May 9, 2011

YetiStomper Picks for May

As winter enters its eight month, I'm buried in yet another a blizzard of books. Come back summer!

Embassytown - China Mieville

Standalone SF Novel - Mieville continues his trend of literary eclecticism with Embassytown, a high concept SF thriller set in a wondrous far future where humanity has encountered beings so strange the word "alien" can't do them justice. As Avice Benner Cho (alphabet pun anyone?) returns to Embassytown she finds she has become a figure of speech in the universally unique language of the Ariekei - a language she can't even comprehend. From their... Ok, I give up...  Like any Mieville novel, it's hard to summarize the book in just a few non-nonsensical lines. Just know that Embassytown is a thought-provoking meditation on language, conflict, and incomprehensible otherness executed in mind-melting fashion like only Mieville can. (May 17 from Del Rey)

The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief Trilogy, Book 1 - Finnish author Hannu Rajaniemi bursts onto the genre scene with the biggest SF debut of the year. Genre giant Charles Stross not only called The Quantum Thief "the best first SF novel I've read in many years," he went so far as to say "I think Hannu's going to revolutionize hard SF when he hits his stride. Hard to admit, but I think he's better at this stuff than I am." And it's hard not to agree; The Quantum Thief is pure idea concentrate. Rajaniemi packs so many intriguing thoughts into his work that he's forced to throw away concepts that lesser SF authors would frame entire books around. (May 10 from Tor)

Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi

Standalone SF Novel - A compulsively readable collision of tightly plotted legal thriller and idea-centric science fiction, Fuzzy Nation evokes fond memories of a simpler era of storytelling. Fuzzy Nation is a reimagining of H. Beam Piper's Little Fuzzy updated for 21st century audiences by fan-favorite SF author John Scalzi. Followers of his popular blog will undoubtedly be drawn to snarktacular protagonist Jack Holloway as he battles corporate douchebaggery in all its forms. Read my full review for more on Scalzi's unputdownable summer blockbuster. (May 10 from Tor)

Eclipse Four - Jonathan Strahan, ed.

Original Short Fiction Anthology, Volume 4 - It's about time. Eclipse Four was pushed from last year's publishing slate for unknown reasons and I feared we might have seen the last of Strahan's excellent anthology series. But things got back on track, the ToC looks great, and Strahan is already hinting at a fifth volume. With strong stories from top to bottom, the only recurring theme is the lack thereof. If you are looking for quality genre authors outside your typical reading patterns, the Eclipse anthology series is one of the best ways to discover some spectacular authors you might not have encountered before. (May 3 from Night Shade Books)

Camera Obscura - Lavie Tidhar

World of The Bookman, Book 2 - While not a sequel per se, Tidhar returns to the world of 2009's much lauded The Bookman for yet another Steampunk story. Camera Obscura moves the action from London to Paris, where Quiet Council agent Lady De Winter is tasked with solving a gruesome murder in the Rue Morgue. May looks to be a Steampunk heavy month and Camera Obscura may be the best of the bunch. (April 26 from Angry Robot)

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti - Genevieve Valentine

Tales of the Circus Tresaulti, Book 1 - Or maybe it's not. I'll let Genevieve Valentine take this one herself: "The Mechanical Circus Tresaulti travels the landscape of a ruined country under the spectre of war, but when two of its performers become locked in a battle of wills, the circus's own past may be the biggest threat of all." Is there anything more bizarre than a fantastical circus? Yes, a steampunk one. After three years of promising shorts, Valentine delivers a debut novel as strange as it is fascinating. Grab your seats now, the show is about to begin. (May 10 from Prime Books)

Degrees of Freedom - Simon Morden

Samuil Petrovitch Trilogy, Book 3 - If things weren't complicated when we left Samuil Petrovitch after April's Theories of Flight, they certainly are now. Artificial intelligence is running amok, Neo-Armageddeonists are determined to blow up the world (again), and Petrovitch has not one but two love interests, both of which may or may not want him dead. It's pretty much par for the course as Orbit wraps up Simon Morden's action packed trilogy with the third paperback volume in three months. (May 31 from Orbit)

Hounded - Kevin Hearne

The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1 - Somehow, someway, authors keep breathing life into the all but played out Urban Fantasy scene. The most recent resuscitator is Kevin Hearne whose first novel, Hounded, combines Celtic mythology with the more typical tropes of werewolves and vampires. Twenty-one-hundred-year-old Atticus O' Sullivan has been on the run for centuries, fleeing a Celtic god who for whatever reason suspects that O' Sullivan might have a magic sword that doesn't belong to him. Spoiler Alert: He does. When that vengeful deity finally tracks down Atticus in modern-day Arizona, it will take every thing he's learned in his 766,500 days on this planet just to be sure he lives to see one more. Diverse and dynamic, Hounded is our introduction to the Iron Druid Chronicles, the first three of which will be published back-to-back-to-back in May/June/July. (May 3 from Del Rey)

America Pacifica - Anna North

Standalone - Alternatively, if you've grown tired of vampires, werewolves, and clockwork creatures, Anna North's America Pacifica may be the May book for you. Skewing more toward the literary end of the genre spectrum, her dystopic coming of age tale combines pop culture and politics in a futuristic story with its roots firmly in the present. North draws from Lord of the Flies, 1984, TV's Lost, and half a dozen other stories in a dark but expertly crafted debut that should appeal to readers between 15 and 25.

Infernal Devices - K.W. Jeter

Standalone - Angry Robot is republishing Jeter's classic tale of clockwork chaos with a beautiful new cover. If you're a fan of the copper and brass books that have been rolling off production lines recently, you owe it to yourself to read one of the Steampunk stories that started it all. (April 26 from Angry Robot)

Morlock Night - K.W. Jeter

Standalone - Ever wonder what happened to the temporal travelers of The Time Machine after they escaped the clutches of the manical Morlocks? K.W. Jeter did too which was what led him to author Morlock Nights, a continuation of the story started in H.G. Wells' timeless (no pun intended) classic. In what might be the first ever home and home SF series, the far future Morlocks invade 19th century Victorian England and it's up to an intrepid band of English adventurers to save the day. Like Infernal Devices, Morlock Night is being republished and recovered by Angry Robot. (April 26 from Angry Robot)

The Falling Machine - Andrew P. Mayer

The Society of Steam, Book 1 - The steampunk deluge contiues with The Falling Machine, a debut novel from long time video game consultant, Andrew P. Mayer. Mayer reimagines a version of late 19th century New York in which superheroes exist, their extraordinary abilities sustained by a mysterious substance coveted by all. Before long, 20-year-old protagonist Sarah Stanton finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that runs deeper than anyone expects. When are people going to learn not to ask questions in abstract societies that appear to good to be true? (May 24 from Pyr)

YetiStomper Pick Of The Month: Like most months, the YetiStomper Pick for May comes down to a pair of worthy contenders. A few other authors might be challengers someday but for now the title card is set - Embassytown vs. Fuzzy Nation.

These are two extremely different novels linked only by their exquisite execution. Scalzi's reboot is the quicker book, a leaner, faster, meaner adaptation of Piper's original. Hit the bathroom now, grab a fresh beer and let the anthropomorphic dog out - once that bell rings, you won't be able to tear yourself away. So don't be surprised if Scalzi turns out to be the fan favorite in this one. He knows what you bought that ticket to see and makes sure Fuzzy Nation is more than worth the price of admission.

But in the other corner lurks the genre giant, China Mieville, a man who reinvents his fighting style with every bout. Balancing a heavyweight's power with a featherweight's touch, Mieville's prose will come at you in ways you'd never expect and inevitably leave you reeling on the floor. It's only a matter of time before he lands a haymaker of unrivaled imaginative ferocity, one that will resonate deep inside and leave a mark that might never heal.

Scalzi will come out quick, drawing on the cheers of his loyal fanbase to win an early round or two. But as impressive as it may be, Scalzi's technique is one we've seen before whereas Mieville's unpredictable approach is yet another enigma. Surprising but never faltering, Embassytown only adds to the impressive record that Mieville has earned while redefining how to play the game. The YetiStomper Pick for May goes to Embassytown via split decision, rewarding Mieville's tireless reinvention over Scalzi's effortless appeal.

YetiStomper Debut Of The Month: While not the same slugfest as the title fight, the May undercard is not a match to be missed. In true Battle Royale fashion, it's The Falling Machine vs. America Pacifica vs. Hounded vs. Mechanique vs. The Quantum Thief. In the end, I think Mechanique and The Quantum Thief manage to eliminate the other contenders before facing off for Rookie of the Month. From there all bets are off.  While something might be rotten in the state of Denmark, Finland is fresh as can be as The Quantum Thief injects life into the not-exactly-flourishing SF scene. On the other hand, Mechanique is less interested in saving a genre than defining it's own. Valentine's story is more of a circus act than the carnival it describes, managing to amaze with skillful prose and to delight with curious yet playful presentation. As much as I'm tempted to go with the tie, I'm giving this one to Mechanique. You can't go wrong with either book but Mechanique doesn't possess the same support structure The Quantum Thief does with it's small but passionate SF readership. But either book (or any of these debuts) is definitely worth giving another look.

YetiStomper Cover Of The Month: Hmmmm.... Where did this go? Stay tuned to find out!

Anyway, as always, if you are interested in more details regarding any of the above books, just click on through the Amazon links. And don't worry, thanks to new state legislation, I don't get a single penny, nickel, or dime from it. It's been hard restructuring my budget without that extra $10 a year but I think I'll survive. 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.


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