the all too human lam…trying to dodge accusations of corruption and murder. 

St. Martin's Griffin

Air A novel by Geoff Ryman (St. Martin's Griffin Trade $ 13.95 12/01/03) Rymann brings us a stunning novel of cultural change in Air, which has stirred up some very respectable buzz even before it's been published. Air is a new technology that will connect everyone in the world, and is a big a step beyond the net as the net was beyond drums. Which by the way, is not to suggest you underestimate drums. In a remote farming villiage in China, Chung Mae has always been the gatekeeper of knowledge of the outside world. Now those gates are about to be thrown open to the info flood, and everything will be changed. Mae's role in preserving community and helping her village bridge the past and future provides valuable insight into the world we face.

Tor

Necroscope - Deadspawn by Brian Lumley (Tor HCVR $ 26.95 12/17/03) The fifth volume in the saga of the Wamphyri finds Harry Keogh, who speaks to dead people, forced to make a pact with the Father of the Vampires to regain his powers, which he lost to his son, whom he had lost to vampiredom. Now, infected with a "vampire seed" himself, and slowly transforming into that which he has hunted, Harry may become the most powerful vampire of all.

Chasing Science by Frederik Pohl (Tor Trade $ 14.95 12/24/03) Originally out in hardcover in 2000, and now in an updated trade paperback, this delightful collection of musings, museums and science sites is Pohl's effort to get more folks to go walkabout in the world of science, visiting the people, places and things that evoke a sense of wonder for the author. Reading Pohl's accounts of visits he's made to sci-sites does put one in a mind to go out and find a scientist to chat up, but although a third of the book is given over to a listing of cool science places to visit, and even admitting that no list can be complete, it falls short of coming close. This book should have come out as a pocketable paperback with blank pages for you to write your own adventures into. Better yet, it should be backed up by a website that would generate future editions from readers inspired by the book. All in all, it's a good start on a never ending voyage of discovery.

First Blood by Robert Lynn Asprin (ed), Lynn Abbey (ed) (Tor Trade $ 14.95 12/17/03)
Book Description: Contains all of the stories of the first two Thieves’ World anthologies (Thieves’ World and Tales of the Vulgar Unicorn), with additional material.

Gunpowder Empire by Harry Turtledove (Tor HCVR $ 0 12/01/03)

Other Publishers:

The Curse of the Zwilling by Don Sakers (Speed-of-C Productions Trade $19.99 12/01/03)

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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