04-16-04: Good News from Lake Wu and Book Giveaway Winners Finally Shipped
Lake & Frank Wu's Postcard from the over the Edge
It was only last month that I finally scored my own copy of 'Greetings
from Lake Wu', the collaboration between writer Jay Lake and artist Frank
Wu. It's another one of those top-shelf books that have been shouting
for attention. Well, with Jay Lake getting a Hugo nod for his novelette,
'Into the Gardens of Sweet Night' and being selected as a finalist for
the 2004 John W. Campbell Award, it's high time I catch up with this
talented and fascinating writer.
Let's get back to that bargain price, because it's important. This is a small-run, small-press release by a writer who has Future Big Name stitched on his forehead. (I know this; I've seen his forehead.) In other words, it's not only a great reading experience, it's one hell of a nice book to hang on to. When you kick the bucket, and your kids can finally say the words "Let's get rid of all of Dad[/Mom]'s crazy-ass books!" aloud, they'll be well served by the copy of this book when they sell it on eBay. And also remember that you're serving the purpose of supporting independent voices in the publishing world. This is no small feat. Do your brain a favor, do your kids a favor, and do some poor cash-rich collector of the future a favor. This is for posterity, man. Get a grip.
Givin' 'em away"
Yesterday, I finally got round to shipping the books to the winners
of the book giveaway. Alas, I just sent out something to everyone who
wrote, and because I was so tardy, I sent a lot of something out. There
are some pretty damn great things in these envelopes, trust me. I've
been fantastically fortunate in my ability to buy books, so much so
that my spouse has
donated to me my own room. But I'm fast running out of space, so I'm
going to run the occasional giveaway to clear
out titles where I have like three duplicates. Look for more giveaways
coming in the future. And be fast to respond, because next time around,
I may not have quite so much to spread out.
04-15-04: Hand this Alien a Hookah: Julie Czerneda Achieves 'Survival' of the Fittest Writing
Word in Your Shell-Like
The eye-catching cover art is from Luis Royo. It's interesting to read Czerneda's acknowledgements. Her first readers include Nalo Hopkinson and Jack McDevitt and her editor is no less than Sheila Gilbert. That's something of an all-star lineup, and Czerneda is tickled about this release. It looks big, beautiful and pretty darn interesting. Readers will know that I will always look twice at a book with an alien on the cover will catch my eye every time. A nicely painted alien on a gorgeous cover will get my fingers on the book. At a time when publishers are rolling back faster than a slug under a salt shaker, it's encouraging to see a hard-working paperback writer get a leg-up.
'Survival' tells the story of Dr. Mackenzie Connor, a senior administrator at the Norcoast Salmon Research Facility, not the most exciting of occupations. But that changes when Brymn, the first of the Dhryn race to set foot on Earth comes to "Mac" for help. Brymn is an archaeologist, trying to find out who carved a streak of lifeless planets in the galaxy known as The Chasm. Biologists are forbidden in the society of the Dhryn, and Brymn is seeking the help of Mac and fellow scientist Emily Mamani in finding out what created the Chasm. Mac and Emily politely decline the offer; until their facility is attacked, Emily is kidnapped and Mac finds herself on the run with Brymn and the Earth special agents escorting him. It appears that the Ro, whom Brymn suspects of creating the Chasm, are here and perhaps bent on enlarging the scope of their work to include the Earth itself. It's not clear if Brymn has his own hookah or if Mac has to find one for him in the many and potentially hazardous head shops in San Francisco.
Czerneda's novel is clearly the stuff of totally mainstream science fiction; aliens, the world in peril, and scientist heroines written by heroine scientists. Blue skies and blue meanies; but wait, those aren't the meanies, are they? Those are the good guys. Welcome to the big leagues of science fiction, M. Cerneda. One down; is it two to go? This is a big vote of confidence from your publisher. Now it's up to her readers to buy the hardcover and keep Julie E. Czerneda in hardcover. You know who you are. Hop to it! And don't forget your hookah.
04-14-04: The 'Djinn' and the IHG Awards, Bored Amazons
Left Coast Crime to the IHG Award
The IHG awards are juried, not a popular vote. For more information on the IHG award, take a gander at my 'Award Winning Agonies' column, which covers all the major awards in which I'm interested in depth. You can also take a look at the IHG Website, which offers a complete list of the award winners and nominees, which include in the Novel category includes John Shirley's 'Crawlers' and Stewart O'Nan's 'The Night Country' (winner Peter Straub's 'lostboy lostgirl'), a First Novel category that includes KJ Bishop's 'The Etched City' and Jeff VanderMeer's 'Veniss Underground' (winner "Djinn') and other nominees that have graced this column including Elizabeth Hand's'Bibliomancy', Michael Marshall Smith's 'More Tomorrow and Other Stories', Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts' 'The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases', Lucius Shepard's 'Floater', Cemeterey Dance and The Third Alternative, and Edward Miller, AKA Les Edwards. Phwew.
OK, back to reality, Rick. Reality is sitting on the desk next to me in the form of a 400+ page hardcover from St. Martin's Press. The novel begins in 1943, on the island of Bougainville. US soldiers sent to fight the Japanese find themselves confronting something considerably more dangerous and horrifying. One of them leaves -- with a small box. Well, can you blame him? It's not like he had the cultural heritage of 60 years of horror movies to draw on suggesting that he leave the box behind. Fast forward to 2008, whoa -- that is forward, isn't it? -- and you've got a serial killer in Boston doing nasty things to bodies that might seem familiar to a certain survivor of WWII. A glance at the novel makes me suspect that there's just enough cheese here to make the whole concoction go down a treat.
I'm quite looking forward to reading this big fat novel. You've got a guaranteed monster and lots of scenic color along the way. The Djinn seem a to be a good subject for horror novels. Tim Powers' 'Declare' used them to masterful effect. [Of course, pretty much anything that Tim Powers does is masterful. So therefore, one who decides to walk the same realm has made a decision informed by one of the best writers around. And therefore, looks eminently readable.]
The upshot of all this meandering is that 'Djinn' gets a good glean from several different sources. A tried-and-true quality mystery agent bought the manuscript; a major house published it; it won a juried award; it works themes handled by one of our favorite writers; it's got a monster. Now for some (Me? What, ME Worry?) that last bit will be enough. For others, the first few points will turn the page. For Matthew B. J. Delaney, the plan is clear; write a second novel as good as the first. Not always as easy as it seems alas. It's a monster that won't submit to silver bullets, heat rays or any of the usual weapons.
Oh they get bored
working over at *.co.uk. Or somebody did. I'm positively gaga over
Reynolds' 'Absolution Gap', so I was puttering about looking at the
entry for his forthcoming novel, 'Century Rain'. When I first viewed
it, it had a cover from a mystery anthology edited by Michael Connelly.
It's paired in a "buy two" advert with Iain Banks forthcoming
'SF Novel', of interest to me because I just scored a first HC of the
first book in his series. Follow the link and you find what happens
when website content writers get
chore of writing about a book that can only be described as 'SF Novel',
forthcoming from Iain Banks, the writer and some entertaining reviewers
take a swipe not at Banks but at the process of reviewing and previewing
books itself. The page is likely to get wiped quickly; if you want
to see the original, check this link;
or it that's gone, my handy image-captured version can be popped-up
here. In either case, enjoy the thrill of
others' boredom. It's easier than it sounds!
04-13-04: John Clute 'Scores'
from the Oracle
'Scores' is a 400-plus page collection of heavily (and very usefully) indexed considerations, we'll call them, of, if not the best, then certainly, the most interesting works of science fiction from the last decade. From Paul J McAuley's 'Red Dust (1993) to William Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' (2003), Clute offers clues as to why we read and why we should read science fiction. Most importantly, he offers us hotwired-to-the-psyche/intellect reasons as to how we should read science fiction. Science fiction is connected to us as readers and to our world. Those connections are made clear through the visions of Clute.
Let me make this clear. John Clute does not review books. If you want book reviews, well you're in the right place. If you want a deep understanding of how science fiction as a literature, as an art form, informs us of ourselves, how it illuminates what we are, what we were and what we might yet become, then read John Clute. And if not, then you should still read John Clute, because he's clever, witty, and often very funny, when he's not being maddeningly insightful.
If you don't like to argue with the written word, if you don't like to address the printed page, then perhaps Clute's book is not for you. You're certainly not going to agree with everything he writes. Sometimes, you'll find yourself shouting at him. And afterwards, when you've calmed down, you'll realize that he's made you think more about what you've read than what you've read made you think about what you've read. You haven't bought it yet? Go order it now. Pick a book. Ask a question. The oracle's answers await you. Your reading life, your understanding of life it-goddamned-self will be richer, more perverse, more complex than you might like afterwards. Get used to it. You deserve these kinds of riches. That would include the lovely cover image from his wife, Judith Clute, a talented artist with a rather different method of seeing into the reader's brain.
In the interim, it's up for a richly deserved Hugo award, in the same category as 'The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases', best associated book. Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Well, of course, something had to make up for the mere embarrassments, didn't it?
04-12-04: Remembrance of books past.
Redfern from 'Music of the Spheres' to 'Aurelius Rising'
That's where I read 'Music of the Spheres'. It's a dense, atmospheric and very dark novel set in England during the French Wars. I know in my brain that it's not the book to end all books, just as I know that it's a damn good book anyway. But the memories of reading it in the park, the sense of change that everything was going to hell, and not, watching the main character annihilate a career, it all had a bit more impact than it might have otherwise had.
So I've been waiting patiently for almost three years for the follow-up. This Easter, potting about the mall with my mother, my wife and the kids, I stumbled across 'Aurelius Rising', prominently displayed and snapped it up without thinking. So when they ask me "What were you thinking?", I can say: "Nothing."
Nonetheless, this novel does look like another nice 'Alienist' style slice of historical mystery with at least a nod towards the subjects of speculative fiction. You can't write about John Dee without getting an attentive stare from the horror readers. And Alchemy seems to be doing quitealrightthankyouverymuch, what with Neal Stephenson's 'The Confusion' burning up the shelves and 'The System of the World' in the pipeline.
But back to Elizabeth Redfern, the English schoolteacher who penned 'Aurelius Rising'. I'm not sure why she took so long, but I'm ready for another bout of depressing, depraved Victoriana. I don't have time to read in the park nowadays alas. But it's Spring, the birds are tweeting and maybe I'll have to make the time. It's never too early to start planning the past of my own future.