Sunday, July 30, 2006

Viriconium by M. John Harrison

"I think it's undignified to read for the purposes of escape. After you grow up, you should start reading for other purposes" - M. John Harrison

This particular quote was brought to my attention as the signature of Jay Tomio on the Fantasy Book Spot forums. I've considered it, deliberated it, and seethed against it for months now, and decidedly feel the need to rage against it.

Insipid and blathering nonsense. I refuse to even accept his preposterous premise and allow that he is somehow the dignity police and can make such random generalizations. He's an author -- a talented, acclaimed, and commercially unsuccessful author; nothing more.

And the rampant attacks on escapism from SF pundits is crowned by this ludicrous assertion. The search for an escape from reality is deemed immature and foolish, when it was the base premise for the advent of literature in the first damn place. Perhaps Mr. Harrison and the proponents of this claptrap philosophy have never experienced any sort of life which literally begs for escape, but we are not all priviledged denizens of London. We are not all born with the inherent right to higher education and loft apartments in Manhattan. The greatest challenges that most will face have nothing to do with finding the next hand-hold on a climbing wall, Mr. Harrison, and escapism is not a four letter word.

During my short-tenured time in the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia, I would have lost my mind if not for Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. I needed that escape each day, I lived every waking moment for it. Later, In Africa and Kosovo, I discovered George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I read these books literally dozens of times, along with paperbacks from Heinlein, Asimov, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Card, Zelazny, Hobb, King, and even Tom Clancy. (Clancy, quite kindly, gave me a stack of his books after he interviewed me for this.)

I take incredible offense at the assertion that, as a combat veteran, I was either not 'grown up,' or that wishing a release from an incredibly austere day-to-day I was leading at such a time was somehow undignified.

Furthermore, I assert that I did not have it bad at all compared to the vast majority of human beings on this planet. I was fed, clothed, and had a roof (sometimes) over my head. Perhaps Harrison's commentary works well with his overpriviledged crowd in London, but it's pure bunk in the real world. I submit that this sentence is as foolhardy as anything ever presented by the psychotic Terry Goodkind or the criminally insane Orson Scott Card.

M. John Harrison is something of a darling of the critical mass in speculative fiction, and so you'll likely not find another negative opinion regarding him or his work on the entire bloody internet. That's ok. I'm up for the challenge. (And fallout.)

Oh yeah, Viriconium.

Viriconium is a collection of all of Harrison's work that takes place in the fantasy world of the same name. His prose is wondrous, and the manner in which he weaves a tale is Pulitzer worthy. That said, it's boring. Harrison is the only author who can write a swordfight that (literally!) puts me to sleep.

The Pastel City, the first Viriconium book, is actually pretty awful. It gets far better from there, thankfully. A Storm of Wings, published nine years later, shows a significant improvement in both prose (which was never lacking) and in storytelling. A Storm of Wings is where Harrison quite obviously made his name as a master fantasist.

Viriconium Nights (The Floating Gods) is again a departure from what came before, both is style and in that actualities of the world. Names and places change, while remaining very much Viriconium. There are also a handful of short stories set in the same world which complete the collection.

So the question that remains at the completion of Viriconium; when your prose is elegant and delicious, is it acceptable to be boring?

6/10

Collector's Notes:

This trade paperback collection published by Bantam Spectra is certainly not collectible in any way. However, the original novels do have some value in the after market.
The Pastel City first edition can be had for 100-150 dollars American; A Storm of Wings for 75-100. (Not overly valuable for books published in 1971 and 1980, respectively.) The other books can be had for considerably less.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Anno-Dracula by Kim Newman

As I began reading the recently released The Man From the Diogenes Club from Monkeybrain Books by the vastly talented and underrated Kim Newman, I was vividly and startlingly forced to recall my first tryst with a man from this esteemed and secret organization. In 1992, Newman punched the world in the teeth with Anno-Dracula, the single best vampire novel ever written.

Hubris; it takes quite a bit on my own part to make such an assertion, and it took quite a bit more for Newman to rewrite the Dracula mythos. The premise of Anno-Dracula is that Van Helsing failed in his bid to rid the world of Vlad Tepes, and the Count has since married Queen Victoria and spread the blight of vampirism throughout London.

The plot revolves around Jack The Ripper, and the eternal mystery of just who it is, and why is it he is committing these acts. The spin that vampirism throws upon this much-told tale is both queerly believable and wonderfully contrived.

Charles Beauregard is charged by the ancient order of the Diogenes Club to solve these mysteries and to bring Jack The Ripper to heel. (Hence, the original man form the Diogenes Club.)

Newman includes many wonderful cameos, including Sherlock Holmes, Fu Manchu, The Elephant Man, and Bram Stoker himself -- all conceived deftly and unforced.

Often I am asked for recommendations of novels that someone may not have heard of before. Anno-Dracula, to this day, is the first to pass my lips if the questioner shows the slightest proclivity towards horror.

Anno-Dracula was a nominee for the World Fantasy Award in 1993 and the Bram Stoker Award in 1994, and lost both to Tim Powers and Peter Straub respectively. And, I submit, despite the doubtless talent of these two fine novelists, quite unfairly.

9.5/10

Collector's Notes:

Anno-Dracula is a cult classic and a somewhat rare and very collectible book. Fine condition copies of the US or UK first edition hardcover will cost you between 100 and 200 American dollars. (I've found them cheaper on eBay, and I'm quick to snatch up any copies I find.)

*Review of The Man From the Diogenes Club forthcoming.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

What's Hot In Collecting: Summer 2006

I've been meaning to start doing something like this for a few months now. There are always ups and downs in collectible book values, but often times it's important to know just what books are becoming valuable and how fast -- so you can be sure to grab a copy before the value increases beyond reasonable reach.
Like Vellum last year, The Lies of Locke Lamora is this years collectible darling. (At least so far.)

The SF community, while trending toward old and conservative, (in habit, certainly not politically) have always been neophysts, in love with the 'Next Big Thing.' Scott Lynch seems to be just that.

Duncan is still going strong, however, and Vellum is a very collectible book. In fact, it might be a good idea to snatch up a UK first edition before they become impossible to procure. The US edition, released just this year, was a trade paperback original. Yawn.

Snatching up a copy might also be a good idea for the recently reviewed River of Gods. It's probably smart to acquire both a UK and US edition of that particular work.

The market recently has been particularly strong for Steven Erikson's Malazan: Book of The Fallen series, with early UK editions rising rapidly in price. (The first few were trade paperback originals, and the recent TOR hardcovers were the only hardcovers produced. This has not hurt their value in the slightest, however.) As new readers from the U.S. become fans, prices continue to rise. I would look to R. Scott Bakker to continue this tradition, and soon.

Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was quite big last year, but the market was glutted with a huge first printing. Signed copies are practically a dime a dozen.

Charles Stross books continue to be very collectible, despite his releasing a new one every other week. I believe that Stross will be considered a pinacle of science fiction of the current generation, and so his books should snatched up as you would Asimov's, Heinlein's, or Zelazny's.

What's Buzzing Right Now:

1. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Gollancz, UK, Hardcover

2. River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Simon & Shuster, UK, Hardcover)

3. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (Bantam Spectra, US, Hardcover)

4. Vellum by Hal Duncan (Pan, UK, Hardcover)

5. Temeraire by Naomi Novik (Voyager, UK, Hardcover)

6. Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge (TOR, US, Hardcover)

7. River of Gods by Ian McDonald (PYR, US, Hardcover)

8. The Complete Chronicles of Conan: Centenary Edition by Robert E Howard (Gollancz, UK, Hardcover)

9. Accelerando by Charles Stross (TOR, US, Hardcover) *expect a huge jump in collectiblity if Accelerando wins the Hugo next month.*

10. Glasshouse by Charles Stross (TOR, US, Hardcover)

11. 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill (PS Publishing, UK, Hardcover)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Shelf Life by Greg Ketter (ed)

DreamHaven Books of Minneapolis, MN is perhaps the worlds finest brick and mortar speculative fiction specialty store. Founded by Greg Ketter in 1977, DreamHaven is just what it's name espouses -- a haven of science fictional, fantastical, and horrific literature, comic books, collectibles, and various other delightful treasures.

At some point, Ketter decided to publish certain special works of wonder, and in the years since DreamHaven's inception has published marvels such as Angels and Visitations by Neil Gaiman and (I believe) The Chronicles of Master Li and The Number Ten Ox limited edition by Barry Hughart.

On the 25th anniversary of DreamHaven Books, Ketter published a collection of science fiction, horror, and fantasy in which books and book stores themselves play a major role. He called it Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores, and it featured a foreword by Neil Gaiman and a luxurious and stunning cover from one John Picacio. The contributors are no slouches either -- Shelf Life features shorts from the likes of Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, Ramsey Campbell, Jack Williamson, Charles De Lint, and John J. Miller.

I'm a bit impassioned over my bibliophilism, and so are the authors, characters, and everyone else involved with this collection. Selling this book to me was a no-brainer, but why should you read it?

Gene Wolfe begins the collection with a haunting tale entitled From The Cradle. It's a story, like most of Wolfe's work, that can not be easily defined by any genre. It's a futuristic tale of a boy who grows up loving books and working in a bookstore. As a young boy, he watches an old woman put a particularly interesting book up for consignment, awaiting the correct buyer. As he works his life away at this particular bookstore, he finds a few distinct opportunities to read certain passages, which never fail to haunt his dreams and change his outlook. One day a strange and familiar young woman comes into the store and truly changes the course of his life.

This story caused me to set down Shelf Life and consider it for a few days. It's Wolfe at his shining best, and worth the price of the book by itself. But one story is not all you will get from this collection.

Other strong stories include works from P.D. Cacek who weaves a fable of books being the manner in which Jews were saved from the holocaust and by David Bischoff who spins a yarn in which a man ends up in heaven but believes himself in hell. (He's in a book store with first editions of every landmark novel imaginable -- all for a pittance -- but he doesn't like to read.)

Ramsey Campbell's One Copy Only tells the tale of a room in the attic of a bookstore where imagined but non-existing books do truly reside. Untold novels from H.P. Lovecraft, The Last Dangerous Visions from Harlan Ellison, and all sorts of magical tomes that ought to exist, but don't anywhere else.

John J. Miller's Lost Books is a tale of regret; the man responsible for the burning of the great library at Alexandria in the fifth century endures to recollect, share, and protect all great literature. Charles De Lint's Pixel Pixies introduces us to a helpful hobgoblin who cares for a used bookstore after the proprietor goes to bed for the night, and how he tries to defend the store from the terrifying onslaught of Tinkerbell's evil cousins. (Any out-of-work Hob's want to come help with my collection?)

All told, Shelf Life is a very fine collection; one that speaks to me personally, and most like all of you as well, if you're reading this musty corner of the internet.

9/10

Collector's Notes:

This is a very collectible book, especially the limited edition version, available here from DreamHaven and Ketter himself. I am off to purchase one of the limiteds myself, right now.

Wolfe, Ellison, Gaiman, early Picacio, De Lint, Campbell........ How can it not be a collector's item?



Thursday, July 13, 2006

Paragaea by Chris Roberson

Once upon a time there was no such thing as Science Fiction. Well, of course there was, but it was not called such until Hugo Gernsback coined the term in Amazing Stories in the 1920's. (Well, at first is was Scientifiction, but the syntactical relationship is quite obvious.)

Previously, the works of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Lord Dunsany, E.R. Eddison and the like were referred to as romances. In modern publishing the term has come to mean bodice-rippers and the like, but originally it was a catch-all for adventure.

Subtitled 'A Planetary Romance,' Paragaea is aptly named.

Not only does it hearken back to a more innocent time in SF, Paragaea also embodies everything lovely and wondrous about the genre before it was, while applying a glossy new coat of modernism.

Leena is a cosmonaut, one of the first to orbit Earth, when she comes upon a radiant gateway leading to an alternate land, Paragaea. After crash landing on this strange foreign land, she is immediately taken prisoner by jaguar-human creatures, until she is rescued by the swashbuckling Hero Bonaventure and the vanquished prince of the jaguar people, Balam.

The three quickly form a partnership, and begin a quest to find a way in which to return Leena to the Soviet Union, where duty calls.

That premise is a bit ridiculous, I'll grant. It's silly and childish and the adventures our merry band embark upon are each more preposterous than the last. We're even treated to the obvious romantic tryst between Leena and Hero.

But for all that, it's a hell of a lot of fun. I smiled my way through this book in just a few short hours. I enjoyed each and every moment, despite -- or perhaps because of -- the absurdity of it.

Roberson dedicates the book to Edgar Rice Burroughs, (Barsoom, Tarzan) Alex Raymond, (Flash Gordon) and David Gerrold. (Land of The Lost, Star Trek, much else) There are obvious nods to each in Paragaea, and each were accomplished quite well. If classic adventure yarns turn your crank, then Paragaea is that one classic tale you've never been able to find in stores or libraries. It's a throwback, a real gem.

Chris Roberson
, in addition to being a writer, is, along with his wife, the owner of Monkeybrain Books. Monkeybrain is a fine small publisher, having recently released John Picacio's Cover Story* and Kim Newman's The Man From The Diogenes Club. (Which I purchased at Readercon and will review here shortly.)

7.5/10

Collector's Notes:

Paragaea is a mildly collectible volume. It's worthy of a place in your collection, but I would not invest in it. That, of course, could change if Roberson's success continues.

*Daily required Picacio reference.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Readercon 2006

Readercon is the literary SF convention. Imagine if you will, a science fiction convention free of Trekkies and Furries and costumed crazies. A science fiction convention lacking an anime room, a tabletop gaming room, or even a crazy lady selling dragon t-shirts and cheap, gaudy jewelry. Held annually in Burlington, Massachusetts, it is a convention focusing solely on books; reading them, buying them, talking about them. It's my kind of place.

The guests of honor this year were China Mieville and James Morrow, with the memorial guest of honor being the seminal Jorge Luis Borges. Other attendees included R. Scott Bakker, John Crowley, Thomas M. Disch, Kelly Link, Jeffrey Ford, John Scalzi, Paul Park, Paul Di Filippo, Nick Mamatas, and Ellen Kushner.

The mood of the crowd was a bit more dour than in years past -- it seems that this was the smallest Readercon attendance in years, and the dealer's room was hit worst of all. The American economy seems to be hurting some of the specialty book dealers.

But some of it is their own fault. How absurd is it that not one bookseller at the convention had a first edition hardcover of Towing Jehovah or Perdido Street Station? These are the signature books from your guests of honor, people. Wouldn't such commodities be a no-brainer? Not a Borges book worthy of merit, either. Well, what about Camp Concentration or 334 you say? Nope, Tom Disch was not in evidence either. The pinnacle of Crowley collectibles, the UK Little, Big from Gollancz? Nowhere to be found. I'm pretty sure I didn't see any Kushner books, either, and those aren't even hard to find.

I wonder sometimes if dealers even glance at the guest lists.

That's not to say I didn't buy anything -- I can't escape a dealer's room at any con without dropping a few bills. Small Beer Press was there, and I couldn't escape without picking up the first book in Peapod Classics line, Carmen Dog by Carol Emshwiller. I also spent quite a bit of time talking up the second in the series, Travel Light by Naomi Mitchison, a true gem of a childrens book. The third in the line, Howard Who? by Howard Waldrop had unfortunately not made it back from the press in time for the convention.

I also stopped by Old Earth Books and picked up a new reprint hardcover of Davy by Edgar Pangborn. Davy is a lesser-known classic of science fiction; a coming of age story set in a post-apocalyptic world. OEB's edition is beautiful, a quality reprint from the company that brought back Edward Whittemore's magnificent Jerusalem Quartet.

John Kuenzig from Kuenzig Books was there, and his wares are always a highlight of a dealer's room. He's one of those guys who has or can get anything you want. A great help to collectors.

I also ran across a table run by a website called SFRevu. They were selling the ARC's and hardcover review copies that company's had sent to them for review. Call me crazy, but I see this as a bit of a breach of trust. Companies do not send you free review copies so that you can undersell the retail price and take money out of the author's and publisher's pockets. These were not old books; some of them were very recent releases such as Dave Duncan's Children of Chaos and Charlie Stross's The Clan Corporate.

That wasn't the best, though. The best was that they proceeded to tell me that these were all books that they did not like, and that they refuse to review books they did not like. "There are enough 'good' books released each month that we never have to talk about the bad ones."

I'm quite certain I lost brain cells talking to that poor, poor man.

So anyway, if you ever happen to click on SFRevu, just look at the pictures. If you see a cover of a book, that means they liked it. No need to, you know, read the content.

So, the programming.

I missed out on the Friday programming due to that pesky employment thing, but my wife and I were ready for war when Readercon opened on Saturday morning. Admittedly, I didn't make it to many panels this year. I spend most of my time in the Dealer's Room or at signings and readings. Once or twice a day there is a panel that seems especially attractive, and on Saturday there were two that seemed like sure fire, can't miss, enthralling discussions.

The first was Everybody Dies with James Morrow, Thomas M. Disch, Beth Meacham of TOR, and some people I'd never heard of. (Despite the fact that I follow speculative fiction with every waking moment. I'm not saying that such filler is common, and I'm not insinuating that such people should not be on panels, but, well, such people should not be on panels.)

That's a good segue: What the hell is up with nobodies on panels? It never fails that if you were to go to a panel featuring J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, and H.P. Lovecraft, there would also be Pete Smith and Tanya Jones on the panel -- and these bloody nobodies would proceed to monopolize the conversation. Sorry Jenny Johnson, but I came to hear Ms. LeGuin -- so shut yer damn mouth.

Ok, so back to Morrow and Disch and Everybody Dies.

Nobody number 1, 2, and 3 have taken up the majority of the initial 20 minutes. Nobody #3 even seems incapable of stringing together a cogent sentence. Mr. Morrow is able to step in for a moment and make a lucid point, before being interrupted by Moderator Nobody. Mr. Disch had yet to say a word, and I was a bit concerned over whether they would bully him out of the opportunity to speak at all.

Well, I needn't have worried.

Remember now, the topic is Everybody Dies. Gothic Nobody #2 seemed to be glad at the opportunity to kill off the worlds population and was mumbling something about how hope in the face of a cataclysm was evil. Hope is disgusting, just ask the Greeks! Despair is truth or somesuch. I was pretty sure she had forgotten her medication, and I couldn't stop myself from starting to hum Love Song by The Cure.

Anyway, then comes Tom Disch. He was literally mumbling and gesturing incoherently. Complaining, I think, that no one could hear anyone speaking. (Though he was by far the hardest to hear of the group.)

Then he turned to us, pulled a microphone close, and chastised the panel for not mentioning the word tragedy with respect to the topic. Then he started to speak about Hamlet, and that's when he fell apart.

I thought he was acting at first. Then I thought he was drunk or high. He was crying uncontrollably -- into the microphone. I laughed at first, then I thought perhaps he had suffered a recent loss. Then I wondered if perhaps he was having a joke at our expense, and finally I mused over whether the man was truly bugfuck insane. I can't say I know the answer to this question, but it was certainly a panel for the ages.

And don't ask what happened next; the answer is nothing. Disch proceeded to cry and occasionally speak of poetry and tragedy and movies for the next half hour. It was incredibly disconcerting. At the very least it worked to quiet the Nobodies, but I don't wish that panel on anyone.

And so we looked to the next panel to remove the bitter taste from our tongues. This one promised to be the best panel of the convention -- Embracing The Uncomfortable with R. Scott Bakker, Kelly Link, China Mieville, Paul Park, Ellen Kushner, and David G. Hartwell. Each participant was at least somebody, and Link, Bakker, and Mieville are some of the top minds in the field.

The problem began with the panel's moderator -- the esteemed David G. Hartwell. I had drill instructors on Parris Island who were less structured and micro-managing. I suppose that's how it was done in the golden age of SF or something, but really, sometimes editors should just let the authors talk. I would pay money to listen in on a conversation -- any conversation -- between Mieville, Link, and Bakker in a bar, but Hartwell did not so much encourage discourse as ask specific questions and call the panelists to heel if they stepped outside the questions. It was so tedious and boring that I believe Bakker tried to challenge the belief of form vs content in literature simply to liven up the thing. We seemed on the verge of an interesting exchange between Bakker and Link, who were both right in their own way, when Hartwell exerted control.

After the travesty that was Jim Frenkel vs Scott Bakker and Gary Wassner at World Fantasy Con last year, it truly seems as if TOR editors have it out for Mr. Bakker. I honestly don't know. Hartwell is the same guy who disrespected PYR Books and bragged about passing on River of Gods by Ian McDonald, and Jim Frenkel is the editor for one Terry Goodkind -- so who knows what goes on in their minds.

Anyway, the panel was boring. Mieville was charming and well spoken as always, but didn't get much of a chance to talk. Bakker never got a chance to explain just what it was he was talking about, and Link was probably the gem of the panel, though she was interrupted twice.

It's sad when a discussion with such possibility wilts on the vine. Alas.

Sunday was a bit more of the same. I attended two more panels, but of all the SF conventions I have ever attended, this was certainly the least worthwhile in terms of panel content. I was, however, cheered by a comment of Hartwell's in Sunday's panel on SF criticism when he stated that no reviews online were worth reading. (He singled out Emerald City to disdain.) Oh, but reviews and criticism sure were great back in the old days.

Yawn.

I had intended to attend a panel on the New Weird in which Nick Mamatas was a panelist, but got sidetracked by Scott Bakker offering to buy me a beer before his reading. I simply could not pass up such an opportunity, but was lucky enough to at least meet Mamatas before the panel, and got him to sign my copy of Move Under Ground. Nick was a very nice man, and I say that for the record because he is known mostly for his acerbic and dastardly wit on his very popular livejournal account. He didn't make me cry, and so I considered it a good outcome.

Neil Clarke from Clarkesworld Books was at the convention, attaining signatures from seemingly every author in attendance. If you're interested in signed books from any of the authors mentioned, Clarkesworld would be a good place to get them. He was gracious enough to have a drink at the bar with my wife and I, and then he paid me quite handsomely to say nice things about him.

There was a small Brotherhood Without Banners presence, in the form of myself, my wife, and Stilgar. Maureen and I heard over and over again from friends, acquaintances, and people we simply could not recall how wonderful the Boskone party was and how memorable it had been. I repeatedly told them to "Wait until you see Worldcon."

Our final adventure at Readercon was R. Scott Bakker's reading from his forthcoming science fiction thriller, Neuropath. It's nothing like The Prince of Nothing, but it's very much Bakker at the same time. I think he said the word 'fuck' over 50 times in the half hour reading and made me consider my existence -- it was a great way to end the day.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the master fantasist that no one seems to have heard of. Those few dialed in know him, sure, but I don't see The Girl In The Glass being read on the train. I don't see The Physiognomy on high school summer reading lists. Despite critical acclaim and notable awards, Ford has yet to attain his rightful status among the masses.

The Empire of Ice Cream will not be the book to change this sad truth, but it certainly ought to be.

A hodge-podge collection of Ford's recent fantasy, The Empire of Ice Cream is Ford's second collection from Golden Gryphon. The first, The Fantasy Writer's Assistant, was the World Fantasy Award winning collection in 2003. It was also one of the five finest short story collections I have ever read. It seemed impossible to me, despite my appreciation for all things Ford, that a second collection coming so soon on the tail of the previous could even approach the same sort of quality, depth, and brilliance.

Jeffrey Ford proved me sorely wrong. The Empire of Ice Cream is even better.

The lead story recieved the Nebula Award for best novellette in 2003. A Night in the Tropics is incredibly haunting. Boatman's Holiday is a vividly rendered mess of insanity. And Coffins In The River has kept me awake the past two nights.

The cover looks kinda wacky, doesn't it? Like The Fantasy Writer's Assistant, it's John Picacio, and if you've read more than one review on this site, you know how much I appreciate John Picacio.

But this particular cover, I did not like. It's kind of weird, no? Weird and bright and not, I assumed, Picacio's best work. It didn't much speak to me.

Then I read the book.

Now it's among my favorites of all time. This guy is ridiculous. He's the speculative fiction Picasso, and he's alive in our very own times, people. Take note.

But I'm digressing. The book, not the cover, is what I should be talking up. It's good. It's better than good. It's Cordwainer Smith, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin, Lucius Shepard short story good. This collection is a gem. I need some time and distance for perspective, but this may be my favorite collection of all time.

In an era of great short story writers -- Link and Lanagan, Chiang and Hill -- Jeffrey Ford stands above and beyond the rest; a true master of his craft, and this may be his opus.

10/10

Collector's Notes:


The first edition is limited to 3000 copies. Pick it up before it's sold out. When you get it, put down whatever else it is you're reading and delve into the magic. This is what fantasy is all about.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

This past January I had the pleasure to attend Harvard University's annual science fiction & fantasy convention, Vericon. The guest of honor was George R.R. Martin, of whom I'm something of an unrepentant fanboy. (He says we're friends, but I'm quite certain he's just being nice.)

From his first reading throughout the entire weekend, when asked about any other works whatsoever, he brought up Scott Lynch's name, and his just now released The Lies of Locke Lamora. He mentioned how it was "just the sort of story I love to read," and "One of the best new fantasies in years." Having spoken with George at length a time or two about other writers, I'd never before heard him so excited about a new author. He usually reserves his accolades for genre stalwarts like Jack Vance, Roger Zelazny, or J.R.R. Tolkien, and so my appetite for this novel was duly whetted.

Try as I might, I simply could not get my hands on a copy of the ARC. Thus, I had to wait like everyone else for the general release on June 27th.

The wait was worth it.

'His problem,' said the Thiefmaker, 'Is that if I can't sell him to you, I'm going to have to slit his throat and throw him in the bay. And I'm going to have to do it tonight.'

Instantly we are immersed in the Venice-like city-state of Camorr, and the life of Camorr's most brilliant thief, Locke Lamora. The hooks fly, and you can't help but read just a bit more of Locke and his Gentleman Bastards. It's a non-stop ride that you don't ever want to get off.

Lynch combines the very best of Raymond Feist (Jimmy the Hand) with the timeless magic of Robin Hood, set in a Godfatheresque watery Lankhmar. The Lies of Locke Lamora is not a book of ideas, a work of wonder, or anyones idea of a classic of literature. What it is is a worthy heir of the very best adventure novels ever written, deserving shelf space alongside Treasure Island, Scaramouche, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and The Count of Monte Christo.

C. M. Morrison over at Strange Horizons, in his or her review of The Lies of Locke Lamora, inferred that reviewers were bribed to talk up this book. "Far more often I want to know how the reviewer was bribed to tell me such lies." And Nick Mamatas tears Morrison a new orifice here on his live journal. (Just thought you might like to see that. S'pretty amusing.)

Well, I wasn't bribed. I didn't even get an ARC. I shelled out my hard earned dollars. Retail price, even.

And I loved it to tears.

9/10

Collector's Notes:


Want to invest in a newly released book? This is it. Buy now, buy signed, buy five. In ten years, you'll wish you bought twenty. Lynch is going to be big, and this is it. His Magician, The Eye of The World, A Game of Thrones. This is the book to buy this year.

The prologue is available for free download here.