Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Hidden Family by Charles Stross

The second book in The Merchant Princes series, The Hidden Family picks up right where The Family Trade left off. There's a good reason for this; the two were originally one single volume, and were split for economic issues and industry politics. The newish practice of booksplitting is discussed here by Rick Kleffel (In perhaps his best rant ever) and here by SF Signal.

In The Hidden Family, Miriam discovers a third world, with it's own set of world-walkers. This missing link on the family tree appears to be behind the Clan's civil war of a quarter century previous, and seems intent to start another -- starting with the assassination of Miriam Beckstein.

To draw out this rogue sect, Miriam starts up an offshoot Clan business in world three. In this third world, the American Revolution never occured, and North America is run by BRitish royalty in residence -- Great Britain itself was conquered by the French -- and a secret police force tries to stamp out democratic revolutionaries wherever they rear their heads. Miriam becomes business partners with some prominent freedom fighters, and so comes to the notice of the local gestapo.

The Hidden Family climaxes with a complex attack on the Clan's security department, and ends with a shocking revelation about Miriam's parentage. It's leaves us breathless and eagerly awaiting the third volume in the series, The Clan Corporate.

The Merchant Princes is one of the shining lights in fantasy today, and The Hidden Family is a fast-paced gem of a story.

9/10

Collector's Notes:

Charles Stross is no longer just a name to watch. He is at the cutting edge of speculative fiction, and his books will continue to garner fans. Now is the time for investment in his books in hardcover, and Clarkesworld Books has each of The Merchant Princes titles in first edition hardcovers signed by Stross for less than retail price. It's a can't miss proposition.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Family Trade by Charles Stross

Charles Stross is an amazingly prolific British speculative fiction author who has garnered multiple Hugo nominations in just about every category, and finally recieved his first award last year for the novella The Concrete Jungle. His science fiction novel Accelerando has been nominated for this years Hugo for best novel, and is available for free download here.

Stross has quickly -- his first novel was published in 2001 -- set science fiction on it's ear. He's been referred to as the next-big-thing for so long now, and constantly produced at such a high level, that he has fulfilled this prophesying. A Charles Stross novel has become an event; a must read for all fans of speculative fiction. Every novel released has a damn fine chance of being next year's Hugo Award recipient.

The Merchant Princes series is Stross's first foray into fantasy, and like his previous science fiction, it stands apart and breaks new ground.

Miriam is a reporter for a tech magazine, or rather she was. She's just been fired for uncovering a money laundering operation that seems to be a lot bigger and far-reaching than she'd ever imagined. When she goes home to tell her mother about what's happenned, we are apprised of a bit of interesting history -- Miriam was adopted 32 years before when she was found in a park next to her stabbed-to-death mother. The one heirloom left by her mysterious true mother is a gold locket.

This locket has a pattern that proves entrancing, and before Miriam knows what happenning, she is transported to a pre-industrial world. She soon discovers that she is a long-missing heir to a merchant family who has made their living trading between the worlds, and is thrust into family politics and intrigue.

The Family Trade and The Hidden Family (its sequel) were originally written as one novel, but due to the politics and economics of the publishing industry was split in two. This does not in any way detract from the story itself -- Mr. Stross has crafted the halves into complete stories in and of themselves, while remaining a part of a whole.

The story itself has drawn many comparisons to Roger Zelazny's Amber series, due to its parrallel worlds, but while the comparison is apt, The Merchant Princes remains incredibly original.

The story telling is fast paced and well written. The adventure is startling and exhilarating. This is one of the best fantastical series currently being produced, (I'd place it second only to A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, though vastly different) and for it alone, Charles Stross deseves all the hype.

I may possess a special fondness for these books because they take place partly in my hometown of Boston. Not only that, but there are references to the mall which is attached to the hotel in which I first met Charles Stross and heard him speak during a Boskone convention. It doesn't effect the story in any way, except to give a sense of realism and be pretty damn neat.

9/10


Collector's Notes:

Charles Stross
is no longer just a name to watch. He is at the cutting edge of speculative fiction, and his books will continue to garner fans. Now is the time for investment in his books in hardcover, and Clarkesworld Books has each and every one of the titles mentioned here in first edition hardcovers signed by Stross for less than retail price. It's a can't miss proposition.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In The Eye of Heaven by David Keck

The first thing one will notice upon picking up In the Eye of Heaven by Canadian newcomer David Keck, is the cover art and design. It features a haunting painting by David Grove and a very attractive design by Jane Adele Regina, which combine to create as attractive a cover as you will find this side of Kinuko Y. Craft's covers for Patricia McKillip's novels.

I mention this because it was so very striking, and also because it is the last positive thing I have to say about the book.

Clumsy does not begin to describe the prose; at times I thought I was reading a self-published novel from the likes of Clifford Bowyer. We're dumped into the story of Durand, a soon to be knighted squire and second son of a local baron, as he is travelling home to retrieve a change of clothes of all things. For whatever reason, the squires knight is accompanying him on this trivial errand, and is rewarded for it by his squire's beligerent atitude and outright disrespect. (Which he does not punish, of course)

Durand, as a second son and not set to inherit anything from his father, is due instead to inherit the village of a local knight whose heir died at sea. This missing heir quickly turns up after 15 years guarding caravans, seemingly just down the road, and so Durand is out his expected inheritence. He promptly throws a temper tantrum and storms off to be a hedge knight, but only after climbing down his father's castle's well and talking to God's brother and being told that no matter what, prophecy says he'll end up happy and rich with a beautiful wife.

Yeah, way to keep us in suspense.

Often times it was very hard to understand exactly what was taking place in the novel. Keck obviously has a vision he wants to share, but hasn't the foggiest on how to paint a scene. The dialogue is unbelievable, and the characters are paper thin. Just about every premise is hard to believe -- even for a fantasy novel -- and there are no positives in the novel to make up for this. Keck was obviously influenced by Gene Wolfe's The Wizard Knight, but this novel is a failing ember next to Wolfe's sun.

Avoid this book at all costs. This is just about as bad as fantasy can possibly get.

2/10

Collector's Notes:

This will be remaindered heavily, and the reduced price for the remaindered copies will be far more than the book is worth. Avoid.

The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach

The Carpet Makers by Andreas Eschbach is a story with a story, if you will. Originally written in German in 1995, this novel was incredibly popular in Europe. Orson Scott Card -- while at a science fiction convention in Germany -- came across this work, had it translated privately, and was blown away by its vision. He championed the book to his publisher, TOR, and so this incredibly original science fiction novel has come to be available in North America.

The Carpet Makers seems at first to be a mosaic novel; taking seemingly unrelated short stories and forming a whole. There is an underlying mystery that accompanies each story; the reason for the carpets themselves to exist.

The carpets referenced in the title are not any normal sort of carpet for one thing, they are made of human hair. The novel begins telling the story of Ostvan, a carpet maker like his father and all his forefathers before him. He has a number of wives, so that he may have different colors of hair with which to weave his masterwork. One single carpet takes the entirety of a carpet makers life, and the value of it is enough to sustain his heir and his heir's wives until such time that his heir completes his carpet. The carpets themselves are of unsurpassed beauty, and each is detined to reside in the palace of the Emperor, or so everyone believes.

The translation is at most times very good, but there are a few points where the story seems to get a bit confused. Having not read it in German, it would be unfair to blame the translator, but I can't help but think it was a bit more clear and concise in the original.

The mystery concludes with a shock to put M. Night Shyamalan to shame.

The Carpet Makers is indeed a unique vision that transcends the normal boundaries of science fiction. Yet it remains human and tragic, tackling issues such as human ego and frailty, and the corruption of ultimate power. It is a warning to a world that is in danger of stewing in their own ignorance. It beseeches us to question; to never accept status quo. A timeless message, told in a new manner.

The ending is incredibly believable, and that is the most terrifying thing of all.

9/10

Collector's Notes:
As the true first edition of this book were printed a decade ago in Germany, I don't imagine the value of TOR's edition will ever be worth a signifigant amount of money.

That said, every collector of science fiction ought to make room for this one on their shelves. It's an important work from an author who could (and probably will) become our generations Stanislaw Lem, and the message is as timeless as the best warning novels from John Brunner or John Wyndham.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Spin by Robert Charles Wilson

Robert Charles Wilson is a prolific Canadian science fiction author whose novels have been nominated for numerous awards, but with Spin, he just might recieve that elusive Hugo.

One night the stars go out. They're there, and then they're not. The sun comes back up, but it's not the real sun. All communications satellites crash to Earth. Time stands still, and time spins out of control.

This is what science fiction is about: great ideas, rational thought, and a sense of wonder that boggles.

The story begins with three main characters, a brother and sister and their friend, who is the narrator. I was concerned at first by the intelligence of the three; it seemed to be the old tired trope of SF heroes being the smartest people on the planet, but the story Wilson tells would not have worked any other way.

In addition to a riveting story filled with shocks and mysteries aplenty, we get a very interesting discourse on religion and its follies. Those who are religious might take offense at a lot of the ideas espoused in this book; Wilson is heavy handed with his contempt for the foolishness of deity worship.

It's fucking beautiful.

Wilson's arguments against unreasoned faith are a wonder to behold. Science Fiction needs brave voices to express truth in these dark days of religious fundamentalism, and Robert Charles Wilson has picked up the gauntlet.

Spin works well on just about every level. The only nitpick I have is of the narrator continually making culture references that he would not be privy to. Someone born around 1990 would not be able to make reference to a Grateful Dead concert or Yoko Ono, for instance.

These references aside, there is simply nothing bad to say about this novel. The plotting is fast and fascinating, the science is wonderous and impeccable, and the message against mythological foolishness is both timely and well reasoned.

I make no secret of my love for the work of George R.R. Martin, but Spin might just be my choice for the Hugo for best novel. Definitely worth checking out.

9/10

Collector's Notes:

If this novel wins the Hugo, expect the value to increase. As it stands, none of Wilson's previous books have risen much in value -- despite a few of them being nominated for awards -- so I would not consider this book much of an investment.

However, it is definitely worth buying just for a great read.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Old Man's War by John Scalzi

Old Man's War is the debut novel from John Scalzi, and has been nominated for the Hugo award for best novel of 2005. Considering this reception, Scalzi has also been nominated for the Campbell award for best new SF author.

Like all serious voters, I'm reading each novel -- indeed each work -- that has been nominated for a Hugo so I am capable of making a reasoned mark come Worldcon in LA this August. First on my to read list was OMW, both because the premise sounded fascinating, and because I had heard it was a nod to the Grandmaster himself, Robert A. Heinlein.

The premise is that when a man or woman reaches a certain age, they join the military and are given -- presumably, no one knows for certain -- new bodies. The cost of the new form and fresh start is 10 years of military service and to never look upon the planet Earth again.

The story is as interesting as it sounds, and the book is an enjoyable read. However, I can not in good conscience state that it deserves to be considered for Science Fiction's greatest honor.

Let me preface this roll-call of flaws with a note. I am a former Marine, and when military tactics and battle are portrayed, I am incredibly nit-picky. Also, I was personally bothered by comments one of his fictional characters made about Marines. I do not know how willing I was to give the book an honest chance after I was irked by these comments.

It seemed as if Old Man's War was an attempt to update Starship Troopers using the science and ideas popular in modern SF. If this was the case, I found it to be a failure, not only because it was already done so well in 1975 by Joe Haldeman with his incredible The Forever War, but that Scalzi also fails to tackle any societal or political issues. In short, if OMW had a deeper message, it was lost on me.

Scalzi's love for Heinlein is evident, to the point of becoming tiresome. There are a slew of Heinleinesque 'rennaissance men,' who seem to enter the picture just in time to go on a page-long monologue to explain something. It's cute, but it's been done. A lot.

One thing that really bothered me was that just as Scalzi was about to explain some fascinating scientific ideas, his rennaissance man of the hour would tell us that we don't have the math to understand it. Three times, by my count, was this used, and each time I grew more wearied of it. When I'm reading Science Fiction, I want science, thank you, and I don't have much patience for such cop-outs.

On discussing this point with Scalzi, (who seems to be a genuinely nice person and knowledgable fan) he stated -- and proved quite succinctly, in my mind -- that this was not due to any lack of science knowledge on his part, but merely to avoid confusion. He offered up his astronomy book, The Rough Guide To The Universe as ample evidence.

Fair enough.

My largest issues with the work was the military tactics. Some were simple and unbelievable, and one instance was nothing short of preposterous. For instance, we are to believe that our protagonaist invents a two round burst, the first round to take down armor, the second to do the dirty work. The incorporation of the three round burst for the same purposes was developed by the U.S. Marine Corps prior to the Korean War.

Now, as I stated before -- nitpicky. However, these things kept me from being absorbed in an otherwise very enjoyable novel. There are ideas here that are fascinating and original, and the book is not without merit.

But don't pick up Old Man's War expecting it to be much more than a fun romp and a Heinlein pastiche, sans the politics and deep understanding of military tactics.

6/10

Collector's Notes:

Despite my own misgivings, this book obviously has its supporters. Mr Scalzi has informed me that the hardcover has been through five or six printings, and that alone speaks well for it's collectability in the future. The sequel, The Ghost Brigades is doing very well in hardcover, and a succesful series will always lead to the first book rising in value. If it were to win the Hugo, first printings could easily rise to 100 dollars or more within a week. Either way, a first edition, first printing hardcover seems to be something you should consider investing in.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Collector's Spotlight: China Mieville

China Mieville is one of the most highly collectible authors writing in speculative fiction today. His fans are ravenous and his collectable editions are many. (maybe too many) Here is a basic guide to collecting his works.

In 1998, China Mieville came on the speculative fiction scene with his first novel, King Rat, to critical praise and commercial blah's. First published in the US in hardcover by TOR, King Rat was nominated for the International Horror and Bram Stoker awards. It won neither.

In 2000, his second novel, Perdido Street Station was published in the UK, and it captured the hearts and minds of speculative fiction fans and gave birth to the so-called New Weird movement. PSS was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards, and recieved the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

His follow up novels to Perdido was set in the same world of New Crobuzon, and were entitled The Scar and Iron Council, respectively. The Scar was nominated for the Hugo, World Fantasy, and Arthur C. Clarke awards, and Iron Council recieved the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy awards.

In 2005, Mieville released his first short story collection, entitled Looking For Jake.


Collector's Notes:



King Rat : King Rat was released in the US in hardcover from TOR Books. This is considered the true first of Mievile's first novel. It was released the same year in the UK as a paperback original. In 2005, Earthling Publications published a limited (to 400 copies) edition, slipcased, and signed leather edition of King Rat. There were also 15 lettered copies created in a handcrafted Japanese silk traycase. These 15 copies represent the rarest of of Mieville's works.

I am unaware of whether there were any ARC's created for this book in either the US or the UK, though the UK seems unlikely.



Pricing: (all prices in Fine condition, all editions are first printing, and all dollar amounts American)
-US First Edition, Tor Books -- 60-80 dollars.
-UK First edition, Macmillan paperback -- 30-50 dollars
-Numbered Edition, Earthling Publications -- 85-100 dollars
-Lettered Edition, Earthling Publications -- 500-700 dollars



Perdido Street Station: PSS is considered Mieville's seminal work, and as such is his most collectible. In a reversal from King Rat, Perdido was published in hardcover in the UK by Macmillan and in trade paperback original in the US by Del Rey. (For whatever reason, TOR did not publish Mieville again after King Rat, something I imagine they regret) A special edition is in the works from Night Shade Books and is available for preorder here. The ARC for Perdido Street Station is both rare and valuable.

Pricing: (all prices in Fine condition, all editions are first printing, and all dollar amounts American)
-UK ARC, Macmillan -- 200 to 300 dollars
-UK First Edition, Macmillan -- 200 to 350 dollars
-US First Edition, Del Rey trade paperback -- 30-50 dollars
-Numbered Edition, Night Shade Books -- 75 dollars
-Lettered Edition, Night Shade Books -- 500 dollars (out of print)


The Scar followed the same publishing routine as Perdido Street Station, a hardcover in the UK by Macmillan and a trade paperback original by Del Rey in the US.










Pricing:
(all prices in Fine condition, all editions are first printing, and all dollar amounts American)
-UK ARC Macmillan, signed and limited -- 150-200 dollars
-UK First Edition, Macmillan -- 50-150 dollars
-US First Edition, Del Rey trade paperback -- 20-40 dollars



The Tain: The Tain was a novella that was first published in limited edition by PS publishing in 2002. It was later collected in the Cities Anthology, and later in Mieville's own collection, Looking For Jake.





Pricing:
(all prices in Fine condition, all editions are first printing, and all dollar amounts American)
-Numbered paperback (500 copies), PS Publishing -- 80-100 dollars
-Numbered hardcover (400 copies), PS Publishing -- 150-200 dollars
-Cities Anthology harcover, Gollancz -- 50-80 dollars
-Cities Anthology, 4 Walls 8 Windows softcover -- 20-25 dollars



Iron Council: The third novel set in New Crobuzon. It was released in hardcover in both the US and the UK, with a signed limited edition (1000 copies) slip cased edition in the UK.







Pricing:
(all prices in Fine condition, all editions are first printing, and all dollar amounts American)
-UK signed limited, Macmillan -- 75-125 dollars
-UK first edition, Macmillan -- 40-50 dollars
-US first edition hardcover, Del Rey -- 25-30 dollars



Looking For Jake: Short fiction collection published in hardcover in the UK and in trade paperback in the US in 2005.











Pricing:
(all prices in Fine condition, all editions are first printing, and all dollar amounts American)
-UK first editon hardcover, Macmillan -- 45-75 dollars
-US ARC with advanced copy of inserted comic -- 60-80 dollars
-US first edition trade paperback, Del Rey -- 15-20 dollars


Here are some pics of actual books from my own meager Mieville collection.

Care, Handling, and Storage of Books

There are many steps one should take to prevent damage and aging to collectible books. Proper care can be simple, and can prolong a book’s fine condition almost indefinitely.

Environment: The ideal manner in which to store books is in a dry and cool room. Heat will accelerate the natural deterioration of a book, so it is important to not place shelves anywhere near a radiator or heating duct. Personally, I have disconnected the heating units in my library, and not only does it act to help preserve my books, I save considerable money on my home heating costs.

Sun is also a major threat to your books. Direct sunlight fades leather, cloth, or paper, which is bad news for books. A faded spine on a book or its dust jacket can negatively impact its value – making an otherwise fine volume near worthless.

Humidity not only causes rot, but it invites insects, and can cause mold. Books should never be stored in basements, attics, or garages.

Treatment: How you handle a book when you read it can impact condition quite easily. Dog-earing pages, forcing a binding open to the point where it cracks, and laying a book flat on a surface are sure fire ways to turn a collectible book into a table coaster. Both covers should always be supported while reading. It should go without saying that underlining, highlighting, and paper clips inserted in books will negatively impact their value.

It is highly advisable to remove a book’s dust jacket prior to reading. By placing it in the empty spot left by the book, you’ll know exactly where to return the book to, and you will not cause undue wear and tear to the cover. As I stated in On Book Collecting, the first thing you should do to protect your books is to cover the dust jacket in a Brodart cover. This should be a boks first line of protection.

*Do not eat and read. Food stains and remnants not only reduce value, they practically beg for an infestation of insects.

Shelving: Books should be stored vertically; neither too tight on a shelf, nor too loose. When removing a book from a shelf, you should firmly grasp both sides of the book, and not grasp the top of the spine. This can lead to a binding falling apart quickly, especially with cheaply glued bindings. (Which are much too common in speculative fiction, especially UK editions.)

Book shelves should not strain under the weight of a full shelf. A strained shelf can work to warp a book and roll the spine. Books should never be pushed all the way to the back of the shelf. Leave a few inches of space behind your books for air.

*A clove or two per shelf, tucked in this free space between your books and the back of the shelf, will help keep insects away.

Barrister Book Cases: Valuable books should be stored in barrister book cases, or any sort of glass-doored book shelf. This helps keep out dust and dirt, and is the ideal way to store your most treasured tomes. A true barrister book case can be incredibly expensive, but cheaper glass covered book cases are available from places like IKEA for significantly less. These are infinitely more important if you have a smoker living in your home. Just as cigarette smoke yellows walls and décor, they yellow books and reduce value.

If Damage Occurs: Seek professional conservator help. Do not try to tape torn pages or re-glue a binding. You will only add to the damage.

My top 25 favorite works

This is not a best of list by any stretch. These are the 25 works of speculative fiction that I have enjoyed the most. They are in no particular order.

-Dune by Frank Herbert
-A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
-Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
-Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
-The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
-The Wizard Knight by Gene Wolfe
-Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
-The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
-The Book of Knights by Yves Meynard
-The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
-The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce
-The Rediscovery of Man by Cordwainer Smith
-The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
-The Prince of Nothing by R. Scott Bakker
-House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
-I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
-The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford
-Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
-Replay by Ken Grimwood
-Midnights Children by Salman Rushdie
-A Voyage To Arcturus by David Lindsay
-The Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
-Little, Big by John Crowley
-Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser Stories by Fritz Leiber
-Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan

On Book Collecting

There are many factors one must take into consideration when collecting books of any sort. This is an attempt to cover the basics.

Editions: A first edition is almost invariably the preferred edition of a novel. An edition is the first state a book appears in, including the original typeset and dust jacket. It can include multiple printings, and so just because a book is listed as a first edition, it is not necessarily the first printing or state.

Printings: A first edition, first printing is a true first. It is, obviously, the first time the book has a printing run. A publisher will print a number line on the copyright page, and in the case of a first printing, will normally show a 1 or an A.

*A certain novel may have been released in another country prior to its publication in your own. If that is the case, then the nation’s publication where it was printed first would be considered the true First Edition.

Book Club Editions: If a dust jacket does not have a price listed anywhere on it, chances are it is a book club edition (BCE). BCE’s are almost invariably worthless to a collector. They are also normally about an inch shorter in height than a trade edition, and use inferior paper and binding.

Remaindered Editions: Books that have been returned unsold by booksellers to the Publisher are called remainders. Publishers then in turn resell them to bookstores for pennies on the dollar. These are the hardcover’s you see selling for 4-6 dollars. In years past, publishers would clip out the price on the dust jacket, but in recent years such books are normally denoted by a black mark somewhere upon the outside of the paper block. Remaindered editions are worth signifigantly less than an unremaindered edition. Price clipping reduces the value even more.

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On Condition: The condition of a book is incredibly important with regard to value. A Fine volume will normally fetch at least twice the price of a Good one. The rule of thumb in book collecting is to buy the best condition copy you can afford. Here’s a simple grading chart.

-Fine: Like new in modern books. No scuffing or dog-eared pages. No dirt or stains or creasing or tears. DJ also like new with no fading, tears, or creases.

-Good: A little bumped up. Perhaps a scuff or two, or a dog-eared page.

-Fair: Can be a bit tattered with a cracked spine and stains. Perhaps some tears in the dust jacket. Obvious fading to DJ can be present. Such copies should be avoided if at all possible.

-Poor or Reading Copy: A book that needs a new binding or has pages missing. Chunks can be torn out of the dust jackets. Basically a ratty old book that’s only good for reading.

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On Dust Jackets and Wraps:

A dust jacket is the paper cover that wraps around a hardcover book. Wraps is a term used to describe the cover of a paperback. These two terms are not interchangeable.

Like condition, dust jackets are incredibly important to the value of your books. Tearing or fading can negatively impact your investment in a big way. Just as well covered our books in high school, I recommend everyone protect their investments with Brodart dust jacket covers. They will guard against spills and tears, and help keep jackets in pristine condition.

In addition to Brodart covers, an important thing to keep in mind is to keep your books out of direct sunlight. Fading happens quickly, and a faded spine severely depreciates value.

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On Value:

A book is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. This is the only steadfast rule, though I will try to create something of a price guide on this site. If someone were to pay 200 dollars more than I would suggest here for a certain volume, well then it was worth whatever it sold for.

Not all science fiction and fantasy books will go up in value. In fact, the majority of genre books published in hardcover degrade in value. It is in knowing (and guessing correctly) which will increase in value that a valuable collection is made.

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On Author Signatures:

Signatures add to both the collectability of a book and its value. I have attempted to post a meager collection of actual autographs from popular speculative fiction authors elsewhere on this site. Too often fake autographs are sold for high prices on places like eBay. Buyer beware.

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Terms:

-Trade Hardcover: The hardcover edition of a book. Normally it’s first state, complete with a dust jacket.

-Trade Paperbacks: The larger type of paperback, normally shorter than a hardcover and taller than a mass market paperback.

-Softcover or Mass Market Paperback: The average sized paperback book, about 7 inches tall.

-Foxing: Yellowing due to bad paper quality or any sort of chemical reaction.

-Inscribed or Inscription: When an author autographs a book to a certain individual.

-Presentation Copy: A copy reserved by an author to give to friends and family as he or she desires. Highly sought after by collectors.

-Numbered: A book that is limited to a certain number of copies and each individual copy is accorded a certain number in the set limitation. This number is written on the limitation page.

-Lettered: Even more exclusive than a numbered edition. A book that is limited to a certain number of copies and each individual copy is accorded a certain letter in the set limitation. This letter is written on the limitation page.

-Slip Case: An individual case created to house a particular volume or volumes.

-Advanced Reader’s Copy or Advanced Review Copy (ARC): An ARC is normally a plain review copy produced by a publisher to get the word out about a forthcoming title. Increasingly, publishers have been releasing limited and higher quality ARC’s. Some can become incredibly valuable and be highly sought after by collectors.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Neuromancer was recently re-released in a 20th anniversary edition, and I figured it was about time I revisited a favorite from my childhood.

Neuromancer now, through jaded eyes, is not what it was. The gritty nightmare of a techno-future is not the wonderous playground it once seemed to be. It's been done better since. (see Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan) The plot itself and the characters seem a bit shallow, and some of the technology (and absent technology) acts to form a very dated novel.

But Neuromancer is now also much more than it ever was. It begat the entire cyberpunk subgenre. It is a foundation for countless novels and movies and television shows that have been created since. Neuromancer gave us 'cyberspace' and 'the matrix.' It is the novel that killed science fiction. It is the novel that gave birth to a new generation of science fiction.


Neuromancer did not have the future pegged, but it was a future vision that had not before been revealed. In retrospect the characters are caricatures and the plot is questionable, but these points mean nothing in hindsight. Neuromancer is important for the change it was the catalyst for.

There is no hope when the novel ends. There was no hope when it began; it's a novel of survival in a future where hope is not the point. Surviving is the best one can hope for. There's no deeper meaning for existence in a world gone mad with technology, and in this, William Gibson said just what the world was thinking. What the world was fearing.

Love it or hate it, Neuromancer is the most important science fiction work of the past 35 years.

9.5/10

Collector's Notes:

Neuromancer was first published in the United States as a softcover. (and hence was eligible to win the Philip K. Dick Award, which it did) The first UK edition was a hardcover from Gollancz, and in fine condition can fetch upwards of 2000 dollars American.

In 1986, a limited (375 copies) numbered edition was printed by Phantasia Press. This is the first US hardcover edition of Neuromancer, and can fetch between 800 and 900 dollars American. An unumbered edition of this book (limited to 1000 copies) can fetch 400 dollars.

The true US first edition is a mass market paperback from Ace Science Fiction, and in fine condition will sell for somewhere between 400 and 600 dollars.

Cover Story: The Art of John Picacio

There is not a better cover artist working in speculative fiction today than John Picacio.

I frequent SF conventions, and invariably spend a lot of time in the art exhibits. At World Fantasy Convention 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin, Picacio had a number of his works on display. I had noticed the cover art for the recent re-release of Gateway by Frederick Pohl, and thought it to be perhaps the best cover art I had ever seen. At WFC, I saw a large print of the cover art and was floored by it.

Now I'm a collector. I buy first editions, and I buy them in hardcover. I own an inscribed first edition of Gateway, and prize it highly, but for the first time in my life, cover art forced me to buy an additional, and not very collectible, trade paperback reprint.

That is the power of Picacio's art -- it pried money from my grasping greedy hands.

So now Picacio releases his first art book, and it not only collects his wonderful art, it explains the unique process he takes to create it. I'm not one to throw my weight behind an art book -- hell, I've never bought one in my life -- but Picacio has me sorely tempted.

If SF art is your thing, you owe it to yourself to get your hands on a copy of this book. You even get an introduction from the peerless Michael Moorcock.

(and remember to vote for John for Best Artist at this years Hugo Awards)

Post Script:

Some Bastard outbid me at the last minute for the print on sale at WFC of the Gateway cover. I spit on you from afar, you unknowable heathen.

His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik

His Majesty's Dragon (a.k.a. Temeraire in the UK) is the debut novel from author Naomi Novik. It tells the story of a ship's Captain in the service of Great Britain during the Napoleonic era, Will Laurence, and his newly acquired dragon, Temeraire.

The story begins with Laurence's ship attacking -- and capturing -- a French vessel, and discovering a dragon egg aboard. The egg hatches before Laurence's ship can make dock, and the young dragon chooses Will as his companion.

The bonding of dragon and man recalls warm memories of Anne McCaffrey's Pern novels, hidden behind math books when I should have been doing homework. The story that follows also has that familiar Pern feeling, mixed with some Aubrey and Maturin.

There is nothing incredibly new here. This is not a book to push genre or to lay groundwork for some sort of new sf movement. What is present, is a wonderful tale; moving and richly painted. I loved Temeraire, both the dragon and the novel, and I hated for it to end. Luckily, the sequels will be released with incredible alacrity -- all three books of the trilogy are complete and will be released this year.

There was a scene, early in the book, that caused me to laugh aloud for minutes, a scene later that brought tears to my jaded eyes. I have always believed that art succeeds only when it makes one feel emotion of some sort.

Temeraire may not win the Hugo award. It may not be talked of years hence as a classic of genre fiction. But it succeeds on the most fundamental level: it makes you feel. It is art in the truest sense of the word.

I submit that Naomi Novik has woven a tale that will be enjoyed by any and all who undertake it. You will not weather its storm untouched.


9/10



Collectors Notes:

I'm not really certain about this one. It very well could become a much-loved and treasured story, in which case first editions could reasonably become very valuable in the future. If there is a spike in value, it will most certainly be in the UK hardcover, Temeraire, and to a much lesser extent, in the US version. The advanced reader's copy has not shown any spikes in value as of yet.

A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham

Daniel Abraham broke into the scene in the traditional manner -- with short stories in the magazines. Admittedly, I don't read the magazines, so I completely missed his work. He first came to my attention with his collaborative effort with George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, Shadow Twin.

I asked George about the collaboration with a relatively unknown author, and he was quick to laud Abraham's talents and tout his soon (at the time) to be released novel, A Shadow in Summer. He said something to the effect of 'relatively unknown for not too much longer.'

High praise, indeed.

So it was with high expectations I purchased the first volume of The Long Price Quartet. My impression, upon reading the novel, was a bit uneven.

The prologue is masterful. It quickly submerges one into an asian-like fantasy world, and gives important background for the tale to come. The tale itself contains murder and magic, politics and war, but the meat of the work is comprised of something more mundane and infinitely more indelible; a love story.

Abraham introduces a fascinating new twist on magic in fantasy. Poets create the words to express an idea and this idea is formed into a corporeal form, called an Andat. A poem can never be used more than once, and so poets are running out of Andat and the words with which to form new ones. As the economy and safety of the society is based upon the powers of the Andat, this is becoming a serious problem. The Andat's are also limited in ther powers based upon the words used to form them.

Also introduced is a secondary method of communication between people revolving around poses and hand gestures. It serves to truly immerse one in this alien world, and I enjoyed the touch very much.

My only real problem with the book was the mysteries incorporated into the plot. Some are incredibly easy to figure out, and some conclusions don't make all that much sense. I really think he needed to explain why a certain character could not be assassinated, and did not.

That said, I truly enjoyed the characters, although I did not neccessarily like any of them. In that, I think, Abraham was courageous in not painting any character white or black. Too often in fantasy we see things like Evil Forces and Great Lords who are pillars of integrity and heroism and brushing their teeth before bedtime, etc.

The world Abraham created, as in all good fantasy, was an intriguing character itself. I was left with a well fleshed out idea of of where the story was taking place, and a good bit of interest in what lay beyond the limits of what was explained.

Asian themes in fantasy, while becoming more popular, are still pretty rare here in the West. Despite critical acclaim for works from Barry Hughart and the like, such settings have never equalled tremendous sales. I believe it was brave for Abraham to write his story in such a setting, and I commend him for it.

A Shadow in Summer is a really good first novel. I look forward to the next volume in the series, and will certainly be keeping an eye on any of Abraham's work in the future.

7.5/10


Collectors Notes:
I would not speculate on this title. While it has a seemingly low print run, it is getting next to no push from TOR. If Abraham goes on to a great career, it could possibly have some decent value. But if that is so, then this will not be his signature book, nor his signature series.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Autographs T-Z

Not being able to find a similar resource on the internet, I decided to assemble the autographs of as many speculative fiction authors as possible for collectors. There are a slew of fake autographs making the rounds on eBay and other sites, and this is a good way to be sure you have the genuine article and not some scammer's scribble.

The vast majority of these signatures come from my own private collection. Any others come from reputable sources such as Easton Press.

Amy Tan















Judith Tarr



















Sherri S. Tepper



















J.R.R. Tolkien







Harry Turtledove















John Updike




















Catherynne M. Valente















Jack Vance














Jeff VanderMeer















A.E. Van Vogt



















John Varley



















Jules Verne













Charles Vess















Joan D. Vinge



















Vernor Vinge















Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
















Daniel Wallace















Jo Walton















David Weber




















Margaret Weis















H.G. Wells















Oscar Wilde








Conrad Williams















Tad Williams















Walter Jon Williams



















Jack Williamson



















Connie Willis















F. Paul Wilson















Terri Windling















Gene Wolfe















John C. Wright
















John Wyndham











Timothy Zahn














Roger Zelazny













Sarah Zettel