The Book Haul, 6/10/08

At the doorstep today, a lot of stuff from Ace, and a couple of things from Del Rey:

First, I’m happy to say that this is the first week in a long time in which all the book covers which feature women actually bother to show the whole woman — i.e., that thing where they chop off half the woman’s head in order to draw your attention to the model’s chest and/or midriff seems to be trailing off somewhat. I think this is a positive thing in a general sense; while I don’t have a real problem with the half-faced woman thing as a graphic element, if you see too many of them in sequence (as I have recently) you begin to get a little creeped out by it. Mind you, and as you can see, it is not as if taut women’s bodies are getting a short shrift this week (the winner of this week’s “this cover model has writhed up from my teenage heavy metal video dreams” award, incidentally, goes to the one on the cover of Yasmine Galenorn’s Dragon Wytch), but it’s nice to have a face to go with the other body parts. So thank you, art directors.

Quick notes on some of what’s come in:

* Saturn’s Children, which is Charles Stross’ latest, and his tribute to late-era Heinlein, with everything that implies. I can’t be relied upon to be an objective observer of the book, not in the least because Charlie very amusingly name-checks me in the book (which I didn’t know about, so it made have a goofy grin after I read it). But as a fan of both Charlie and Heinlein, you can imagine I really enjoyed this romp through the solar system, following a former pleasurebot (see cover) now at loose ends because humans have died off, leaving her without a purpose (not a good thing for a pleasurebot). We’re still three weeks out from release on this book, but it’s already generating lots of discussion, and I have a suspicion it’ll be one of Charlie’s most talked-about books. Which says a lot, considering how much he’s already talked about in SF circles.

* I met Marjorie M. Liu in Glasgow at the 2005 Worldcon, just before her first book came out, but she was already famous as being the woman who got a seven-book deal while still at the Clarion writing workshop. I suspect the fact that she’s a really nice person persuaded her classmates from strangling her. She’s since hit the New York Times bestseller list, which just seems like piling on, really. The Iron Hunt is her first book for Ace, and I’m going to let Marjorie say more about it when she does a Big Idea piece here in a couple of weeks, right around the release date of the book.

* People keep asking me if I know about the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. Yes, I say, I know about the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. Good, they say, because it’s really good space opera stuff, and that’s what you write. Yes, I say, I’ve heard rumors to the effect. And then they say, so do you know when the next Lost Fleet book will be out. To which I say, why yes, The Lost Fleet: Valiant comes out on June 24th. At which point they go off, apparently to save up their loose change for two weeks from today.

* The Bearskin Rug is the third Jennifer Stevenson erotic paranormal novel I’ve gotten in the last month, which makes a bit of sense, since the books (the other two being The Brass Bed and The Velvet Chair, both out) are coming out a month apart, on the presumed thinking that when readers finish one, they’ll want the next, like, instantly. I can’t help but think that qualifies as a vote of confidence on the part of the publisher. This is also out on the 24th.

Your thoughts and comments about the books in these stacks?

59 Comments on “The Book Haul, 6/10/08”

  1. I’ve seen at least one review of Saturn’s Children (either Locus or Publisher’s Weekly, I forget which) that notes that not only does Stross invoke Heinlein’s non-Juvie tropes within the covers, but the dust jacket is a direct homage to “Friday”. Except she wasn’t smiling so happily.

    I had been under the impression that Stross was making an RAH-like juvie, but apparently, most specifically, not.

    Jealousy also applies to the Koontz. Was he doing another marathon signing session? Last time I was at an LA BEA, he signed for something like six hours straight: one fan brought in a literal steamer trunk full of books (limit ten at a time, IIRC, he then got back in line).

  2. Receiving all those books week after week would feel like a never-ending X-mas. Can’t wait to get my hands on Patricia Briggs’, Marjorie Liu’s, and Ann Aguirre’s books. They sound and look great. Of course the fact that I read slowly would be a problem, but I’d figure out a way to cope.

  3. Love RAH, love Stross. So now the question is, “How do I get Charlie’s latest into the house w/o my wife mocking me after seeing the cover ?” ;)

  4. I’ve actually read the Jennifer Stevenson’s and they are flat out hilarious. More of a spoof on paranormal romance, but funny as hell. I’d say give the first one a shot; it would be worth a Big Idea in any case.

    By the way, Jennifer belongs to a roller derby team in Chicago, so you know she’s got to be cool. ;-)

  5. According to an article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune a couple of months ago, the faceless woman syndrome on covers is designed by marketing geniuses in order to allow the female reader to see herself as the main character, most definitely not to focus attention on chests and midriffs.


  6. #3: Splurge for the British edition. Its cover is a picture of a spaceship heading to a bright object (a sun?)

  7. And when I got a copy of Bearskin Rug yesterday, my ten year old saw the cover and said, “Another one?”

  8. David H. @ 3 wrote: “How do I get Charlie’s latest into the house w/o my wife mocking me after seeing the cover ?” ;)

    No, dear, you see she’s a pleasurebot and is supposed to look like that…

    Or, you could order the UK Edition which has a generic space-opera-y “spaceship flying through clouds” cover.

  9. David H. @ 3:
    It’s a dust jacket, innit? Slide it off, roll it up and stow in a mailer tube for its (and your) protection, carry on. Other alternatives, such as temporary replacement jackets, were discussed at length on Charlie’s site; a search on “cheesecake” will probably take you there.

    Mind you, unless your wife is a champion-class mocker, I fail to see a problem: Stross goodness > k * mockery, even for large values of k.

  10. Ack, John Chu @ 6 beat me to the punch.

    There were discussions on Charles Stross’ blog here and here about the cover for Saturn’s Children that are worth skimming through.

  11. The first head-chopped-off cover confused me (bad cropping?); the second annoyed me (why crop?); by the third, I was into full-on loathing (this looks like crud!). I don’t understand art directors, but those covers push me away from a book. I admit I’m not the target audience; most of them seem to be chick lit, sometimes YA and sometimes not…but do women like these covers?!

    It reminds me of Keith Geffen, who appeared to lose his ability to draw, drawing panels of The Legion of Super-Heroes several reboots ago (late 80s? early 90s?). He would show someone’s knee and a word bubble, or someone’s elbow and a word bubble, or someone’s…you get the idea. You were lucky to see a body, let alone a face and body>. ;-) Yuck!

    Anyway, if the trend is lessening–woo-hoo!

  12. I am a deep green. Right now I have a definite answer for the Serenity villain question: “Do you know what your sin is?”

  13. Aren’t the Jennifer Stevenson novels (or at least the first two) re-prints? I vaguely recall her plugging one of them from a smallish press a good year ago – and at the time it had been out a while.

  14. Is what you write Space Opera?

    I’ve read the The Lost Fleet books, and I’m looking forward to the next one. They are definitely what I call Space Opera.

    But applying that term to Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades or The Last Colony never even occurred to me.

  15. Some people consider them space opera, yes. I don’t really sweat the definition personally. I just write ’em and let the marketing folks figure it out.

  16. It’s remarkable how your stack of books received so closely resembles mine in height… and yet so differs from mine in content. I think I got 2 of the 11 in your picture. Publishers have many, many different publicity lists, apparently.

  17. The cover art of Saturn’s Children looks like it was done in Poser, a program used if not (necessarily) designed primarily for the rapid and prolific generation of cheesecake. At least the artist used one of the recent-generation third-party figures and not one of the native figures from three versions ago the way nearly every weight loss drug commercial I’ve ever seen does. (Actually, a wireframe view of the native Poser male head from version 3 or 4 appears on the back covers of my paperback copy of either Old Man’s War or the Ghost Brigades or both.) Poser’s native renderer can’t do believable human skin without a lot more hoop-jumping than the artist has apparently been bothered to do. I always have mixed feelings about this kind of thing when the character is an android: on the one hand, skin with no translucency isn’t totally out of the question; on the other hand, dammit, that’s a cop-out and it looks bad.

  18. Paul Barnes:

    No clue. I didn’t ask for ’em; they just started sending them to me. Not that I mind.

  19. Squid,

    I think the rendering of Freya on the SC book cover is meant to look as fake as possible. The character is a femme-sexbot, after all. The plastic digital cheesecake look is meant to convey that idea.

  20. Agreed. It’s meant to look fake because the character isn’t human. Unfortunately it’s a thing that makes sense after you’ve read the book, not before.

  21. @Squid – agreed, and the first thing I thought was, “That cover looks like a Poser model.”

    Probably because I work in an industry that uses Poser-riddled portfolios as punchlines to a joke we’d rather forget, I tend to have lukewarm reactions to “art” created using it. I’m sure there are ways to get good results out of Poser, but more often than not it’s used by people with little to no aesthetic sensibility, and the results are often unintentionally hilarious.

    In short: if you aren’t an artist to begin with, Poser will not make you one.

    Which is my long way of saying: I really don’t like that book cover, but someone somewhere has decided it would sell copies, so my opinion can be happily ignored.

  22. Looking at those books I’m filled with a great and burning jealosy. To just have them sent to you! I must go for a walk now to try and rid myself of this noxious green-eyed beast.

  23. I don’t take exception to her looking fake so much as her looking a particular kind of low-effort, low-thought fake. Using a Poser figure to give the effect of a person who looks artificial is like using a drawing by a bad artist to give the effect of a crude sketch. It works, but only shallowly: actual fake people would probably not have skin that looks like that, if for no reason other than because materials that satisfactorily mimic the texture and give of human skin are usually translucent. And their breasts would probably be a little more subject to gravity (if not very much more). There are free renderers that would have generated a better end product, so there’s no excuse.

    This is all irrelevant. I’m going to buy the book anyway. I just enjoy … is this nerdgassing? Did I just nerdgas all over your blog?

  24. Er, just so we’re clear that I’m not hopelessly literal and soulless: And if the artist was going for a stylized fakeness, this isn’t fake enough. You have to be really damn good to use a bad effect amateurs create accidentally all the time because they don’t know any better in a straightforward way without just looking like an amateur who doesn’t know any better.

  25. persuaded s/b either dissuaded or ‘…persuaded her classmates not to strangle her’.

  26. I thought Saturn’s Children was freaking brilliant. It’s the first one of Stross’s books that I’ve really, really, really loved–most of the others I can see that they’re well-written and whatnot, but they leave me a bit cold. This one didn’t.

    And the Scalzi joke was fantastic. That and the spunging nipples were my two favorite bits in the book.

  27. Arrghh. You have Marjorie’s newest. Argghhh. //headdesk Now you too are on my hit list. She’s still in China, too far for me to beat up.

  28. Polychrome @ 35: Yes, that’s exactly what the stock figures in Poser are – the digital version of one of those artist models. The problem is that the stock figures are so instantly recognizable by anyone who works in/aound digital art. There are lots of beginners who think that changing the pose makes it different enough to make it art – and that just isn’t so. The figure used on the Saturn’s Children cover could have been churned out by any competent digital artist in about a half hour. The skin looks like the default plastic-y texture. I would have believed a highly paid artist had done it if it had looked either more fake or more realistic.

  29. Ace sent me the Marjorie Liu ARC a couple of months ago and followed it up with a fulsome e-mail making sure I would review it. They obviously are putting a big push behind this. I admit to being more than a little skeptical and weary of all these post-LKHamilton, urban-fantasy, hot-goth-chick books piling up the rackspace. But who knows, you could get a good one now and then. I suppose I’ll slot it into the review queue at some point. Have to get through the new Clarke + Pohl, Toby Buckell’s and Jay Lake’s new ones, and the 3rd and 4th books of Elizabeth Bear’s Promethean Age first. Oh yes, and then there’s this Zoe’s Tale thing that slipped through the transom! I can never keep a reading schedule firmed up beyond a week. Arg!

  30. I agree with Paul @23, but I know what you have to do to get them and seeing as how my blog has 3 readers, (my wife and my mom) boxes of books are *not* going to be showing up on my door step any time soon.

  31. Chris Gerrib @16: Jennifer Stevenson’s first book was “Trash, Sex, Magic” from Small Beer Press in 2004. This set of three book are all new.

  32. Wanderlust! I think you’ll find that one a surprise like. The author has a very engaging style. I’m very jealous that you have a copy. I’d like an ARC of it to go along with my ARC of the first book, Grimspace.

    If you ever want to get rid of it… :P

  33. First of all, as a member of the 2004 Clarion class, I have to say that Marjorie Liu is a really nice person. Second, I thought it was a four-book deal she actually signed at the time, but hey it wasn’t my deal so maybe I misremember (we were deeply in sleep deprivation as part of the Clarion mystique at the time). Third, she has really sharp fingernails and can snarl as she displays them — did I say she was a really, really nice person?

    Marjorie brought a FAX machine to the sorority house Clarion was held in so she could print out and look at the contract — I remember helping her wire it up to the weird house phone system one night. Who brings a FAX machine to Clarion? A lawyer. A lawyer who wants to write. A lawyer who wants to write very fun books with shapeshifters and other cool characters. (grin) And get paid so she can quit being a lawyer. (double-win-grin)

    Dr. Phil

  34. If you remember it being a four-book deal, I have no doubt your memory is more accurate, Dr. Phil.

  35. I’ll just have to console my jealousy at that pile of awesomeness by finishing off this preview proof of Richard Morgan’s latest, The Steel Remains.

    I swear this guy just keeps getting better, with the Takeshi Kovacs books, through Black Man (Thirteen in the US), and now with his first foray into fantasy.

    Good stuff, but not for the squeamish at all.

  36. Yes, had a look at Amazon in the US for The Steel Remains, and we aren’t getting the book stateside until February. Which means the ARCs will make the rounds circa November. Boo hiss.

  37. John — well, it’s been four years. Perhaps it’s now a seven-book deal in the retelling of the story and I didn’t get the memo. (grin)

    Dr. Phil

  38. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the “In Odd We Trust” Koontz/Chan book. I’m rather out of the loop on my Koontz (hur hur) but I’ve read Queenie Chan’s excellent “The Dreaming” manga and her “Block Six” webmanga, and she has a real knack for pervasive, unsettling creepiness.

  39. Ok, having just finished The Steel Remains, I’m amending my previous comment: It’s not good, it’s great, and not for the even slightly squeamish. The last scene especially is just flat out chilling.

    If you like Richard Morgan’s other work, then definitely pick up this one when it comes available. It’s even self-contained, although according to Wikipedia it is the first in a trilogy.

  40. I think the only book on that pile I’d shell out hard-earned cash for is the Baxter. I tried the first Lost Fleet novel, and thought it very formulaic.

  41. I’m currently ploughing through “The Steel Remains”, and so far (80% of the way in) it’s looking very good indeed. My one fear is that it’ll be marketed as Extruded Fantasy Product and sink like a stone as the fluffy-unicorn EFP fans will get maybe five pages in before they wig out at that first graveyard scene.

    Next up on my reading pile is “The Caryatids” by Bruce Sterling. (Did I say how much I love this job? ;-)

  42. I’m currently plowing through “Halting State” by one Charles Stross. I’ll let you know how that goes. ;)

    …and I must say, I dig the cover art on the on the US version of “Halting State” which is — wait!— the same as the UK version. I wonder if they’ll do the same for the MM US release?

  43. Somehow I doubt that it will be marketed as EFP, although I do like the mental image of the fluffy-unicorn types reading it by accident and having their heads explode. *happy sigh*

    I’ll note that the copy we got at the bookstore had a (badly photocopied) piece of paper from Mr Morgan inserted at the front, stating quite baldly that this was not a fantasy trilogy in the milieu of Tolkien or Eddings.

    Being RM, of course, it wasn’t quite as gentle as that. The first paragraph goes something like:

    “If you love Tolkien and all his works with an uncritical gaze, you’ll probably really hate this book.”

  44. T.M. Wagner said: admit to being more than a little skeptical and weary of all these post-LKHamilton, urban-fantasy, hot-goth-chick books piling up the rackspace. But who knows, you could get a good one now and then….I can never keep a reading schedule firmed up beyond a week. Arg!

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I received the Koontz and Stevenson, too. Whether I get to them is a different story.

  45. My thoughts: ‘Why didn’t they send ME the Marjorie M. Liu?’ Followed by: ‘Well, at least I got ARCs for ZOE’S TALE and AGENT TO THE STARS, so the smugness factor is still a positive.’

  46. what exactly is Space Opera? and who came up with it and how is some of your books considered it?

  47. Regarding “cover-chicks”…. Steve White’s Forge Of The Titans has on it’s cover a naked women leaping out of a portal, fleeing half-seen armored figures. Funny thing — that scene actually does appear in the book, except that the woman is specifically described as wearing jeans and a checked shirt….

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