Category Archives: Books I’m looking forward to…

Books I’m looking forward to . . . Part 5. June 2009

Well, I sort of fell off the map for a while there, huh? I was going to give you a little update on the books that interested me, excited me, or in some way held my attention each month, and here I am having  missed two months of posts.

Hey la. It is the way it goes. I’ve been busy, which you know. I posted about some of it over on LJ while this blog was not playing well with me, never mind others, but I’ll try to update y’all here shortly. In the meantime, a return of sorts to normal programming.

Had I been telling you about books I was looking forward to for May, I would have told you how excited I was about China Mieville’s The City & the City. Everyone else has reviewed it, so there’s no real need for me to do it here. But, freakin’ heck. It’s a new China novel and it’s a Kafkaesque murder mystery. WTF! How could you not find that to be an incredibly cool thing?

The other big book for me in May was The Best of Michael Moorcock, from the good folk at Tachyon. I’ve not read much Moorcock. I’ve meant to. Honest. But he’s so damned prolific and I can never figure out if you should read Elric or Hawkmoon or Jerry Cornelius or … Gack. But I read his novelette, “London Bone”, in New Worlds years ago and it was stunning. The guy clearly can write. Everyone else says he can, but it’s like here’s proof right?  And then the VanderMeers (who are editing their damned socks off lately, with some awesomely good stuff) and  John Davey show up with a nice, neat single volume ‘how to read Mike’ packaged as a ‘best of’.  I had to sign up. It’s the book that everyone who meant to read Moorcock should get. Clearly essential.

There were a couple other May books on my radar. I absolutely, totally, completely love some of the books that Gavin and Kelly do at Small Beer. And everyone says Greer Gilman is awesome (though I’ve sort of struggled). So I am really interested in her Cloud and Ashes, which sounds cool. And then there’s the second Patrick Ness book. I only just bought the first one, but everyone says it’s essential, so I’m game.

The June catch-up is a little different because I’m actually reading one of the books right now.  Joe Abercrombie’s novels haven’t really appealed to, me. I think it’s the covers, with all of that parchmenty stuff. Not my thing. And then they’re big and series-shaped. The Golden Rule applied (over 400 pages long + sez vol. 1 on the cover = pass) and the ARCS and finals of the ‘First Law’ trilogy went into the big cupboard in the hall where ‘Books Not Destined to be Read by Jonathan’ end up.  And then Lou said ‘He’s cool. We should get him for Conquering Swords‘. I said, sure, and he sent us a completely terrific story. And then I was looking for something to read and there was this like house-sized galley of Best Served Cold sitting on the shelf. It had the parchmenty thing going on and it was huuuuuge, but I picked it up and was completely sucked in. It’s all swords and sorcery and blood and guts and revenge and stuff. Way cool so far. Consider it recommended.  Hmm. Guess I better go digging through the big cupboard for those earlier books, huh?

Then there are two books from the good folk at Tor which I want to get to, time permitting. I have the ARC of Jay Lake’s Green sitting on my desk at the moment. I read the opening chapter, which is completely kick ass. Jay’s been improving steadily as a writer, and this looks like it could be THE book for him.  And the cover is gorgeous.  What more could you want?  And finally, there’s Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock. I read the novella a year or two ago and it was stunning, so I can’t wait to get to this. Maybe on the plane.

And that’s us, sort of, caught up, on Books I’m Looking Forward To. Every time I sit down to write one of these I’m reminded of how much I love books and reading – which is a welcome tonic when you have a tendency to be a bit jaded from time to time. I have to remind myself: there’s always something awesome out there to read. If you’re not finding it, you’re not looking.

Books I’m looking forward to…Part 4. April 2009

Hmm. I guess this something about my state of mind, or about the vagaries of publishing schedules, but I find that this month I’m not looking forward to any new release titles. There are some cool ones poised just over the horizon in May, but that’s next month. This month, time to work through the ‘To Read’ pile and enjoy what I have.

Maybe if you have something you’re looking forward to that is being published in April you could mention it in the comments to this post.

Books I’m looking forward to…Part 3. March 2009

I’m a little bit late as always, but here we go again with ‘Books I’m Looking Forward To’, this time covering books that are scheduled to be published in March 2009.  I generally don’t prepare much when I’m writing for the blog, which probably shows, but I did go back and re-read the first two instalments of this series before getting started and it was pretty rough. Lots of repetition, lots of ‘terrific’, but not a lot to let you know what a book might be like.  In my defence, that’s not the easiest thing to do given that I’ve often haven’t actually read the books in question. Still, I’ll try to do a little better this time around.

A while ago I started, and subsequently abandoned, a series of posts for this blog about ‘Unbooks': books that I’d like to have but which didn’t exist. One of those books was ‘The Best of Gene Wolfe’.  Wolfe has been writing since the early 1960s and has published a large and varied body of work. It seemed to me that someone should assemble a smart, tightly edited book that would give a newcomer to his work a real taste of what his writing is like. It always seems to me that readers who’ve heard of Wolfe but not read him seem baffled, intimidated or wary.  I was delighted, therefore, to hear that Tor planned to publish just such a volume, and that it would appear in March of this year.

An Advance Review Copy fell through my mailbox a while ago and, while it’s not the book I envisaged, it is pretty close to what we need.  The thirty-one stories in The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Short Fiction are selected by Wolfe and cover the period from 1970 to 1999 (more than half of the stories here were published during the 1970s).  The stories are smart and sly, wistful and wonderful, but most of all they are exactly what you’re don’t expect from Wolfe (if you’ve not read him): they’re entertaining. It’s my suspicion Wolfe is the best and smartest writer ever to write pulp science fiction and fantasy.  Many of the tropes of pulp fiction are here, and those that aren’t probably reside elsewhere in his bibliography.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Easily. Any book that includes “Seven American Nights”, “The Cabin on the Coast”, “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories”, and “The Detective of Dreams” is an utterly essential book, and not because you ought to have it for your collection but because it’s smart and funny and touching and terrific to read.  I could quibble with some story selections – why, for example, no “Empire of Foliage and Flower” when I’m sure I read somewhere that Wolfe thinks it’s his best short story? – but it’s pointless. You need this collection of 20th Century Wolfe, and we can only hope we’ll see the 21st Century Wolfe collected before too long as well.  And yes, this one is essential.

I came late to the Peter Beagle show. I missed The Last Unicorn, and have never really been captivated by the book.  On the other hand, I loved The Folk of the Air and have eagerly picked up one book after the other as they slowly were published during the ’80s and ’90s.  Back around 2002 Beagle, who had never been a prolific short story writer (I think most if not all of it resided in a single collection at the time), suddenly began to publish a lot of short stories.  Mostly fantasy, but richer and more complex than his earlier short work.  He won a Hugo and a Nebula, published a new ‘Last Unicorn’ story and fast established himself as one of the best writers of short fiction in the field (he was already one of our best novelists).  Now, before I continue, fair warning.  I have done business with Peter and have been honored to publish two of his short stories, so I’m not without bias. Still, this is about books I’m looking forward to, so some bias is acceptable.

The good folk at Tachyon are publishing Peter’s new short story collection, We Never Talk About My Brother, next month and it includes “The Last and Only” from my anthology Eclipse One.  I’ve not seen a full table of contents for the book yet, but the stories I have read are extraordinary.  There’s the wistful tale of a man who becomes French from the inside out, a fantasy epic in 4000 wds, a funny story about an annoying kid brother who is also a wizard, and a LOT more.  What more could you want from a collection of stories?  And yes, all of Peter’s story collections are worth it.

Now, lest you are thinking that I only read short fiction these days, a novel or two.  I have an irrational love for Bruce Sterling’s work.  I started reading him back in the mid-1980s, I guess, when Gardner Dozois started featuring his Shaper and Mechanist stories in his Year’s Best annuals.  The story that really stuck with me back then, though, was “Green Days in Brunei”.  There was something about the vital creative energy it portrayed happening in a decaying tropical environment that really resonated.  Then there was Islands in the Net, my second favorite of his novels, which expanded on the feel of that story.  He then produced his finest novel, Holy Fire, as well as a bunch of terrific short stories.  I know how terrific they are because I edited a career retrospective a year or so ago, Ascendancies, and was amazed at just jhow strong they are and how well they stand up a quarter century later.  Any how, his new novel The Caryatids will be out in a few weeks, and at a glance it seems very much of a piece with Islands in the Net, sharing the same vibe.  I have a copy of this on my Sony Reader, but I’ve actually been holding out to get a physical copy of the book (now winging its way towards me) so I can dive into it. Cory just raved about it on boingboing and it makes me even more excited about getting this one.

The other novel I can’t wait to get hold of in March is Walter Jon Williams’s This is Not a Game. If you’re a science fiction reader, you don’t need me to tell you why.  Metropolitan, City on Fire, and Aristoi: his body of work speaks for itself.  Any new Walter novel is cause for celebration, and celebrating is what I plan to do. I loved last year’s Implied Spaces, which was a pure SFnal romp, and this story of gaming, game theory and such sounds intriguing.   I can’t wait to pick up a copy.

Oh, and one other quick one.  My editor and friend Sharyn November publishes the third ‘Firebirds’ anthology, Firebirds Soaring.  I got a sneek peek at it the other month and it has great stories by Margo Lanagan, Ellen Klages, and Marly Youmans. You have the others, and you need this one to complete the set.  Top notch!

Books I’m looking forward to…Part 2. February 2009

I’m as surprised as you are that I’m following through, and actually writing a second instalment of ‘Books I’m looking forward to…’.  I think it might be that I’m getting to it because I should be doing other things – that’s how these things tend to work.  Anyhow, February looks like a great month with some books I’m really eager to see.

Lamentation by Ken ScholesLet’s start with a book that I’ve actually read, but which is only being published now.  Last year Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor sent me an earlier reader’s copy of a debut fantasy novel they were publishing by some guy I’d never heard of, Ken Scholes.  Now, truthfully, I’m starved for time, so it’s easy for me to skip novels these days, and very easy to skip first volumes in series. Still, Patrick had sent it, and I had some spare time, so I started reading the opening chapter of Lamentation and was nearly put off by one or two standard fantasy tropes.  There were fantasy names and such, and I thought for a moment that this was going to be another generic cookiecutter story, butI kept reading and I’m delighted I did.  The story of the devastation of Windwir, a great city of learning, and the consequences that flow from it were captivating. I found myself entranced by the tale of the young man who lost his father in the devastation, the old man called back from retirement to deal with it, and so much more.  There were flashes of science fiction in the background too – metal men and so on – but mostly there was a tale strapped to a story engine that just didn’t quit.   Lamentation isn’t, to be fair, the greatest novel ever written, nor is it perfect. However, it is really good, and is an excellent first novel.  I was sufficiently hooked that I harassed Ken into letting me read the second book in the series, Canticle, which I actually think is a much better book than Lamentation (a good sign for the series), and can’t wait to see Antiphon when he’s done with it.  I guess I should add, as a caveat, that as a result of Patrick sending me Lamentation, I ended up meeting Ken and becoming pals, so I am recommending a book by friend.  Still, I stand by the recommendation. Even though I’ve read Lamentation, I loved it enough that I’m going to buy a copy just so I have one.

I don’t spend a lot of time making lists anymore, but if I did Ian McDonald would probably sit in my list of Top 10 Favourite Short Story Writers of the last 25 years, and I believe that he is one of the best short story writers working in SF today.  I remember being knocked out by an early story of his, “Unfinished Portrait of the King of Pain by Vincent Van Gogh”, which was reprinted in first collection back in the late ’80s, and loving his debut novel, Desolation Road.  I read everything he published after that, and was disappointed when his books stopped appearing in the US.  All that changed when his spectacular novel River of Gods came out a few years back from Simon & Schuster, and then was reprinted in the US by Pyr.  A major work by McDonald, it seemed to change his fortunes and he’s followed it up with the almost-as-good Brasyl.  At the same time he published a lot of short fiction, including a handful of stories set in the same near future India as River of Gods.  Those stories have now been collected in a pendant volume, Cyberabad Days, which will be published in trade paperback with a stunning Stephan Martiniere cover by Pyr (and later for Gollancz).  The collection features a long original novella, as well as all of the other ‘Cyberabad’ stories.  I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the collection I’ve been most looking forward to in 2009.  I love these stories, am stupidly proud to have originally published one of them, and will be ordering a copy the moment it hits Amazon.  You need this book.  Really.

I’ve not seen a table of contents yet for Gwyneth Jones’ forthcoming collection, Grazing the Long Acre, but I’m really excited about this book too.  I know, I know – this instalment of ‘Books I’m looking forward to’ is all hyperbole. Well, they’re recommendations!  Anyhow, I loved Gwyneth’s ‘Bold as Love’ quintet of novels and was lucky enough to have her write several stories for books I was editing.  Somewhere in there I began seeking out stories of hers, reading novels I’d missed, and I fell in love with her work.  It’s smart, unflinching, demanding and intellectually honest.  I think she’s one of the finest SF writers working today, and one of the most unappreciated.  I hope this new PS Publishing collection will help change that a little. If these are her best stories of the past five years, then they’re some of the best SF stories of the past five years, period.  I can’t wait to see it.

There are also a couple small books I’m looking forward to.  In February Tachyon are publishing a long novella/short novel by James Morrow, Shambling Towards Hiroshima.  I love, love, love Morrow’s work.  So a post WW2 tale with Godzilla is irresistible.  Tachyon sent me an ARC of this one, and I’m going to read it next. I’m also going to order a copy.  I want the actual book, and it’s important to support publishers like Tachyon when you can.  Buy it!  I’m also eager to see Tim Powers’ “A Time To Cast Away Stones“.  It’s coming out in a stupidly expensive edition from Charnel House to celebrate their 20th Anniversary. It’s Powers, which is enough.  Essential!

And so, that’s the second instalment of ‘Books I’m looking forward to…!’.  Hope you pick some of them up, and I’ll try to report on the books I do mention here as I get them and read them.

Books I’m looking forward to… Part 1. January 2009

I’ve tried to do some regular features on this blog before and, to be honest, haven’t been too successful.  I think it’s mostly because I have the concentration of your average gnat, when confronted with anything too challenging or difficult or that requires me to do pretty much anything regularly.

Still, I’ve decided to have a tilt at a new regular feature.  As you all know, I work for Locus.  One of the things I do is  to provide some input to our quarterly Forthcoming Books listings.  Glancing over them this morning it occurred to me that, once per month, I could blog about books coming out in the next month that I’m looking forward to reading. This is, of course, a terrible cheat because I get review copies and so on and usually am reading several months ahead.  Still, I’m going to do it and hopefully it’ll be mildly interesting. So, here goes…

The book I was, hands down no fooling, most looking forward to in January was C.J. Cherryh’s Regenesis.  I’m an enormous fan of Cherryh’s work and was thrilled when I read a few years ago that she had committed to a big new Union/Alliance novel.  Downbelow Station is a favourite of mine – I read it seven times one year – while I loved Forty Thousand in Gehenna and Cyteen.  A direct sequel to the latter book should have been an absolute winner.  I saw the 230,000 manuscript when I was in Oakland last August and then was delighted to receive a galley of it in October. I read half of it, and got distracted.  I’m still going to buy it, and still think you should to.  Cherryh has done so much terrific work that I really think I need to go back, re-read Cyteen and then try again.

One of the reasons that I work on anthologies so much is that I love a really good one, and any anthology by Ellen Datlow is likely to be terrific.  I was lucky enough to get a copy of Ellen’s Poe, which is in-store everywhere in January, and I think it’s terrific.
A selection of original stories honouring Edgar Allan Allen Poe, it has great stories by Pat Cadigan, Kim Newman, M. Rickert, Lucius Shepard and others. It’s likely to stand amongst the year’s finest anthologies, so be sure to check it out.

I have, of course, got copies of the two previous books and have read or started them. Now a couple that I don’t have, and which I can’t wait to see. I loved, loved, loved Frances Hardinge’s second novel, Veridigris Deep.  It was a startling, delightful, captivating young adult fantasy and put her on my list of writers to read every single time they have a book out.  Well, on my birthday (January 2nd) her third novel, Gullstruck Island, is published in the UK.  I can’t wait to read it, and will probably have to order a copy from the UK so I don’t have to wait months and months to see it. In case it wasn’t clear I’m really excited about this one.

I also am very interested in getting Felix Gilman’s second novel, Gears of the City.  We share an agent and his first novel was picked out of the slush pile by the wonderful and delightful Katie Menick, who gave me a copy of his first book, Thunderer, in Calgary.  I’ve read the first couple chapters and it looks terrific, so the sequel is definitely on the ‘to get’ pile.

And that leaves Adam Roberts’ Yellow Blue Tibia.  To be honest, I’ve liked Roberts’ short fiction, but been left a bit cold by his novels.  This one sounds really interesting, though, so I’m going to get hold of a copy and check it out.  More when I see it.

Well, that’s the first instalment of Books I’m looking forward to.  Hope you liked it. I’ll be back in late January with Part 2 – February 2009.