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It’s reviews week

What do you say about a book? I’m always asking myself that question. This is ‘review writing’ week, which those of you who read Locus regularly know comes around less often for me these days, and I’ve been scratching my head and trying to work out what to say.

First up, I don’t review everything I read. The most obvious instance of this at the moment are Small Beer‘s two June titles, Sean Stewart’s Perfect Circle and Jennifer Stevenson’s trash sex magic. The reason I’m not reviewing them is that we’ve had a few reviews of each in the magazine already, but they’re both good books, and the Stewart is staggeringly good. I got emailed pdfs of the books to read (something I’m not really able to deal with so easily these days), and have to get the hardcovers when they come out. I don’t often actually buy books these days, but these ones are really worth it.

So what, you ask, am I going to review. I’m not a hundred percent sure, but most likely
Margo Lanagan’s Black Juice; Charles Stross’s Iron Sunrise; Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Faery Reel; Al Sarrantonio’s Flights; and Minister Faust’s The Coyote Kings of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad.

The Lanagan book is a collection of previously unpublished stories, all rich, strange, unusual and with a dark theme. I think at the moment she’s Australia’s best kept secret, and her short fiction is quite incredible. Some day soon a US publisher is going to wake up and realise what they’ve been missing. The Stross novel is just his best novel-length work yet. I liked his Hugo-nominated novel Singularity Sky, but this is better. It has all of the energy of that book, but more of the conceptual depth of his short fiction. The two anthologies, The Faery Reel and Flights, are both good, but the Datlow/Windling is the prize of the pair. Why? It’s more consistent. The Sarrantonio is a big baggy thing with some wonderful, wonderful stories (by Gene Wolfe, Elizabeth Lynn, Jeff Ford, Tim Powers and others), while The Faery Reel is tightly edited, with very few duds (except for the poetry, which I can’t abide, though that’s just personal taste), and a lot of variety. And then there’s the Minister Faust book. It has a title that sounds like some old Sun Ra album, and is kind of like a hip hop version of ‘Tim Powers lite’. It’s got music, egyptian stuff, and I really thought I was going to hate it a lot. And I nearly did, but somewhere around page 50 it really grabbed me. It’s goofy and fun and energetic. A great novel? No. A good novel that’s fun to read? Yup. So, that should be the column. Of course, what I actually review will depend on what I finish tonight and tomorrow, but we’ll see.

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And another anthology…

Michael Chabon is to edit McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, which will be published by Vintage in November. It’s to feature illustrations by Mike Mignola. The only contributor I’ve been able to find mention of at the moment is Poppy Z. Brite, though Cheryl mentions China Mieville may be in it. I’m hoping I can get hold of a copy in time to consider it for my year’s bests, but who knows. Sounds interesting, though.

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Following on from the note yesterday about Greg Benford’s story over at SciFiction, I thought I’d mention I just read James Patrick Kelly’s “The Best Christmas Ever“, which has just gone online (can you tell that I’m catching up on my reading?), and it’s a good one. With a story this long it’s hard not to give away too much, but it’s basically a last man on Earth story, set some years after an unspecified disaster. It’s dark and it’s very well done. Worth checking out. Kelly really seems to be on a roll this year, with good stories in Asimovs and elsewhere. I don’t know if he’s working towards a third collection, but when it comes it’s going to be a doozy.

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Just saw that some US bookdealer is selling The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy: Volume 1 for $US 111.70. I’m proud of the book, but you’d have to be insane to buy it for that. Especially since you can get it here for $A24.95. Even with postage and handling, you’d be in front.

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