APRIL 9-15, 2014: After two massive release weeks in a row, we get a bit of a breather here in terms of overall numbers, but a half-dozen fantastic titles make for another week of hard choices for those without infinite time for listening. The ALSO OUT listings have a few items of interest as well, particularly Frank Herbert’s Direct Descent read by Scott Brick, Matthew Costello’s post-apocalyptic horror novel Home, and a wide selection of teen and middle grade titles, including Geoff Rodkey’s Blue Sea Burning. In SEEN BUT NOT HEARD this week there are a few enticing books as well, including Rjurik Davidson’s debut novel Unwrapped Sky and Django Wexler’s first middle grade novel, The Forbidden Library. In publishing news this week, three items of interest to pass along: 1. The table of contents for the Nick Mamatas-edited anthology Phantasm Japan (Haikasoru, Sep 16) has been revealed; author(s) James S.A. Corey talk about the recent announcement of a TV series based on his/their “Expanse” series; and Sarah Chorn (a.k.a. BookwormBlues) will be collaborating on a shared world novel set in “The Shattered Worlds” universe for Antimatter Press. Meanwhile, I’ve recently torn through Off To Be the Wizard (what a great year for funny business 2014 has been!) and have been glued by the ears to Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August since starting into it last night. Fun stuff abounds. Enjoy!
PICKS OF THE WEEK:
Lagoon By Nnedi Okorafor is the World Fantasy Award winning author’s first novel for adults since 2010′s Who Fears Death. Narrated By Ben Onwukwe (known for his role in London’s Burning) and Adjoa Andoh (known for her roles in Dr. Who and EastEnders) for Hodder & Stoughton, the audiobook is really well done. Onwukwe handles most of the mainline narration, with Andoh providing the introduction and filling in for a few vignettes – an extract of the audiobook on HodderPod gives the first of these, from the point of view of a swordfish — as well as providing all of the female voices “inline” with Onwukwe’s reading. Both narrators display quite a range, from multiple “American” accents to diverse African (Nigeria, Ghana, pidgin English) to British ex-pats and more; from simple dialogue to guttural screams, both actors give fantastic performances. At first, the “inline” insertions are a bit jarring, but as the audiobook progresses it becomes more natural and seamless to the ear. Inspired by “Wizard of the Crow, Under the Dome (the novel), Nollywood movies, and District 9″, Lagoon is a story of first alien contact, Lagos, Nigeria, and (principle among the protagonists) Adaora, a marine biologist. Okorafor’s aliens are different — upon high-magnification examination, Adaora discovers that they are not composed of cellular material at all, but rather billions of tiny metallic crystals — who can shapeshift, read thoughts, and are quite serious when they say that they bring “change” — a keyword refrain that I read as an homage to Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Written with a cinematic sensibility, along with the primary thrust of the story (Adaora, rapper Anthony, and soldier Agu trying desperately amidst the chaos of rioting Lagos to bring alien ambassador Ayodele together with the popular but ineffective Nigerian president) there are many, many sub-plots afoot, from a “born-again” church’s bishop hoping to use Ayodele, to small-time 419 scammers preparing to upgrade to kidnapping, to (as is perhaps a defining characteristic of Okorafor’s work to date) the intersection of science fiction and mythology: ghosts, gods, trees, animals, the ocean itself. Highly recommended.
The Warrior Who Carried Life By , Narrated By for Audible Studios (April 10) — Ryman’s 1985 debut epic mythological fantasy novel was lovingly re-released by ChiZine Press in 2013, and now comes to audio. I have had a daily search for Ryman’s books in audio since being strongly recommended him by John Kessel, and finally that patience has been rewarded: “To defeat her enemies she must make them immortal. Only men are allowed into the wells of vision. But Cara’s mother defies this edict and is killed, but not before returning with a vision of terrible and wonderful things that are to come… and all because of five-year-old Cara. Years later, evil destroys the rest of Cara’s family. In a rage, Cara uses magic to transform herself into a male warrior. But she finds that to defeat her enemies, she must break the cycle of violence, not continue it. As Cara’s mother’s vision of destiny is fulfilled, the wonderful follows the terrible, and a quest for revenge becomes a quest for eternal life.” Continue reading