Ahead of the Curve
One of the nice benefits of being an author and/or having a blog a few people visit is now I get advance reader copies of books I want before the rest of mass of humanity gets its grubby little paws on them; naturally I have to taunt the rest of you with them now. Here’s the most recent batch, sent to me by publishers or acquired during my recent trip to Tor:
Vellum, by Hal Duncan: I met the estimable Mr. Duncan briefly at Interaction, at the Orbit party, and I’ve been hearing good things about this, his debut novel, so I was definitely pleased to see in my office when I rolled in late last night (via rental car; my flight was delayed so there no more connecting flights when I got to Detroit, but Detroit is close enough to home that a rental car option was not totally stupid). I know nothing about the book other than that it is nominally fantasy and that it’s supposedly one of those things that you either love or you wish to strangle the author for committing to paper. If that’s true, either way Duncan’s already won, since people will talk about the book no matter what. As for myself, the promise of unconventional fantasy work always appeals to me on a theoretical level. I’ll let you know whether I feel like strangling Duncan after reading it; in the meantime I commend you to his blog, where he writes quite interesting rants on writing and other subjects.
Farthing, by Jo Walton: As most of you may already know, Ms. Walton has contributed what I think is a truly excellent short story for the issue of Subterranean magazine that I’ve edited, so when I was in the Tor office and saw the readers copies for this, I startled an editorial assistant with the avidity with which I lunged for the stack to grab my own copy. This was described to me by Patrick Nielsen Hayden as a charming English late 1940s murder mystery, set in an alternate history England that is not nearly as nice as the one we ended up having. I’m very much looking forward to this one.
Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge: I started this one last night and probably would have finished it on the plane to Dayton, had there been a plane to Dayton, which there wasn’t. I ended up driving, and as much as I was enjoying this book, I chose not to read and drive at the same time, for which I think the entire driving population of Interstate 75 from Detroit to Dayton is thankful. As it is, I’m about two-thirds of the way through this one. Charlie Stross’ comment about this being the new benchmark novel for near-current SF is pretty accurate so far; at the very least it’s been immensely enjoyable and the first Vernor Vinge novel I’ve read so far that you could give to a non-SF reader without some ramp-up, and as you all know by now I think having good SF accessible to non-geeks is a good thing.
The Ocean and all its Devices by WIlliam Browning Spencer: This was sent to me by Subterranean Press in a box that contained my author copies of “Questions for a Soldier” — which reminds me that shortly I’ll make a post about that and the other Subterranean Press chapbooks for 2005. It’s a short story collection. I’d not heard of Mr. Spencer before, but so far I’m liking the stories I’ve read. Spencer’s prose is writerly without fumbling over into being ornate for ornate’s sake; I like reading authors with that much control over their language. I’m also paticularly fond of the book’s introduction, in which Spencer ruminates about fame, karma, obscurity and poverty, sometimes all in the same sentence. But then I’m unnaturally fond of forwards and introductions in books. In any event, if you’re a short story fan, this is worth looking into.
In other writerly news, over the weekend I discovered Old Man’s War was part of Locus Magazine’s Recommended Reading List for 2005; it’s there in the “First Novels” category, in excellent company with books from folks like Elizabeth Bear, Tim Pratt, Justine Larbalestier, Jay Lake, Charles Coleman Finlay, Sarah Monette and the aforementioned Hal Duncan among others. Yes, the class of 2005 does kick ass, thank you very much.
Not among the first novel selections is Scott Westerfeld, but two(!) of his novels show up in the YA list, and to top it off he’s got a big ass article about himself in the Melbourne Age newspaper, which you can read here. There’s a picture too, which looks good except for the shirt, which looks like it’s been attacked by a flock of incontinent ostrich. But, hey, maybe that’s hip in Australia.