The Barrow

9/26/06

Superman Gets Off Cheap

Joel Shepherd is interviewed over on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist concerning his hot new novel Crossover. They talk about his heroine Cassandra Kresnov, the "android cliche," awards vs readers, genre vs literary snobbery, Masamune Shirow, and what's wrong with Superman.

On the subject of writers he admires, Joel says: "CJ Cherryh was a big influence on me growing up, she was the first writer who demonstrated to me that head-burstlingly intelligent, and wickedly entertaining, were not mutually exclusive concepts."

Amen.

And thanks to Pat for this comment: "Pyr Books are slowly but surely establishing themselves as a quality outfit in the publishing world. More and more, the Pyr logo is associated with quality products and great reading experiences."

Thank you - that's very nice to hear.

9/25/06

www.martinsketchley.co.uk

Martin Sketchley, author of the Structure series, writes to tell me he has overhauled his website. He's added a cool video montage of the covers of all three books in the series, The Affinity Trap, The Destiny Mask, and The Liberty Gun, both US and UK covers. Check it out.

9/21/06

Brian W Dow Artwork & Interview

Jose Garcia has just posted a short interview with artist Brian W. Dow over on the wonderful group blog Meme Therapy. Along with the interview are covers to four Pyr titles: Genetopia by Keith Brooke, Hurricane Moon by Alexis Glynn Latner (forthcoming), The Prodigal Troll by Charles Coleman Finlay, and Tides by Scott Mackay. This is the debut for Hurricane Moon, which has never been seen anywhere before, and is a full wrap-around of an alien landscape, with space shuttles and an outpost for which Brian actually built models from scratch. We'll be showing more of Brian's model work in the future, but for now, go see the full painting in all its glory.

9/18/06

Stomach-churning Alien Love

Now that's a blurb.

The Liberty Gun: Book Three of the Structure Series

Martin Sketchley. Pyr, $15 paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-59102-492-7

In Sketchley's gritty third Structure novel (after The Destiny Mask and The Affinity Trap), intrepid time travelers Alexander Delgado and his former lover and intelligence officer, Ashala (aka "Ash"), must contend on the war-ravaged planet Seriatt with the conquering Sinz, a bizarre species consisting of three races—avian, amphibian and humanoid—some of whom can change shape. Delgado and Ash meet Cowell, a native vilume ("the most mysterious of the three Seriattic sexes," not to be confused with the three Sinz races), who joins them in the battle to prevent the Sinz from attacking Earth next. That Cowell later becomes erotically attached to the humans complicates their mission. Sketchley excels at depicting the futility of endless cultural conflicts, but readers should be prepared for some stomach-churning alien love and birthing scenes. (Nov.)

--Publishers Weekly, September 18, 2006

Sueños Nuevos Por Viejos

Steven H. Silver's Reviews has posted an enthusiastic review of Mike Resnick's short story collection, New Dreams for Old:

"New Dreams for Old provides an excellent introduction to the range of Resnick's writing and his interests. His transparent writing style allows the reader to fully enjoy the wide variety of stories, which range from personal introspective tales to galaxy-spanning adventures and morality plays. This collection, with ten Hugo-nominated stories (and two winners) and three Nebula-nominated stories is a wonderful addition to any sf collection and a reminder of the vast scope of modern science fiction."

Meanwhile, just for fun, compare this cover of the Spanish language editon of New Dreams for Old, Sueños Nuevos Por Viejos, to the original cover art by Stephan Martiniere. Hmmm, something familiar about this...

9/16/06

The Crooked State of Genre Reviews

Gabe Chouinard has posted at his site Urban Drift a long post that he styles a "Reviewerfesto Presented as an Excursive Essay Which May Actually Contain or Consist of a Review." Gabe is lamenting what he sees as the sad state of online genre book reviewing, using Sean Williams's The Crooked Letter (and to a lesser degree Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora - which I'm only about 40 pages into myself, but loving so far) as an example. Along the way he takes a few pot shots at other reviewers, including a few we've quoted here.

Now, I've got no desire to be drawn into the controversy about online reviewing to which Gabe alludes, nor is this the proper forum for it. Plus, while it's true that I'd rather not see our own marketing copy repurposed undigested as the intro to a reviewer's post, as a still relatively new imprint, the obstacle we face is obscurity not hyperbole. At this stage, we are grateful for every effort to help spread the word, and splitting hairs over the critical and linguistic strengths of individual critics and bloggers is best left to others. I will say I am opposed to the notion that every review must contain something negative simply for the sake of not being completely positive - and this is an opinion I formed when I was a journalist in Los Angeles in the mid-to-late 90s, not something born of my current position. At the same time, I think Gabe is essentially correct that a sea of hyperbole washes over deaf ears, whereas in-depth analysis may be more effective at driving reader interest. Certainly, Amazon maintains that good and bad reader reviews generates more curiosity about a title than straight positives - and while I don't know how to test this, certainly there is credence to the idea being that everyone knows not every book is for every person, and controversy causes potential readers to wonder into which side of the debate they themselves would fall. I suppose a lot of it has to do with why you read reviews to begin with. I read John Clute, for example, when I want to contemplate the genre thinking eruditely about itself. This is the same impulse that lead me to subscribe to Science Fiction Studies, and the impulse behind my own nonfiction anthology Projections: Science Fiction in Literature & Film. But generally I read reviews - in conjunction with interviews - to help me keep abreast of more writers and novels that I possibly have time to read, to stay informed of what everyone else is doing, and to see if there are any new writers I might want to work with in anthologies and elsewhere. (Related: when I began working in science fiction professionally in 1995, I felt that I gave up my right to shield myself from spoilers.)

So, with the caveat that Gabe's diatribe will have some shaking their heads in anger and others nodding theirs in agreement, and that his opinions while appreciated do not necessarily reflect my own, let's sift through the "reviewerfesto" for some opinions about The Crooked Letter. While his review is not 100% positive - indeed a major point of his revewerfesto is to decry the 100% positive review - Gabe says some very interesting and perceptive things:

"The Crooked Letter has a lot of things going for it, not least of which is its position at the fringes of generic epic fantasy. To all appearances, Williams has written a densely plot-driven adventure novel a la any comparable Gigantor Fantasy Series. Yet this is a sly and effective bit of sleight of hand, because The Crooked Letter plays in a different ballpark altogether than, say, Terry Brooks' latest novel. Hidden beneath the gloss of genre rests a multilayered treastise that presents a rather unique version of reality and the afterlife. At its heart, epic fantasy is a very morally conservative mode of fiction, concerned with maintaining the status quo of the author's subcreated world. Usually, such fantasy relies upon a (tired-out, naive) clearly cut distinction between Good and Evil. Occasionally, however, a novel will come along that challenges the simplistic notions of most generic fantasy by presenting a multifarious, mature examination of morality, spirituality, mythology and magic. The Crooked Letter is one of those latter novels."

Now, it might be worth noting here that Sean Williams wrote The Crooked Letter not only as the first book of a four book quartet, collectively known as The Books of the Cataclysm, but as a backstory for three different series. Before TCL, he published (currently only in Australia) a Young Adult series called The Books of Change, which first introduced his fractured, outback world of Stone Mages and Sky Wardens, a sort of Mad Max meets Earthsea environment of wizards and dune buggies. Then he wrote The Crooked Letter, which begins in the present (or in one of those 5-minutes-into-now type presents) and which explains how our world broke to become his world. The second book in The Books of the Cataclysm, The Blood Debt, jumps ahead about a millennium to his broken desert earth, picking up as it does so some of the characters - now adults - first introduced in his Books of the Change. (Note: I read the first two books of the adult series before I read the first book of the YA series and had no trouble following. You shouldn't either.) A series for middle readers, The Broken Land, will follow in 2007 (again, in Australia only as far as I know at this time).

So, The Crooked Letter is backstory for all three of these "trilogies." In fact, we debated publishing it as a stand alone and making The Books of the Cataclysm a simple trilogy, but ultimately decided against this - in part because the works already existed as a quartet in their Australian mass-market editions. Another possibility would have been to have published an omnibus of The Books of the Change as book two of a Cataclysm quintet, but the tonal shift from the Vellum slash Perdido Street Station-esque sophistication of The Crooked Letter to the lighter YA narrative of The Books of the Change, as well as the book long break before the events of TCL picked back up, would probably have made for an uneven read. Anyway, that's just roads not taken and water under the bridge, fun to think about but neither here nor there, etc... but hopefully it gives you a sense of why TCL is such a sophisticated foundational work. If I hadn't just referenced The Silmarillion in another post, I might be tempted to invoke it here.

But where Gabe intriguies me is here, where he puts his finger on the way in which Williams gets off the Campbell bandwagon, and in so doing seems to carve out something truly mythic:

"The Crooked Letter may look and read like any other 'epic fantasy' on the shelves... Most fantasy borrows liberally from the archetypes mapped out by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, to the point of cliche. But Sean Williams digs deeper, creating a Jungian puzzlebox of not cultural appropriation, but cultural redistribution, cultural recombination. At once drawing upon world mythology and remixing it from a non-religious point of view, Williams manages to create a working mythology for the whole world, no matter what country the reader may hail from. Williams fills The Crooked Letter with allusions and samples compulsively, DJ Z-Trip on paper. Quotations litter the text, in epigraphs and exposition, building a separate realm that exists somewhere above and beyond the text itself, like the footnotes in Danielewski's House of Leaves. The brothers' journeys take the Aboriginal walkabout and transforms it into a literalized metaphor, where the spiritual journey is brought to the fore and enacted throughout the novel. For the careful reader... this journey creates a powerful exploration of the possibility of the spiritual while divorced from the dogma."

Yes, that's it. Particularly the line "drawing upon world mythology and remixing it from a non-religious point of view." Williams - the atheist son of a minister with a fascination with comparative religion, set out with nothing less than the aim of constructing a believable "second realm" that could serve as the ur-reality that informed every world religion, as if his afterworld dimension leaked through imperfectly into human consciousness, and the plethora of spiritual systems that we have here is the result. In fact, and I hope he will forgive my saying so, we've joked about him accidentally spawning a cult. As he says, "First Church of the Cataclysm, perhaps? With the stated aim of stopping alien predators from eating our souls when we die by teaching acolytes the psychic equivalent of karate in order to prolong their afterlives? Hmmm. That's certainly no nuttier than anything else out there. "

I'm also interested in Gabe's thoughts about cultural redistribution, especially in light of this discussion on Vellum author Hal Duncan's blog. (Disclaimer: I read Hal's original post on the subject, but I link to his most recent, which is, like a lot of Hal's pontification, lonnnnnnnnng and therefore as yet unread by me.)

But getting back to Gabe:

"Unlike stock-in-trade fantasy, The Crooked Letter has resonance, relevance. There is a message here that delves far deeper than a generic, simplistic Good is Good, Evil is Evil message. Compared to the fluffery of most fantasy on the shelves, The Crooked Letter is a masterpiece despite its minor flaws."

Which is pretty much my opinion too, and what attracted me to this series in the first place.

Finally, Gabe also lays down some Pyr praise, which, after the long post above, I hope I can be excused for repeating here:

"Pyr has quickly and stylishly presented itself as the field's All-New All-Good Industry Midlist, giving home to a plenitude of excellent works... Pyr represents a new kind of vitality in the field... Pyr releases, unlike most small press editions, are widely distributed to mainstream bookstores, thereby ensuring that perhaps - just perhaps - a curious reader may discover gems like Chris Roberson's marvelous Paragaea, or the spectacular achievement of Ian McDonald's River of Gods."

Let's hope. And thanks to everyone who helps spread the word, with or sans hyperbole.

InfoView - David Louis Edelman on SFFWorld

Rob H. Bedford has just posted a new interview with David Louis Edelman on SFFWorld.

Speaking of his recent World Science Fiction convention appearance, Edelman says, "A few people did recognize me from the hat, but most people had no idea who I was until someone would say, "you know, the Infoquake guy." They seemed to recognize the title of the book. I guess it's a good thing I decided on something short and punchy rather than the book's original title, Randomly Generated Pleasurable Startle 37b."

Meanwhile, Edelman says he will make his next convention appearance at CapClave in Silver Spring, MD (October 20-22). Look for the guy in the hat!

9/15/06

Feast Your Eyes On This: Bright of the Sky

Am I allowed to have a favorite cover? If so, this could quite possibly be it. Stephan Martiniere's latest, with design by Jacqueline Cooke. This is Bright of the Sky, the first book in Kay Kenyon's exciting sci-fantasy quartet The Entire and the Rose. Kay, long recognized for her excellent world-building, has outdone herself with a tale of Titus Quinn, a human space pilot thrust into a pocket landscape called "the Universe Entire," ruled by an oppressive Overlord race and peopled with multiple bizarre creatures. Bright of the Sky is high adventure & high concept, in the vein of Dan Simmons Hyperion or Philip José Farmer's Riverworld. The world has a somewhat Mandarin flavor, and sits right between science fiction and fantasy - all of which Stephan captures brilliantly. The book is due out from Pyr in April, 2007.

Love X 3 from the LJ

This from the LIBRARY JOURNAL September 15, 2006 Issue:

Foster, Alan Dean. Sagramanda: A Novel of Near-Future India. Pyr:Prometheus. Oct. 2006. c.290p. ISBN 1-59102-488-9. $25. SF Taneer is an Indian scientist who has stolen a secret project code from a multinational corporation. On the run from both the organization and his unforgiving father, he meets and falls for Dephali, a beautiful woman of India's untouchable class. Add a farmer-turned-merchant, a Kali-worshipping Frenchwoman, a chief inspector, and a man-eating tiger and the result is a fast-paced urban adventure set in a near-future India of high technology and desperate people. The prolific author of the Pip and Flinx novels (his latest, Trouble Magnet, publishes in November) adds to his considerable body of work with this polished hybrid of page-turning action and taut suspense that belongs in large collections. [For another novel about a future India, see Ian McDonald's River of Gods.-Ed.] --SF/FANTASY By Jackie Cassada, Asheville Buncombe Lib. Syst., NC

Meaney, John. To Hold Infinity. Pyr: Prometheus. Sept. 2006. c.529p. ISBN 1-59102-489-7. $25. SF When newly widowed biologist Yoshiko Sunadomari travels to the planet Fulgar to reconnect with her estranged son Tetsuo, she discovers that he has run afoul of the Luculenti, the planet's genetically changed ruling elite, and is now wanted for murder. Yoshiko undertakes a mission to clear Tetsuo's name, putting herself directly in the path of Rafael Garcia de la Vega, whose nefarious schemes hold the planet in social and political turmoil. The author of the Nulapeiron Sequence (Paradox; Context; Resolution) has crafted a far-reaching vision of a future filled with potentials for both darkness and light, as seen through the eyes of a remarkably gifted and devoted woman. An excellent choice for most sf collections. --SF/FANTASY By Jackie Cassada, Asheville Buncombe Lib. Syst., NC

Williams, Sean. The Blood Debt. Pyr: Prometheus. (Books of the Cataclysm: Two). Oct. 2006. c.476p. ISBN 1-59102-493-5. $25. FANTASY Sal Hrvati's estranged father has brought a creature from the Void Beneath into the world, and now Sal and his friends embark on a quest to find his errant father. Their journey takes them on a search for magical artifacts on the floor of the great crack in the earth known as the Divide. The second installment in the author's "Books of the Cataclysm" series (after The Crooked Letter) follows the adventures of three companions who battle the unknown to save their families. Set partly in the modern world and partly in a fantasy environment drawn from archetypal myths and legends, this epic belongs in most fantasy collections. --SF/FANTASY By Jackie Cassada, Asheville Buncombe Lib. Syst., NC

9/14/06

Justina in the NYRSF

The New York Review of Science Fiction, August 2006 issue, has this to say about Justina Robson's Silver Screen:

"The major strength of Silver Screen is its central character, Anjuli. She is short and cubby, sure that her only talent is her eidetic memory, that she is otherwise unworthy of her role in AI research and her position among her friends. Yet, as Beckett might say, she goes on. Her confusion and insecurity make her determination more interesting than any glamour or daring would, and the novel's focus on this character, rounded in more ways than her figure, gives it a heft that solidifies its exploration of alternate intelligences."

Which, I think, is what makes Justina Robson's writing so wonderful - hard SF, well crafted female characters, and, as New York Times reviewer David Itzkoff recently commented about another of her books, "the first thing a reader notices about her work is the exquisite precision and thoughtfulness of her writing."

9/13/06

Science Fiction Gets Global with Two Novels of 21st Century India

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 13, 2006

CONTACT: Jill Maxick
800-853-7545 or jmaxick@prometheusbooks.com


Science Fiction Gets Global with Two Novels of 21st Century India

Amherst, New York—Science fiction authors have always been a forward-thinking group, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that they are turning their attentions to addressing the technological rise of the nation of India. Now, Pyr, the SF&F imprint from Prometheus Books, has published not one but two novels set in this emerging superpower.

Ian McDonald’s Clarke- and Hugo-nominated River of Gods, published March 2006, has been hailed as “a major achievement from a writer who is becoming one of the best SF novelists of our time” (Washington Post, May 28, 2006). Set in the year 2047, on the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of a nation, River of Gods teems with the life of a country choked with peoples and cultures—one and a half billion people, twelve semi-independent nations, nine million gods. McDonald’s novel, like the best of speculative fiction, projects the India of today forward to the middle of the 21st century, to a time when artificial intelligences of almost godlike capabilities exist amid a country still torn between ancient superstitions and fantastic technologies.

As for his reasons for setting his science fiction in South Asia, McDonald says, “Sometimes you just stand up like a meerkat and see where the future is coming from. In this case: one billion English-speaking people, the world's biggest democracy, education education education, a vibrant enterprise culture and six thousand years of history . . . Jai Hindustan!

Best-selling author Alan Dean Foster brings his vision to bear on an even-nearer future. With its subtitle “A novel of Near-Future India,” Sagramanda (to be published October 3, 2006) presents a fast-paced and gripping techno-thriller set in an India just around the corner from today. Foster imagines the fictional city of Sagramanda, city of 100 million—this is the story of Taneer, a scientist who has absconded with his multinational corporation’s secret project code and who is now on the run from both the company and his father. Sure to appeal to both SF fans and mystery/suspense enthusiasts, Sagramanda has been described as an “unpredictable thriller, whose multiple threads Foster juggles like the professional he is” (Publishers Weekly, August 21, 2006).

“One sixth of humanity lives in India and the other five-sixths hardly know anything about it,” says Foster. “I thought people should. They’d better.”

Infinity and the Infoquake

SFRevu has just posted a review of John Meaney's To Hold Infinity. A completely stand-alone novel set in the same universe (but not the same world) as his Nulapeiron Sequence; it could almost be viewed as his Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings. We brought it out after the sequence, in a first hardcover edition that the Jim Burns artwork has always deserved.

SFRevu says, "Meaney delivers a cautionary tale of a future world and augmented humans. Much is taken for granted and not explained, but his world works and his characters come alive. Like other writers, both American and British, he uses Japanese characters, the concept of a warrior culture, and ritual combat to frame a struggle for world or even universal domination."

Here's the full wrap-around, cover design by Jacqueline Cooke: (white lines delineating the spine not on the final):

Meanwhile, one wonders if John will write a Silmarillion one day.

In other news, LA Splash has this to say about David Louis Edelman's Infoquake:

"Infoquake is one of those books that hooks you into the story and makes you never want to put the book down. ...find yourself unable to stop thinking about the questions raised by the story. It is a book that describes the ultimate quagmire created when greed competes against decency."

A Princess of Moscow

When I was what is now called a pre-teen, my father took me in a bookstores (A B. Dalton's I believe) and handed me the Del Rey mass market edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars with the Michael Whelan cover and said, "Here, read this."

Now, I didn't like to do anything I was told, and since my father was a lawyer, and appreciated a good argument if properly presented, I said, "But it has a naked woman on the cover."

"I know it has a naked woman on the cover," said my father, "but it's still a good book. And you're going to read it."

Which pretty much started this whole science fiction thing for me. Not only did I read it, but 62 other ERB books over the next year, including the whole Martian series, the whole Venus series, the Earth's Core books, and so on. Eventually, when the supply of Burroughs was exhausted, I graduated to such luminaries as Fritz Lieber, Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov... By which time it was far too late for me.

So, basically, I'm pretty happy with John Joseph Adams' latest "Strong Medicine" review in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, where in he discusses Chris Roberson's Paragaea: A Planetary Romance:

"It's neo-pulp; that is, it's written in the tradition of the pulp masters of the past—Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, et al.—but is written in a modern style more accessible to contemporary readers. Roberson knows his pulp well and has fun exploring and reinventing the tropes of that era, and he does so in a fresh, original, and—most importantly—fun way. And like Burroughs's Barsoom stories, Roberson's Paragaea is otherworldly swashbuckling action-adventure at its finest.... You like sense of wonder? This book's got sense of wonder. By the bucketful. There might not be any Great Toonoolian Marshes on Paragaea, but there might as well be; Paragaea is this generation's A Princess of Mars. Read it with your mind's eye wide open, so you can take it all in. "

9/12/06

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Ivory

For your viewing pleasure, the cover of Mike Resnick's Ivory: A Legend of Past and Future, due from Pyr in August of next year. Arwork is by the marvelous Bob Eggleton - our first time working with him and hopefully a sign of many good things to come. Cover design is by our own Grace Zilsberger, her second Pyr cover after Keeping It Real.

Another of Mike's famous "Africa tales," Ivory is the story of Duncan Rojas, senior researcher for Braxton's Records of Big Game, and the mysterious Bukoba Mandaka, last of the Maasai, who hires him to track down the legendary tusks of the Kilimanjaro Elephant. Mike's Kirinyaga tales, in their collected book edition, form one of my top ten favorite science fiction works of all time. In fact, I have given away or recommended Kirinyaga several times as a perfect "entry level" science fiction novel for the uninitiated since I originally read it back in 1998. But I hadn't read Ivory until Mike suggested it to me as a possible reprint for Pyr. When I did - it swiftly blew me away, and now ranks as one of my all time favorite Resnick stories. The novel intertwines three narratives - the tale of the ivory tusk's journey as they change hands through space and time, the story of the narrator as he becomes increasingly suspicious of his strange employer, and the story of the last days of the Kilimanjaro Elephant itself. The work is powerful enough that - believe it or not - I find myself on the verge of tearing up when I describe it here. Sorry, it's just that I know how the book ends. But you all will just have to wait. Still, one look at that Eggleton cover, and I bet you think the wait is worth it, no?

9/11/06

Infoquake: Agony Column Interview & SFRevu Review

Rick Kleffel of The Agony Column has conducted a long, in-depth interview with Infoquake author David Louis Edelman. The interview is online in its entirety in both MP3 and RealAudio formats. Meanwhile, it will air in edited form on KUSP on September 22nd, and will appear at some point as part of another program on NPR (details as we have them).

In his online introduction, Rick says, "I loved this novel, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. It stayed with me, this economic vision of the future as one giant marketing meeting and product development push. The characters were quite well delineated, the vision of the future seemed an entertaining twist on the present and the plot, about a last-minute product-launch crush, was so reminiscent of my own experiences that it seemed really gripping."

Now, this is really interesting to me.

Infoquake is getting rave reviews, with some sites calling it "a triumph of speculation," and "the science fiction book of the year," with multiple comparisons to the work of Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, and Vernor Vinge. But you notice that one of the things which Rick - who is very enthusiastic about the work overall - responds to is that Infoquake was "so reminiscent of my own experiences."

Now, why is that interesting to me? Well, my own love for Infoquake is probably coupled tightly with the fact that in 2000 I worked right in the heart of the dot com bubble, for an online publishing start-up in downtown San Francisco. And I worked for Natch. Utterly. He was a she, but it was Natch.

I remember coming into work one day, and my boss started enthusing about this "terrific" book she was reading on the "three stages of company building." She explained that first you hired trail blazers, whose job was to hack out the territory from the jungle. Then, she said, you fired them and replaced them with company builders, who knew how to build the infrastructure. They were in turn to be replaced by managerial types, who had the skills necessary to run a sustainable company on a day-to-day basis.

"Wait," I said, "Are you telling me now that after we've busted our humps building this company for you, you are going to fire us all and replace us with suits?"

"Any of us," she said with a air of incredulity at my ignorance that dared me to take issue, "should be willing to step down for the good of the company. Why, I'd stand aside myself if I thought it was the right thing to do."

"Yes," I thought, but didn't say aloud, "but you'd still own it."

So you see, I was uniquely suited to appreciate David's work.

But while the book is getting rave reviews everywhere, the one or two folks who haven't liked it, or have minor problems with it, seem to also be people who have also worked for a Natch of their own.

Now, I see that SFRevue, who likes the book enough to continue with the series and says, "he's got a good grasp of corporate warfare and I'm interested enough to want to see where he goes with the story from here," nonetheless complains that "the characters in the book are quite like people I've known in the world of international entrepreneurship. Work is their life, and much as I channel the puritan ethos myself, it's hard to do anything other than feel sorry for them as they ramp themselves up for another 36 hour stint to prepare for the next dog and pony show."

Now, I'm not arguing with the SFRevue review, not at all. Please don't think that. And there review is a 90% positive one. The more apropo examples I'm thinking of are from private conversations. I'm just interested to see that Rick and I liked the book because we knew the characters, where others have seen this as a detriment. And I wonder why that is.

I wonder too if it has to do with the fact that some readers today have a problem with flawed protagonists. I'm just posing a question here, but it may be a side effect of the Hollywood formula film that we are less prepared to enjoy unsympathetic or unethical leads these days. Certainly, I've seen a few critics call out flawed leads as "daring" choices in their reviews. But that suggests they are also rare choice in today's clime. So, is it a problem for today's audience - to read about someone who is less than perfect? I don't know. And yet, wasn't the Achilles Heel one of the essentials of Greek tragedy?

Entertainment Weekly Gives Mappa Mundi an A-, SFFWorld Loves Resnick

Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi has just received a great review in the September 15th issue of Entertainment Weekly:

"For fans of Brave New World or Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, if they met Thomas Pynchon in a cybercafé. Lowdown: A lyrical, attentively written anti-utopia. Grade: A-"

Meanwhile, Rob H. Bedford, over at SFFWorld, has this to say about Mike Resnick's New Dreams for Old:

"New Dreams for Old, with its gorgeous Stephan Martiniere cover, is terrific collection displaying Mike Resnick’s wonderful storytelling abilities across the range of speculative fiction. What makes these stories so great is, despite their far out and fantastical settings, how intimately they touch upon the human condition, both now and in the future, even through the eyes of robots and elephants."

I'm particularly gratified Rob mentions the Stephan Martiniere cover, as I love seeing artists getting their due. Stephan also provided the cover for Mappa Mundi as well.

9/10/06

Masterpieces & the Problematic Trilogy

The October/November 2006 double issue of Asimov's Science Fiction has an On Books column from Norman Spinrad entitled "The Big Kahuna." This time out, Spinrad reviews our books - John Meaney's Resolution and Ian McDonald's River of Gods, along with Del Rey author Peter F. Hamilton's Pandora's Star and Judas Unchained.

Thematically, the piece is something of a follow-up to his earlier "Aussies, Brits and Yanks," which appeared in the April/May 2006 Double Issue of Asimov's and which was exclusively devoted to five Pyr titles - all reviewed quite favorably. In fact, Spinrad quotes extensively from that review in this one.

This time out, Spinrad is less than 100% about John Meaney, though it is worth noting that his criticisms of the work are more to do with what he sees as the marketing and economic realities of SF publishing today, which- as dictated by the major chains refusal to stock hardcover works with a price point over $25 - in his opinion force publishers to break works which should have been single mammoth tomes into a duology or trilogy format.

Spinrad says, "This presents the writer with a literary problem, it produces a paradox that is inherently impossible to resolve fully. To wit, do you presume that the only readership for books two and three are people who have already read book one--and worse, that the only readership for book three is those who have read the first two volumes? Or do you attempt to make each book a novel that anyone can pick up and read cold?"

Whichever way the author chooses to address these questions leads to compromise in Spinrad's estimation, though he acknowledges that Meaney "does as good and clever a job of bringing the reader who missed the first two up to date without turning off the reader who hasn't as perhaps can be done." Along the way he praises Meaney for certain courageous narrative choices and even gives him points for making good on a promise that Frank Herbert never lived to fulfill in his own Dune series. (So, I'm pretty happy with his overall assessment.)

Now, I cannot speak as to what editorial pressures might or might not have shaped the Nulapeiron Sequence as the work was already available from its UK publisher (Bantam/Transworld) before I came on the scene. It was then, and remains today, one of my favorite works of hard science fiction from the last decade. Nor have I read Peter F. Hamilton's duology, which Spinrad sees as suffering from the same problem. Though I must say Spinrad's assessment of Pandora's Star does pique my interest and turn me off for the very reason's he states. (I may end up adding it to the enormous reading pile eventually, however, being tipped over the edge by learning here that Hamilton uses the speculative device of interstellar railway lines connecting commuters across the stars via wormhole traversing trains - an idea which fascinated me when I first encountered it back in 1992 in Ben Aaronovitch's brilliant Transit, one of the best of the Doctor Who books from the Virgin line and a media tie-in work that managed that rare feat of being genuine speculative fiction. Come to think of it, Peter did look a bit like Colin Baker at Interaction last year. But I digress...)

Norman Spinrad does raise an interesting point, whether correctly or incorrectly applied in this case. I know that I would have much preferred Gene Wolfe's recent Wizard Knight as the single book which Locus insists on calling it. And I did pick up the SFBC's edition of Sean Williams's and Shane Dix's Geodesica, precisely because I wanted to read that work in its one intended volume. That and the collector that I am always prefer hardcovers to paperbacks. But it's hard to fault publishers when they are up against the realities of what the chains will or will not bear - I think we're all agreed that it's certainly better to publish a Gene Wolfe work in two volumes than not at all - and I couldn't truthfully promise you'd never, ever see such a contrived duology from Pyr. (None so far but never say never.) Nor is this phenomenon necessarily new - wasn't The Lord of the Rings originally conceived as one tome? Still, I'm curious about Spinrad's proposed alternative, as with his novel Russian Spring, which his French publisher elected to publish "as two volumes without hiding that this was one continuous novel and published them simultaneously. You could buy volume one and read it before you decided whether you wanted to go on, and if you did, you could buy the second volume immediately, or you could buy both at one time, or, in the case of Russian Spring, the two volumes in a fancy boxed set." Would such a solution work over here? I don't know, but it bears thinking about, and I'd love to hear some further discussion on the subject.

Meanwhile, I can't say I'm anything but absolutely thrilled with Spinrad's opinion that Ian McDonald's River of Gods is "a literary masterpiece." Spinrad writes that "I can't think of a better science fiction novel I've read in years.... This novel is a masterpiece of science fiction by any meaningful standard and even some that are not." Spinrad is certainly not the first to offer this sort of opinion, with the Washington Post proclaiming that River is "a major achievement from a writer who is becoming one of the best sf novelists of our time" and F&SF hailing the work as one of those once in a blue moon masterpieces like Neuromancer, Altered Carbon, or Perdido Street Station. Certainly, River of Gods is the book that has best plugged into the immediate zeitgeist (Charles Stross's Accelerando sequence being the previous holder of that honor, though I would place their greatest impact as when his tales appeared in their original Asimov's run as individual stories.) But it will be interesting to see if a) like Charlie's Accelerando narrative, River of Gods gives rise/calls attention to any similar global/nonWestern centric works in its wake, in the way that Charlie kick started the recent wave of Vingean Singularity fiction to the forefront, and b) if decades hence McDonald's masterpiece will indeed be remembered on a par with such classics as Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, or Neuromancer. Time will shortly answer that first question but we'll have to wait a bit longer before we are sure of the latter.

9/7/06

Crooked Contest @ Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

A contest to win one of two copies of Sean Williams's The Crooked Letter, first volume of his Books of the Cataclysm series, starts today on Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. Here are the details. Good luck!

Pat says, "Pyr books are gradually making a very good name for themselves, with many of their releases pleasing fans and reviewers alike. As such, Pyr books are a welcome addition to the speculative fiction publishing world. Sean Williams' The Crooked Letter was brought to my attention by a number of positive reviews. To all ends and purposes, this novel appears to be something else, something special."

Well, we certainly agree. Sean's fantasy is quite extraordinary. As Hal Duncan (author of Vellum), has said, “Williams’s mix of grand metaphysical vision, weird landscapes and wild adventure makes for a great read, but it's the deeply human story at the heart of The Crooked Letter that really makes it something wonderful."

Meanwhile, Sean has uploaded some very fun photos from the World Science Fiction Convention, including shots of his visit to see Gary Numan playing at the House of Blues, the author of several Star Wars novels with a group of Stormtroopers, and this shot of Sean and Garth Nix in the Batmobile.

9/6/06

The Prodigal Comes Home

Lenora Rose, of the Green Man Review, has just posted a review of one of our earliest titles, Charles Coleman Finlay's wonderful The Prodigal Troll:

"Charles Coleman Finlay has made a name for himself already with a variety of experimental short stories and novellas that span almost every branch of fantasy and science fiction (many of which can now be found in his collection, Wild Things). His first novel, The Prodigal Troll, was highly anticipated and has been strongly lauded, and it's a book that I can recommend even as I can say that aspects of it were not to my own taste. Everything Charlie Finlay wanted to accomplish in this book he did, successfully. I was well intrigued by the prologue, and from part two onward, I was entranced by the story.... There's a sense of impending tragedy in the book, yet while the story is gritty, it's never entirely bleak. Maggot is courageous and resourceful and utterly himself, the people he meet prove to have more dimensions than he presumes when he meets them, and the choices he makes have the ring of truth. It's cliché to say I look forward to more from this author, but ... I really do."

9/5/06

Full Cover Spread for The Libery Gun

Because you can never have too much art, right? Here is the full cover spread for Martin Sketchley's The Liberty Gun, third and final (for now) volume of his three part Structure series (coming from Pyr in November). Artwork is by the wonderful Dave Seeley, layout & design by Jacqueline Cooke. Click to see the larger image.
Of Martin's deftly plotted action adventures, SciFiDimensions has said that it "will appeal both to fans of Richard Morgan’s cyber-noir adventures and lovers of the kind of martial futuristics published in great quantities by Baen Books.”

More Love for the Quake

William Lexner, on I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away the Ending:

"Infoquake describes a free-enterprise future that may be the most alarming yet, due to its sheer believability .... David Louis Edelman keeps the action coming at a breakneck pace, and despite the lack of SFnal tropes such as interstellar travel and space battles, Infoquake never lacks in excitement. The politics are fascinating, and the day-to-day juggling performed by corporate officers have never been so interesting .... The historical background mapped out by Edelman in the multiple appendices, along with the timelines provided show a world as rich with history as our own, and only rivaled in speculative fiction by J.R.R. Tolkien and perhaps George R.R. Martin. As a softcover first edition, Infoquake seems an obvious frontrunner in the race to win this years Philip K. Dick Award."

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Breakaway

For your viewing pleasure, the front cover of Joel Shepherd's Breakaway, the second book in the Cassandra Kresnov series. The first book in the series, Crossover, was released this past August. It was described by Publishers Weekly thusly: "Set in the far future, Australian author Shepherd's energetic debut introduces Cassandra Kresnov, an experimental killer android-with-a-heart....Shepherd's intriguing heroine and strong female characters bode well for this projected series. Lacing Cassandra's search for identity and acceptance with plenty of hand-to-hand combat and racy sexual exploits, Shepherd also convincingly presents vividly realized ethical dilemmas....Shepherd grapples with some genuinely thought-provoking questions on the nature of humanity.”

Artwork is by the incomparable Stephan Martiniere, whose cover for the previous Cassandra Kresnov book, Crossover, was shown at the Hugo Ceremony when his nomination for Best Artist was read out. Design is once again by Prometheus' Jacqueline Cooke. Breakaway appears from Pyr in April, 2007.

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Keeping It Real

For your viewing pleasure, the front cover of Justina Robson's Keeping It Real: Quantum Gravity Book One. A tale of sex, elves and rock'n'roll, Keeping it Real has been described by SFWorld as "Justina ‘out to play’. And boy, does she have fun! So – think an enthusiastic melange of Laurell K. Hamilton’s Meredith Gentry, Tad Williams’ War of the Flowers, Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat, a touch of Marianne dePierre’s Parrish Plessis, even The Bionic Woman or Transformers, and you get an idea of how much fun this book is.”

Cover art is by the wonderful Larry Rostant, who also provided the cover for the UK edition. I loved the slick, Matrix-esque depiction of protagonist Lila Black in Larry's original image, but asked him if we could add an element to speak to the fantasy side of this sci-fantasy as novel as well. (I think the addition of rock star Zal sets up a nice sense of tension and expectation between the two figures. What do you think?) Meanwhilek, layout/design is by Prometheus's in-house artist Grace Zilsberger, making her Pyr debut. I love the clean, iconic layout she's come up with and look forward to working with her on many more Pyr covers.

Keeping it Real will be published in N. America in March, 2007. More exciting KIR news soon, I promise.

New Books by Robson & Meaney Out This Month

This month, we have two new books making their debut (and already spotted on the shelf at a local B&N). Coincidentally, both are tales of technological mind-control, albeit one is a techno-thriller set just around the corner from now and the other takes place in the future on a world far, far away.

Justina Robson's Mappa Mundi is a novel of hard SF exploring the nature of identity both inherited and engineered, from one of Britain’s most acclaimed new talents. In the near future, when medical nanotechnology has made it possible to map a model of the living human brain, radical psychologist Natalie Armstrong sees her work suddenly become crucial to a cutting-edge military project for creating comprehensive mind-control. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Jude Westhorpe, FBI specialist, is tracking a cold war defector long involved in everything from gene sequencing to mind-mapping. But his investigation has begun to affect matters of national security—throwing Jude and Natalie together as partners in trouble—deep trouble from every direction. This fascinating novel explores the nature of humanity in the near future, when the power and potential of developing technologies demand that we adapt ourselves to their existence—whatever the price.

Publishers Weekly gave Mappa Mundi a starred review, saying, "Robson's third novel to appear in the U.S. ... maintains throat-tightening suspense from its teasingly enigmatic introduction of its major characters to its painful conclusion that evil will succeed if well-meaning people try to achieve good at any cost....Shortlisted for the 2001 Arthur C. Clarke Award, this near-future SF thriller presents convincing characters caught in profound moral dilemmas brought home through exquisite attention to plot details and setting."

John Meaney's To Hold Infinity is a stand-alone novel set in the same universe as (but centuries before) his acclaimed Nulapeiron Sequence.

Devastated by her husband’s death, Earth-based biologist Yoshiko Sunadomari journeys to the paradise world of Fulgar to see her estranged son in the hope of bridging the gulf between them. But Tetsuo is in trouble. His expertise in mu-space technology and family links with the mysterious Pilots have ensured his survival — so far. Now he’s in way over his head — unwittingly caught up in a conspiracy of illegal tech-trafficking and corruption, and in the sinister machinations of one of Fulgar’s ruling elite: the charismatic Luculentus, Rafael Garcia de la Vega. When his home is attacked, Tetsuo flees to the planet’s unterraformed wastes, home to society’s outcasts and eco-terrorists.

So Yoshiko arrives on Fulgar to discover Tetsuo gone ... and wanted for murder. Ill at ease in this strange, stratified new world seething with social and political unrest but desperate to find her son and clear his name, she embarks on a course of action that will bring her face to face with the awesome, malevolent mind of Rafael.

Connie Willis says of John Meaney's To Hold Infinity: “Dazzlingly imagined and dazzlingly executed…this is a work of true uniqueness by a true talent. Wow!” Publishers Weekly claims that Meaney “...brings a bright lights/big city sensibility to the normally streetwise milieu of advanced neuro-tech.”

9/4/06

Miéville and King Comparisons for Williams

Two more favorable reviews for Sean Williams's The Crooked Letter.

JP at SFSignal describes the book as "Non-standard fantasy setting, loads of different deity figures, interesting premise," and says, "if you're looking for a good non-standard fantasy book, pick up The Crooked Letter." (Be warned, though, that there are some pretty big spoilers in his book description.)

Meanwhile, Neth Space calls Williams "an author to watch," and says Williams's writing is "as dark and gritty as a Miéville novel, as strange as Stephen King, and more accessible than either."

9/2/06

Stross and Gibson Comparisons for Edelman

Two more favorable reviews for David Louis Edelman's Infoquake.

Ryun Patterson of Bookgam offers a comparison to William Gibson's Neuromancer and says, "Infoquake is a triumph of speculation. Edelman has foreseen a nanotech future of warring corporations and stock markets of personal enhancement in which both the good and the bad of the present day is reflected with an even hand and startling clarity."

Meanwhile, JP at SFSignal gives Infoquake 4 1/2 stars. He sites similarities to Orson Scott Card and Frank Herbert and says, "A very strong debut novel mixing a historically detailed timeline with an intriguing technological future. David Louis Edelman makes reading about corporate shenanigans fun.... Edelman seems to be channeling Charlie Stross in his ability to imagine future tech and the consequences arising from its use."

And for those in Baltimore and Northern Virginia, David Louis Edelman will be making two appearances next week. On Tuesday, September 5, at 7:00 P.M., he will be making an appearance at the Barnes & Noble in White Marsh, MD to promote Infoquake. And on Thursday, September 7, at 7:30 P.M., he'll be reading and signing at the Barnes & Noble in Reston, VA.

Finally, David has uploaded a handful of photos to Flickr of the August 12 Infoquake launch party (featuring the world famous Infocake).

Meanwhile, I hope we can be forgiven for calling attention to this final line of the Bookgasm review, "Pyr is quickly becoming the standard by which all other sci-fi imprints are judged, and Infoquake is no exception. This book is billed as the first of a trilogy, and for once, that’s a good thing."