Monthly Archives: June 2010

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

Hot off the heels of The Windup Girl winning a Nebula Award for Best Novel and a Locus Award for Best First Novel, Paolo Bacigalupi‘s name is on everyone’s lips. Tor.com is jumping aboard the Bacigalupi bandwagon and have published Small Offerings, a short story previously only available in Fast Forward I and the limited edition of Bacigalupi’s short story collection, Pump Six.

I hope to read and review Small Offerings, along with several other pieces of Bacigalupi’s short fiction, soon.

Read Small Offerings by Paolo Bacigalupi.

North America

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

United Kingdom

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a little old lady turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she’s forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons.

Being hired by reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass and their animal companions live in the shadow of hell’s undertow.

Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the maw of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she’ll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own.

Two covers for Zoo City, the latest novel from South African writer Lauren Beukes. Oddly, both of of the covers are being published by Angry Robot Books, highlighting very clearly the difference in the approach to cover art in the different regions. Though I’m a big fan of John Picacio, something about the North American cover never really hit the mark with me, likely the floating heads, the strange angles or the yellow/purple colour palette. The UK cover, on the other hand, is a sight to behold – literary, bold and sophisticated, it attracts me for all the reasons the cartoony North American cover turns me off.

The book itself sounds great. It strikes me as a Dresdenesque yarn with good voice and enough to set it apart from the rest of the Urban Fantasy crowd.

It appears that Angry Robot Books is positioning and marketing the novel to a completely different crowd in each region, though the book behind the cover is exactly the same. If you saw the two novels on the shelf, which would you be compelled to pick up and read?

Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Bearers of the Black Staff

by Terry Brooks
Hardcover
Pages: 368 pages
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: August 24, 2010
ISBN-10: 0345484177
ISBN-13: 978-0345484178

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a moderator at the Official Terry Brooks Forums, a role which I take seriously, but which has not coloured the following review

Reviewing a new Terry Brooks book is always a taxing experience for me. On the one hand, I’m a longtime fan of his work and have trouble separating my critic sensibilities from my fanboy sensibilities. As a fan, it’s often easy to overlook shortcomings by focussing on the elements of the novels that appeal to my deeply engrained fanboyisms – those small, easter egg elements that would mean little to a new reader, but send shivers up the spine of longtime fans. On the other hand, as a critic, Brooks’ reliance on these cyclical, repeating themes, plot elements and character archetypes is something that can’t be ignored.

Bearers of the Black Staff is the opening volume of a duology (in name only, which I’ll get to later), The Legends of Shannara, that further attempts to connect his Word & Void series (a wonderfully original and darkly satisfying Contemporary Fantasy trilogy) with his decades-running Shannara series. As promised. Brooks continues to explore how our war-ravaged Earth was transformed into the sweeping magical world of the Four Lands, and fans of the series will love some of the surprises and revelations in store.
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Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.

Cherie Priest‘s Boneshaker had one of the coolest covers last year, and the follow-up, Dreadnought, lives up, and surpasses it in sheer impact. Jon Foster (who’s portfolio is absolutely amazing, if you’re not familiar with him), takes the tone he established with Boneshaker and adds a nice element of action and tension this time around. It remains to be seen if Dreadnought will live up to Boneshaker, a Hugo nominated novel which I really need to get a hold of and read!

If interested, you can also read an excerpt from Dreadnought.

What Doctor Gottlieb Saw by Ian Tregillis

“Do you suppose it’s possible to murder God?”

Gretel was Gottlieb’s most troubling patient. She was clairvoyant. She was also, he feared, quite mad.

He paused in the midst of jotting a note in her file. Capping his fountain pen and setting it on the desk, alongside the blotter, gained his scattered thoughts a few seconds to catch up with her. “I beg your pardon?”

“If He is omniscient and infallible, then surely He would see the moment and manner of His own passing. Knowing this, and being infallible, He could prevent it. Yet to do so would imply His prescience was imperfect. While not doing so would mean He is not eternal.” She sighed.

Gottlieb said, “The death of God is a metaphor. It isn’t meant as a literal, corporeal death. It represents the overthrow of God through modern man’s diminished need for external sources of wisdom.”

Nietzsche was required reading at the farm. But only the approved works, of course.

One of the more prominent debuts of the year is Bitter Seeds by talks about What Doctor Gottlieb Saw and its relation to Bitter Seeds:

“What Doctor Gottlieb Saw” takes place roughly 18 months before the events in Chapter 1 of Bitter Seeds. (So it takes place maybe 17 years after the prologue, which you can read for free here.) I wrote it entirely as a standalone, so it doesn’t require any foreknowledge of Bitter Seeds.

For people who have read the book, the story might shed a little more light on the relationship between a certain flying man, and a certain perfectly innocent girl who likes to pick flowers and who just happens, maybe, to see the future.

The central incident that drives this story forward has been in my mind for a long time, as a central piece of Reichsbehörde mythology. It’s referred to, very quickly and in passing, near the end of Bitter Seeds.

There are so many stories I’d like to write in the Milkweed universe– so many bits and pieces of the world that I’d love to explore in short form. What happened that night at the Bodleian? Who discovered Enochian?

The story I’m really dying to write is a companion piece to “Dr. Gottlieb”, which takes place between Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War. But I’ll refrain from saying more about that, as a courtesy to folks who haven’t read the book.

You can read and download What Doctor Gottlieb Saw in various formats on Tor.com. I hope to read, and review, both What Doctor Gottlieb Saw and Bitter Seeds in the near future.