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There are so many worthwhile sf/f/h books currently in print that it’s hard to keep up with all the books we want to read. The task is even more daunting when you consider the forthcoming genre books that are on the way. We asked this week’s panelists:
Here’s what they said…
In the urban fantasy subgenre, I’m really looking forward to Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story. I think everyone should be excited about new horror writer (I got to read it early) Christopher Buehlman who has a book called Those Across the River coming out in September — sort of what if F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about werewolves. For straight fantasy — The Tempering of Men which is the sequel to A Companion to Wolves by the wonderful Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette. And for SF, the awesome Steven Gould has 7th Sigma coming out in July.
Having a unique spot in publishing in that we frequently produce signed limited editions, and have many writer friends and colleagues who share manuscripts, I’ve actually read some of my most anticipated titles of 2011. It seems silly not to include them, though I’ll make it clear they’re books I already have rattling around in my cranium.
- The Wise Man’s Fear (Pat Rothfuss) – More than lives up to the promise of The Name of the Wind. As I told Pat before embarking – the right word, as the ARC was over 1100 pages – on the middle book of his trilogy, I was actually frightened of what was likely to occur to some of my favorite characters. I won’t spoil anything, won’t tell you about Kvothe’s foray into the world outside the University, or his escapades within, but I will say that this book is much darker and richer than Name. I fear even more for the characters in the concluding volume. Pat has not set up a happy set of circumstances for them.
- Flashback (Dan Simmons) – Make no mistake, this is an sf thriller, with the foundation being Dan’s novella of nearly two decades ago that bears the same title. Dan pulls together an impressive number of plot and thematic threads quite satisfactorily.
- The Dragon’s Path (Daniel Abraham) – I’ve been lucky enough to read Abraham’s other novel due this year, the sf collaboration with Ty Franck (Leviathan Wakes as by James S.A. Corey) and can recommend it unreservedly. Abraham’s last foray into fantasy, The Long Price Quartet, was memorable for being far off the well trodden paths of epic fantasy. The Dragon’s Path appears to be more conventional in setting and scope, though I expect it to be exceptional, as most of Abraham’s work is.
- Collection (Leigh Kennedy) – I know nothing of this beyond that it’s on PS Publishing’s schedule, and that Kennedy wrote the amazing The Journal of Nicholas the American, one of the two best novels I’ve ever read about telepathy, with Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside being the other.
- Dancing with Bears (Michael Swanwick) – For my money, the first novel to feature post-utopian con-men Darger and Surplus is saddled with a sub-par title, and a cover a few steps beneath that. It could be available only printed on the back of napkins, though, and nothing could keep me from this novel, or anything Swanwick writes, really.
- Blue Remembered Earth (Alastair Reynolds) – One of my two favorite sf writers of his generation. (Charles Stross is the other.) I know nothing about this one beyond its title, but Reynolds very seldom disappoints, at any length.
There are more titles I’m looking forward to, of course, but the above seems a good sampling, and a good enough place to stop. Here’s hoping an author or two mentioned above has mercy on my Kindle and sees fit to email me a manuscript!
I always love to see what is forthcoming and, for once, there are quite as few books on my Ordered/To Be Read list. Books that are already ordered include:
- Charles Stross’ collection from NESFA that was done for this year’s Boskone. The title is Scratch Monkey and that is all I know about it.
- I have two Joe Lansdale books coming, Hyenas, a novella from Subterranean that is fabulous and which I am neglecting to review right now, and Devil Red, a new Hap and Leonard book.
- Coming late this year or early next year is Alastair Reynolds’ YA title Blue Remembered Earth.
- Also, there is a Michael Moorcock autobiography out called Modern Times 2.0 which is on order.
- Robin Hobb, who I liked in her Megan Lindholm days, has a short story collection coming called The Inheritance and Other Stories.
- Richard Morgan’s sequel to The Steel Remains is The Dark Commands and I am awaiting it. I liked the first part quite well.
- There are two new Jasper Fforde books The Last Dragonslayer which came out in the UK just before Christmas and One Of Our Thursday’s Is Missing, a new Thursday Next book. I really like Fforde’s books.
- And Rick Riordan’s second novel in The Red Pyramid sequence is due soon.
- Among long delayed books I am hoping for The Republic of Thieves from Scott Lynch, the second Patrick Rothfuss book, The Wise Man’s Fear, and, of course, A Dance With Dragons from George R.R. Martin. Hey, I can dream can’t I?
I’m sure there will be a new Peter Hamilton and other titles but this is my current on order list and I want them all now!
- Rob Sawyer’s WWW: Wonder. It’s been a fine series up to this point, and I see no reason to trade horses in mid-series.
- Fred Pohl’s All The Lives He Led. I know nothing about this book except that it’s by Fred, and that’s reason enough.
- Laura Resnick’s Vamparazzi. I love this series, and my daughter never lets me see her books in manuscript for, so I’m as anxious for it to comed out as the rest of her fans.
- Elizabeth Bear’s Grail. She just keeps getting better and better, so why stop now?
- Richard Matheson’s Other Kingdoms. Been a few years since I’ve read one of his books; this seems like a nice one to catch up with.
Like many others, I’m greeting the appearance of George R.R. Martin’s Dances with Dragons with cries of joy. I’m also looking forward to one of Martin’s other efforts this summer, the fourth in the re-launched Wild Cards series, Wild Card: Fort Freak. I’m a big superhero fan, so I’m also excited by Naomi Novik and Yishan Li’s Will Supervillains be on the Final?
I have yet to pick up an Elizabeth Bear book I didn’t like, so I’m anticipating her Grail, particularly since it’s the third of a trilogy I’ve enjoyed so far. Martha Wells is another favorite, so I’ll be picking up The Cloud Roads.
Two of my favorite Fantasy Magazine authors have stuff coming out. I loved Lavie Tidhar’s The Bookman, so Camera Obscura will be a must-read, as is Genevieve Valentine’s Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresalti.
Urban fantasy wise, Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story is one I’ll look for, since Harry Dresden is one of my favorite heroes of the genre. Other F&SF authors I enjoy with new stuff coming out: Elizabeth Moon, Kings of the North; Nnedi Okorafor’s The Akata Witch; Paul Park, Ghosts of the Orange Dance; Robin Hobb, Inheritance. For solid, sometimes dense, writing, I’m looking to Daniel Abraham’s The Dragon Path, C.J. Cherryh’s Betrayer. Catherynne M. Valente’s prose is also juicy and delicious, so Deathless should be something to savor.
Short story wise, Joan Aiken’s got The Monkey’s Wedding and Other Stories coming out from Small Beer Press as well as Claude Lalumiere’s The Door to Lost Pages from ChiZine Publications. A Michael Swanwick collection is always worthy of celebration, and he’s got Dancing with Bears coming out from Small Beer. Ekaterina Sedia’s Bewere the Night should be chockfull of interesting stuff. Sedia’s got a novel coming out this summer as well, Heart of Iron, which I’ll be grabbing.
The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss…for a couple o’ reasons. I adore Patrick as a writer and as a person, and I greatly admire his charity work. His first volume in this series was incredibly well-received. I just wish it hadn’t taken him so long to finish the second installment!
Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan…which is a fantasy-romance tale, and therefore might be shelved with the romance books. Elizabeth is an amazing writer. I’ve read every one of her books…and I pre-ordered Warcry so I wouldn’t miss it. She puts tons of action in her books, great fight scenes…and she’s good with the smoochy stuff, too.
The SF/F/H title I’m anticipating the most at the moment is George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons. Partly because I’ve been waiting for years to see what happened to all of the interesting characters in A Song of Ice and Fire (Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, et al). And partly because I WILL HUNT DOWN GEORGE MARTIN LIKE A BEAST IF HE DOESN’T GIVE ME A SCENE OF WALDER FREY’S TESTICLES ROASTING ON A SPIT WHILE WALDER LOOKS ON IN PAINFUL, PAINFUL HUMILIATION, BECAUSE HE FUCKING DESERVES IT. (Walder, that is, not George.)
But on a more serious note, the dynamics of the series have changed dramatically since A Storm of Swords hit the shelves over a decade ago, and from a professional standpoint I’m interested to see how the author handles it. Martin has been showered with both adulation from those who want to stick the Tolkien/Jordan mantle on his shoulders, and relentless criticism from those who want to take him to task for watching too much football and spending too little time on the Stairmaster. He’s now a New York Times bestselling author and the inspiration for a major HBO series. If nothing else, he’s 20 years older than he was when he first put pen to paper on A Game of Thrones, and that kind of time changes your perspective on things. How have his objectives in writing the story changed? Has the immense pressure taken a toll on his craft? How will he manage to continue juggling all of those subplots within subplots within subplots?
The other title on my most wanted-to-read list is China Mieville’s Embassytown. I’m still a few books behind on Mieville’s oeuvre, but after The Scar and Iron Council I think I would read an epistolary novel about 19th-century snail accountants if it had the name “China Mieville” on the cover.
I am eagerly anticipating anything Gail Carriger puts her pen to- this year that includes Blameless and Heartless. I will sit on my fainting couch and arrange my dress just so, brew some really hot tea, and arrange the books around me like flowers, read until the tea gets cold, and repeat. I haven’t read a book as delightful as her Parasol Protectorate books in a long time.
And when I wish to move from delight into the heavy and weird, I’m all set for Embassytown by China Miéville. While a little part of me wishes he’d return to Bas Lag (the world of Perdido Street Station, The Iron Council, and The Scar), his latest novels haven’t disappointed, so I guess if he can grow, so can I. Embassytown sounds like nothing he’s done before, just weird enough to pique my interest, so I’ll be in line to buy this year.
And honestly, I’m looking forward to diving into my TBR pile this year, so I’ll be looking less at what’s coming out and more at what i own but haven’t read. Shameful, I know.
After much wrestling and angst, I think I’ve gotten it down to a list that’s short enough to talk about.
1) A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin
WHY: Apart from the overwhelming peer pressure that comes from everyone on God’s green earth apparently looking forward to this one, I have a little insider information about this one. I started reading A Song of Ice and Fire over a decade ago, and from everything I’ve heard and what I’ve seen of the in-process manuscript, this is *the* book I’ve been waiting for. Not only is it made out of the characters I enjoy the most, but my sources inform me that the structure of the book is what I was hoping it would be. I am very, very optimistic about this one.
2) After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
WHY: Carrie’s known best for her Kitty Norville urban fantasy series, but she’s started rolling out a bunch of her other work in the last couple years with books like Steel and Voice of Dragons Discord’s Apple. I’ve been a Kitty Norville fan since the start, and the new project she’s got rolling that was clearly designed in a government lab to appeal to me personally is After the Golden Age. From what I’ve seen, it’s a deconstruction of the superhero genre that goes for humor and romance instead of grotesque violence. I’m expecting something like P. G Wodehouse’s “Watchmen” but with a soul.
3) Sacred Band by David Anthony Durham
WHY: I don’t actually read much epic fantasy. I spend a lot of time there with the stuff I write, and usually I’ve already gotten my fix before I pick up anyone else’s books. David Anthony Durham is an exception. I’m really looking forward to seeing how he finishes his story. Plus which, it’s got gorgeous cover art.
4) Wild Cards: Fort Freak
WHY: And to bring all three of the first books together, the new Wild Cards book, Fort Freak is coming out. I was a Wild Cards fan from when I was in high school, and I got to play in the semi-reboot that came with Inside Straight. I was peripherally involved with Busted Flush, and I did some of the writing in Suicide Kings, but I absolutely sat out Fort Freak. This is the first Wild Cards book in years where I don’t know at all what the plot is. And it’s got stories by David Anthony Durham, Cherie Priest, Mary Anne Mohanraj and Paul Cornell. It’s a favorite project with new voices and no spoilers.
5) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente
WHY: I’ve been a semi-rabid Valente fan since I came across The Orphan’s Tales. I enjoyed Palimpsest a lot. Putting her imagination and beauty of language put at the service of the accessibility of an intentionally YA book is one of the most interesting projects I’ve seen in years. I can’t wait to see what kinds of decisions she made with the change of imagined audience.
7) The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
WHY: Dude. Graham Joyce.
8) Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist #8 by Jim Benton
WHY: I have a daughter who’s about to turn 5. She loves the Franny K. Stein books for the stories. I love them for the didactic agenda. Everyone loves having a junior mad scientist in the family
Ann VanderMeer is the Editor-in-Chief for Weird Tales, for which she has received a Hugo award. She has partnered with her husband, Jeff VanderMeer, on various popular books such as Steampunk, The New Weird and The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals. Her latest anthology project with Jeff is The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, scheduled for June 2011 from Harper Voyager.
- The Silent Land by Graham Joyce. This book made Jeff cry. First he cried and then he hugged me. That’s a very rare occurrence. The last time he was inspired to do that by a book was when he read The World According to Garp. So naturally I must read this book.
- The Red Glove by Holly Black. This is the second book in her Curse Workers series. I loved the first book, The White Cat, and of course can’t wait to read this one. I especially enjoy the family dynamics and the responsibilities that come with the “gifts.”
- Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine. I heard Genevieve read an excerpt from this book back in October at Capclave. And I wanted to hear more. Steampunk at the circus? Of course, bring it. This book has all the coolness that I love.
- The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I read his previous two books, The Shadow of the Wind & The Angels Game and thoroughly enjoyed them. This book is a YA book so I am very interested to see the difference between this and his adult novels.
- OK, this may be cheating as I’ve already read this one, but I am really looking forward to The Illumination by Kevin Brockmeier. Jeff got the ARC for this book last year and as soon as I saw it I jumped on it. I don’t often have time to read for pure pleasure and let me tell you, this was better than I imagined. I fell in love with his previous book, A Brief History of the Dead, and was excited about the premise of this new one. A journal filled with little love notes from a husband to his wife (one for each day of their all-too-brief relationship) finds its way into the lives of different unrelated people as they struggle with a phenomenon known as the “Illumination, a condition in which all illness is visible via brightness or lights within the body.
- Sleight of Hand, Peter Beagle — In the ’80s and ’90s there was a Peter Beagle short fiction drought, and I had to read “Lila the Werewolf” over and over again to get my Beagle fix. Now, luckily for me, there’s a lot of it. Not only am I looking forward to this, I’ve already pre-ordered my copy. (It also has one of the coolest fantasy covers I’ve seen in a long time.)
- White Luck Warrior, by R. Scott Bakker — I like this fantasy series for the world-building, the sense that the world is extraordinarily old and that something interesting happened during every year of it. For me it compares favorably with George R.R. Martin in this regard. I like the characters too, and the way it moves. That said, the book before this one seemed a bit slow, and there was an interminable trek underground that reminded me too much of Moria. Let’s hope Bakker is just warming up, and this new book takes off.
- Deathless, by Catherynne Valente — Valente got put on my “must read” list on the strength of one story, “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica,” which was fantastic. Her writing is lush and complex, and her imagery is startling and poetic.
- Sacre Bleu, by Christopher Moore — I think I heard Moore interviewed about this book, which, if it’s the one I’m thinking of, is a funny book about Impressionism. Moore is a very funny guy, so I’ll read anything he writes about anything.
The SF/F/H book that I’m most looking forward to reading is How To Create Extra Time To Accomplish All The Reading That You Want To Do. As I don’t think anyone has actually written that book yet, I’ll settle for trying to shoehorn the following into a busier-than-ever professional and personal schedule:
- Deadline, by Mira Grant. The second book in Grant’s “zombie and reporters” series, Deadline is sure to pick up where last year’s Feed left off. Feed pulled me along, hook, line, and sinker, providing realistic details about life in a plague-ridden future world where blogs have replaced mainstream media. Feed concluded with a major, believable, world-upending plot twist, and I cannot wait to see how the characters come together in their changed lives.
- The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg Van Eekhout. I initially learned about this book when I saw a series of potential designs for the cover, but my interest was heightened as I heard about the plot, about a boy and his robot, trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I love Van Eekhout’s sense of humor, and he seems to have a perfect grasp of his middle-grade audience (as evidenced by his recent sharing of kids’ fan art for his earlier book, Kid vs. Squid.) I expect to laugh out loud and fight back tears as I read this one.
- Heartless, by Gail Carriger. Vampires. Werewolves. Steampunk. Afternoon tea. Who could ask for more? Seriously (is it possible to write “seriously” and then talk about Carriger’s -LESS books?), this series has the sort of zany, consistent world-building that makes my authorly eyeteeth ache with envy. The characters are wildly entertaining, and the books just keep getting better.
- Across the Great Barrier, by Patricia Wrede. When the first volume of Wrede’s Frontier Magic series, Thirteenth Child, came out, the book became the center of a political-correctness firestorm. Wrede postulates an American “Wild West” frontier where magic works, a venue that she explores through her engaging heroine, Eff. I read the book, expecting to chew on a hefty political battle. Instead, I found the sort of engaging story that captivated me when I was a teen-aged reader, the type of thoroughly built alternative history that operates flawlessly and consistently, according to its own set of clearly-defined rules. I’ve been waiting to see how Eff grows into her magic, and soon I’ll get to know!
For 2011, I’m probably not going to read as much new stuff as I would typically like to… too much work in other areas that need to get done, including my own writing (Stackpole threw down a gauntlet and I have to meet the challenge).
I used to almost squeal with joy when I saw the next book in a series I loved had appeared on the shelves. That has changed over the past 5-8 years… I think being able to easily find out on the Internet when those books are coming out has dulled most of the eager anticipation I used to get when I’d cruise down the SF/F aisle at the bookstore, seeing if something I’d been waiting for was finally available.
Nowadays, I still get excited when I know they’re about to appear, but the buildup of anticipation is nowhere near what it used to be, and pales in comparison to my anticipation for a particular movie to open or a favorite show to return to TV.
Anyway, three books I’ve been waiting for have already come out: Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, Jack: Secret Vengeance by F. Paul Wilson, and The Sentry by Robert Crais (thriller, not sf/f/h). I’m in the process of reading these right now.
For the rest of the year, we have:
- Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher — a new Harry Dresden adventure. ‘Nuff said.
- Sympathy for the Devil, by Justin Gustainis — I became a fan of this series before I’d read halfway through the first book, and was spitting nails after the second book at having to wait so long for more. I’ve been waiting for this book for about 2 years.
- Those Who Fight Monsters, edited by Justin Gustainis — a collection of occult detective stories, edited by a friend who loves that subgenre as much as I do? WIN.
- The Republic of Thieves, by Scott Lynch — swashbuckling and thievery amidst a rich tapestry of adventure and intrigue continues.
- Hard Spell, by Justin Gustainis — the first of a new series by a friend, and it’s my favorite crossover genre, fantasy/detective? WIN.
[* Full disclosure for above, these have a special anticipation for me because of a personal connection to the authors.]
- Fatal Error, by F. Paul Wilson — it’s Repairman Jack, fer crying out loud!
- I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells — the first two books in this series were fun, dark and at times unexpectedly funny, and I want to see what happens next.
- City of Ruins, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch — space opera also holds a special place in my heart, but I’m extremely picky about it. Kris found a sweet spot here.
- Shadow’s Lure, by Jon Sprunk — in addition to detectives, stories about assassins also intrigue and bespell me. The first book in this series was delicious, so I’m curious to see what the rest of the trilogy will bring.
Books I am truly excited to see coming out, but to my knowledge do not have release dates yet, or quite possibly have not yet been written:
- the final Repairman Jack novel by F. Paul Wilson (this Fall?) the next Peter Grant novel by Ben Aaronovitch
- the next Twenty Palaces novel by Harry Connolly
- the next Diana Tregarde novel by Mercedes Lackey (pure speculation)