Apr 25, 2011

YetiStomper Picks for April

So I sat down to start selecting my YetiStomper Picks for May and realized that the April selections were still in draft status. Better late than never right?

Soft Apocalypse - Will McIntosh

Sci-Fi Stand Alone - McIntosh looks to follow up on last year's Hugo win with Soft Apocalypse, his debut novel, which paints a picture of a post-apocalyptic America teeming with rebel scientists, designer diseases, and anarchist gangs. We've got a lot of work to do to destroy the world by 2023 as McIntosh speculates but I'd say humanity is clearly on the right track. (April 1 from Night Shade Books)

Retribution Falls - Chris Wooding

Tales of the Ketty Jay, Book 1 - Firefly. That's the word that I hear time and time again in reference to Chris Wooding's SF series. Chonicling the misadventures of the motley crew of the Ketty Jay, Wooding's work has been out in the UK for a couple of years and based on the strong word of mouth it received, it was only a matter of time before it made the leap accross the pond.. Sky-pirates ahoy! (April 26 from Del Rey Spectra)

The Winds of Khalakovo - Bradley P. Beaulieu

The Lays of Anuskaya, Book 1 - While The Winds of Khalakovo isn't the most hyped fantasy debut on this list (That honor belongs to The Unremembered), it might be the best reviewed. Don't ignore this promising new talent whose detailed approach to worldbuilding has already garnered comparisons to GRRM. Word of mouth always beats hype in my book, so I plan to visit Beaulieu's Russian-inspired archipelago sooner rather than later. (April 1 from Night Shade Books)

The Alchemist in the Shadows - Pierre Pevel

The Cardinal's Blades, Book 2 - Pyr provides US audiences with an English edition of Pierre Pevel's second Cardinal's Blades adventure. Pevel, an award winning French writer, re-imagines a 17th century France where Cardinal Richelieu defends the realm against foreign powers, secret societies, and more than a handful of dragons with his specialized team of swashbucklers. If you thought The Three Musketeers was decent but needed a few more fire-breathers, this book might be for you. (April 26 from Pyr)

The Unremembered - Peter Orullian

The Vault of Heaven, Book 1 - Arguably the most hyped debut this year, The Unremembered is getting an absolutely massive push from Tor. Someone over there is convinced Orullian is the next master fantasist and considering the glut of interviews, excerpts, and short stories on Tor.com, they're trying to convert you too. And The Vault of Heaven appears up to the task, promising a complex world with a sprawling history to rival even the most epic of epic fantasies. But the past few "Next Big Things" have failed to live up to the high expectations bestowed upon them - will Orullian be able to break the streak with his Tolkien inspired tales? Read some of the free companion stories (Sacrifice of the First Sheason / The Great Defense of Layosah / The Battle of the Round) and decide for yourself. (April 12 from Tor)

Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Fantasy / Folklore Stand Alone - When you think about immortal Russians, you typically think Rasputin or possibly even Ivan Drago. But the original Slavic survivor is Korschei the Deathless, an antagonist whose legend dates back to traditional Russian folklore. Valente modernizes his story somewhat, setting it against the tumultuous history of the Soviet Union and telling it through the eyes of one of his abducted victims. Based on Valente's prior work, I'd expecting nothing less than an utterly enchanting tale teeming with lyrical prose and magical moments. (April 1 from Tor)

The Dragon's Path - Daniel Abraham

The Dagger and the Coin, Book 1 - With his critically acclaimed but criminally underread Long Price Quartet, Damiel Abraham proved that fantasy can be so much more than Tolkien 2.0. Now Abraham brings his appreciable talent to Orbit where he begins a brand new, more traditional saga in The Dagger and The Coin. The combination of powerful banks, post-medieval economics, ancient dragons, designer races, warrior priests, and dread elder gods might seem like a strange blend but it goes down smooth when sipped through Abraham's deceptively simple prose. AND if you order the eBook edition from certain retailers, you also receive a free advance copy of Leviathan Wakes, a highly anticipated space opera due out this summer from Abraham and co-conspirator Ty Franks. (April 7 from Orbit)

Theories of Flight - Simon Morden

Samuil Petrovitch Trilogy, Book 2 - It seems like it was just last month that Orbit published Equations of Life, the first entry in Morden's Samuil Petrovitch trilogy. Oh wait, it was. Theories of Flight delivers a blend of intelligent science fiction and relentless action adventure that Hollywood wishes they capable of.  (March 29 from Orbit)

WWW: Wonder - Robert J. Sawyer

WWW Trilogy, Book 3 - OMG!!! The Internetz is alive! If Webmind, your AI BFF, was in danger of being shut down by the US government, wouldn't you want to save it? Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Robert J. Sawyer continues his exploration of conscious thought, morality, and artificial intelligence in the final entry in his WWW Trilogy. (April 5 from Ace)

The Company Man - Robert Jackson Bennett

Alternate History Steampunk Noir Stand Alone - It's 1919 in an alternate America where a single company controls enough power to stop the Great War before it even begins. But deep underneath Evesden, something strange is killing the employees of the McNaughton Corporation. It's up to Cyril Hayes to figure out what in Robert Jackson Bennett's sophomore effort. His debut, Mr. Shivers was one of the best books of 2010, and Bennett's is a name to watch. (April 11 from Orbit)

Among Thieves - Douglas Hulick

A Tale of the Kin, Book 1 - This book wasn't even on my radar until the Mad Hatter blurbed that Douglas Hulick was "undoubtedly the best debuting author [Ace/Roc] has premiered since Jim Butcher." That's some high praise from a blogger who doesn't proffer it lightly. Among Thieves appears to be your typical artifact caper (think Maltese Falcon meets Lord of the Rings) but a brilliantly executed one. (April 5 from Roc)

After the Golden Age - Carrie Vaughn

Super Hero Stand Alone - For whatever reason, superhero prose novels always seem to be in short supply. Which is hard to fathom considering how much fun they usually are. Carrie Vaughn continues the tradition of reverent parody with After the Golden Age in which Celia West, daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, struggles to take down the evil Destructor. But she's a forensic accountant, not a superhero and Destructor is battling tax evasion, not some over-powered boy scout. As events get super-er, tensions rise and West soon finds herself in the middle of a mystery that threatens to change everything she thought she knew about her family. So basically, par for the course. This is a book that should be fun for everyone but especially enjoyable for those familiar with the superhero subgenre. (April 12 from Tor)

YetiStomper Pick Of The Month: As much as I'm looking forward to each of these books, particularly After the Golden Age and The Winds of Khalakovo, I'd be lying if I selected anything but The Dragon's Path for my Pick of the Month. Abraham is a soul-crusher type talent, the kind whose work convinces you that no matter how long or hard you try, you'll never be that good. For whatever reason, as brilliant and inventive as The Long Price Quartet was, it never found it's audience. The Dagger and The Coin will and not just because Abraham has created something familiar yet challenging - more so because if you ignore it now, you're going to be hearing about it for years to come.
YetiStomper Debut Of The Month: April is another strong month for debut authors with Among Thieves, The Unremembered, The Winds of Khalakovo, and Soft Apocalypse all hitting shelves within a few weeks of each other. If you had asked me three months ago, The Unremembered would have been my clear pick. But since then, I've seen nothing but strong reviews for Beaulieu's intricate work and while I haven't finished it, the chapters I have read have been impressive. The Grand Duchy of Anuskaya is a harsh environment full of bitter cold and wasting disease and Beaulieu populates it with hardy individuals who may have emigrated from Westeros. I've got a ton on my plate at the moment but I'm really looking forward to getting back into The Winds of Khalakovo when I get a chance. Therefore, I knight it the YetiStomper Debut of the Month.

YetiStomper Cover Of The Month: While I've managed to reduce the number of recommended books by 25% since March's record-setting slate of 16, it's still a struggle to determine which cover is king. Some quick thoughts -
  • Rarely will you see a better executed pair of fantasy covers than The Unremembered and The Winds of Khalakovo.
  • Theories of Flight is eye-catching if abstract. Morden's ecclectic plot doesn't lend itself to a single image, so Orbit is banking that a lot of people will pick it up and read the cover summary.
  • Who made the cover for After the Golden Age? They'd be my first pick if we were playing cover art at recess.
  • The implied texture really works for The Company Man, lending it a gritty noir feel which is echoed by the Sam Spade silhouette.
  • I wonder if there's a link between serif fonts and fantasy novels. All 4 traditional fantasy novels showcase the same style of lettering.
  • I can't help but think of mass produced serials when I look at the cover of Deathless. The lithographic style has an old-fashioned quality that seems to pair nicely with the novel.
  • Arrrrrrgggghhhhh. That's a bad Johnny Depp lookalike on Among Thieves.
  • What's with the kerning on Soft Apocalypse? Too many I's and L's, too similar, too far apart.
  • WWW: Wonder would be a great cover without the girl. With her? Meh.
  • As much as I love Daniel Abraham's work, that cover doesn't do much for me. It's not bad but Orbit isn't exactly doing Abraham any favors. Luckily, his work will speak for itself.
So we've got a variety of covers almost as diverse as they stories they promote. Per usual, I'm having a tough time deciding. Fortunately, I've got a graphic designer for a wife and she is willing to help me break the tie by looking at these covers from a technical perspective and as a genre outsider, someone who isn't going to be seduced by a streamlined spaceship or distracted by a dragon's cold stare. Her votes goes to After the Golden Age for it's well-balanced color palette and the way that the uniquely diagonal presentation of the text conveys a feeling of motion.  I can't help but agree, Vaughn really lucked out on this one. It's not too often that a book cover manages to be both modern and playful.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Among Others (with the assistance of Admiral Jak Sperrow) earns my vote for Worst Cover of the Month, an honor typically given out to a book that I'd like to read just not in public.

Anyway, as always, if you are interested in more details regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. Yeah, I get a little bit of money out of it. In a few more years I'm hoping to earn enough to purchase a single book. It's also the best way to learn more about these books and others. Be sure to let me know if there is anything I may have missed in the comments.

You can view previous installments of YetiStomper Picks here.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, The Unremembered was a bit disappointing. Good, just not great. I'm excited for Retribution Falls (which is in the mail currently). Wooding is an amazing plotter.

    I completely agree on the Among Thieves cover. Bleh. The UK version destroys the US one.

    Also very excited to read The Dragon's Path. The Long Price was amazing, I can't get enough of Abraham.


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