Release Week: Station Eleven, City of Stairs, Hieroglyph, Monstrous Affections, and Gregory Maguire’s Egg and Spoon

SEPTEMBER 3-9, 2014: A highly-praised post-apocalyptic fiction, a secondary-world fantasy, an optimistic hard sf anthology, a young adult fantasy anthology, and an “all ages” fantasy lead a crowded week which also includes Daryl Gregory’s “dark, degenerate, and sublime” We Are All Completely Fine, Karen Miller’s The Falcon Throne, Angus Watson’s Age of Iron, Siobhan Adcock’s ghost story The Barter, Paula Guran’s anthology Zombies: More Recent Dead, Benedict Cumberbatch reading William Golding’s The Spire, and the first two books in David Gerrold’s War Against the Chtorr. Speaking of series, Steven Gould’s Jumper series continues with Exo and Kim Harrison’s Hollows series concludes with The Witch with No Name. And it’s a packed week in the “seen but not heard” listings as well, with (among others) Nancy Kress’s Yesterday’s Kin, etc. Jonathan Wood’s Yesterday’s Hero, D. Harlan Wilson’s Primordial: An Abstraction, M.C. Planck’s Sword of the Bright Lady, Benjamin Parzybok’s Sherwood Nation, Darin Bradley’s Chimpanzee, and Stephen Graham Jones’ collection After the People Lights Have Gone Off, and Laila Lalami’s historical fiction The Moor’s Account. In terms of news and links and such, as usual there’s news a-plenty. Last week I shared the official announcement that Patrick Rothfuss would be narrating his forthcoming novella, and this week I’ll link to another read by the author title to look forward to soon: John Darnielle’s narration of Wolf in White Van is pretty fantastic. In other news and links, narrator Luke Daniels shared A Brief History of Talking Books for the Blind and Recorded Books answered Tantor’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with aplomb. Meanwhile, as I detailed as part of the September Whispersync Roundup (which has since been updated to include a few more deals) Audible’s Win-Win Sale ends on September 18. All right! Get listening! By the time you read this, The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters, and Jay Lake’s Last Plane to Heaven will all be out. Enjoy…

PICKS OF THE WEEK:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel 

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September Whispersync Deal Roundup

Out with the deals of August and in with the deals of September! As usual, the daily #WhispersyncDeal posts on Facebook/Twitter cover the more ephemeral deals, but here’s some titles to check out all September long — but first, some deals that either end today (Friday) or in a week:

The King in Yellow | [Robert W. Chambers] Annihilation: Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 1 | [Jeff VanderMeer]

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Release Week: Acceptance, The Bone Clocks, Maplecroft, Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, and Randall Munroe’s “What If?”

AUGUST 27-SEPTEMBER 2, 2014: September is here, and so are 5 of my most-anticipated audiobooks of the entire year: Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance concludes his Southern Reach trilogy, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks is the Cloud Atlas author’s first new novel in four years, Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft gives us Lizzie Borden and her axe, we find out what happens to an angel on the run after Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, and Wil Wheaton narrates an audiobook adaptation of Randall Munroe’s What If? Also out this week: Seanan McGuire’s The Winter Long, Gregory Sherl’s The Future for Curious People, Sylvia Izzo Hunter’s The Midnight Queen, Charlie N. Holmberg’s The Paper Magician, Richard Parks’ Yamada Monogatari: Demon Hunter, along with an absolutely unbelievable lineup of narrators for the complete run of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and! thrillers galore, including Tana French’s The Secret Place. Seen but not heard picks include: Stuart Rojstaczer’s The Mathematician’s Shiva, Ben Lerner’s 10:04, Tony Daniel and David Drake’s The Savior, J.F. Lewis’ Grudgebearer, and Nina Allen’s The Race. Plenty of news and links to share this week: Ellen Kushner talks audiobooks with Forbes, Veronica Scott talks audiobooks with USA Today, Ford is giving away copies of Edan Lepucki’s California, Simon & Schuster Audio is having a massive thriller audiobook giveaway contest, and indie narrator Jeff Hays did an “ask me anything” on reddit. OK! By the time you read this, Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, Steven Gould’s Exo, and Neal Stephenson’s Hieroglyph anthology will already be out. (Not to mention Siobhan Adcock’s The Barter, which already is, and, finally! The Rabbit Back Literature Society which is due September 11.) Happy listening!

PICKS OF THE WEEK:

Acceptance: The Southern Reach Trilogy, Book 3 | [Jeff VanderMeer] The Bone Clocks | [David Mitchell]

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Release Week: John Scalzi’s Lock In, Peter Watts’ Echopraxia, Richard Kadrey’s The Getaway God, and Brent Weeks’ The Broken Eye

AUGUST 20-26, 2014: August goes out with quite a bang, with a near-future sf thriller, medium-future space sf, urban fantasy, and epic fantasy releases among the biggest of the year, ahead of what is set to be quite a September to remember. Also out this week: an English translation of Daniel Kehlman’s tragicomic novel F, Lisa Shearin’s Southern-fried, NYC-set urban fantasy The Grendel Affair, Simon R. Green’s Voices from Beyond, David Drake’s “Northworld” trilogy, Janet Morris and Chris Morris’ The Sacred Band, and Stant Litore’s “Zombie Bible” series continues with a short: I Will Hold My Death Close. Meanwhile there’s some real gems in the “seen but not heard” listing, including Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, though an audiobook is in the works. The big audiobook news to pass along this week is that Stefan Rudnicki is set to record Lewis Shiner’s novel Frontera, with a late October release date. Frontera is Shiner’s Philip K. Dick and Nebula Award finalist debut sf novel, first published in 1984, of a corporate-controlled near future and a lost Martian colony. I’ve been hoping for exactly this development for quite some time now, and am eagerly awaiting the result. Now: get listening! Jeff VanderMeer’s Acceptance, David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft, and Tad Williams’ Sleeping Late on Judgement Day will be out by the time you read this. Enjoy!

PICKS OF THE WEEK:

Lock In | [John Scalzi] Lock In | [John Scalzi] Continue reading

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Release Week(s): Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, Graham Joyce’s The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit, Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin, Charles Gannon’s Fire With Fire, Ekaterina Sedia’s Heart of Iron, John Shirley’s Everything is Broken, Jacob Cooper’s Circle of Reign, and just a ridiculous all-star cast reads R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt stories (for free)

AUGUST 6-19, 2014: Another two-weeks-worth of roundup here, with new books from Murakami, Joyce, and Hobb, backlist Sedia, Shirley, and Gannon, and highly notable epic fantasy audio from the completely unexpected to the completely unprecedented. Yup. And there’s a long list of “also out this week” titles of note including (at least) Sean Platt and David Wright’s Yesterday’s Gone from Podium Publishing, Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett’s Point of Dreams, J.G. Ballard’s The DroughtThe Atrocity Exhibition, and The Crystal World, R.A. MacAvoy’s Death and Resurrection, Sarah Creech’s Season of the Dragonflies, AG Riddle’s The Atlantis World, Michael Mather’s The Dystopia Chronicles, Richard Phillips’ Once Dead, Drew Karpyshyn’s The Scorched Earth,  Charles Beaumont’s horror collection The Hunger and Other Stories, Bernard Malamud’s God’s Grace, and Brazilian author Cristovao Tezza’s 1998 Machado de Assis Award winning Brief Space Between Color and Shade in English for the first time. The “seen but not heard” listings aren’t short on books to check out, either, including Brent Hayward’s Head Full of Mountains, Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s Scale-Bright, Patrick Swenson’s Ultra Thin Man, Nick Cole’s Soda Pop Soldier, John Hornor Jacobs’ The Incorruptibles, Ben Peek’s The Godless, and Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine. Lastly, some casting news to pass along: Brad Torgersen announced that George Newbern (fantastic on Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar audiobooks) will narrate his debut novel The Chaplain’s War for Audible. Whew! Next week — er, tomorrow — is set to be a big one, and the September 2 crop is another epic haul, so: Happy listening!

PICKS OF THE WEEK:

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage | [Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel (translator)] 

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August Whispersync Deal Roundup

While I’ve continued the daily #WhispersyncDeal posts on Facebook/Twitter, with another month has come another set of month-long Whispersync deals, both in Amazon’s monthly Kindle deal listings and beyond. First those “official” deals, starting with sci-fi and fantasy:

Carniepunk | Rachel Caine,Rob Thurman,Kevin Hearne,Seanan McGuire,Jennifer Estep,Allison Pang,Kelly Gay,Delilah S. Dawson,Kelly Meding Fuzzy Nation | John Scalzi The 39 Clues, Book 1: The Maze of Bones | Rick Riordan

Carniepunk for $1.99+$3.99 — “Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world….” — Written by: Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, and Kelly Meding — Narrated by: Candace Thaxton, Kirby Heyborne

Fuzzy Nation for $2.99+$3.49 — “In John Scalzi’s re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s 1962 sci-fi classic Little Fuzzy, written with the full cooperation of the Piper Estate, Jack Holloway works alone for reasons he doesnt care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorps headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporations headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, thats not up for discussion.” — Written by: John Scalzi — Narrated by: Wil Wheaton

Kids: The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze of Bones (along with later books in the series) — “What would happen if you discovered that your family was one of the most powerful in human history? What if you were told that the source of the family’s power was hidden around the world, in the form of 39 Clues? What if you were given a choice – take a million dollars and walk away…or get the first Clue? If you’re Amy and Dan Cahill, you take the Clue – and begin a very dangerous race.” — Written by: Rick Riordan — Narrated by David Pittu

WESTERNS and MYSTERY

The Sisters Brothers: A Novel | Patrick deWitt Canada | Richard Ford Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead | Sara Gran Continue reading

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Review: Cibola Burn


Cibola Burn (Expanse, Book 4)
By James S.A. Corey, Read by Erik Davies
Length: 21 hours, 23 minutes
[Downpour | Audible | IndieBound]

Some problems require diplomacy. Others require Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante.

Two years after the ring has opened up Earth, Mars, and the Belt to a whole new universe of planets, a dispute arises on a newly discovered habitable planet between illegal settlers and the corporation claiming to rightfully own it. The diplomatic powers that be claim that there’s only one man who can help solve the dispute without too much bloodshed. “Everyone hates him equally, so we can argue he’s impartial. He’s got ties to you, Mars, me. He’s a fucking awful choice for a diplomatic mission, so it makes him perfect.”

Really, it’s not every protagonist who can be described like that and still somehow shine. (Thank you, Avarasala!)

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Release Week: The Magician’s Land, Frostborn, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Spirit and the Skull, The Widow’s House, and Laird Barron’s Occultation and Other Stories

JULY 30-AUGUST 5, 2014: Trilogies conclude and trilogies begin, and still another expands, along with two intriguing standalone novels to kick off August: Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land, Lou Anders’ Frostborn, David Shafer’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, J.M. Hayes’ The Spirit and the Skull, and Daniel Abraham’s The Widow’s House. It’s a busy week, with other audiobooks out including Carol Berg’s Dust and Light, Steven Erikson’s Reaper’s Gale (in Brilliance Audio’s ongoing productions of his Malazan Book of the Fallen), Kat Richardson’s Revenant, and a new Blackstone Audio edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos works entitled Necronomicon. Some “seen but not heard” selections include Sam Cabot’s Skin of the Wolf and Graham Joyce’s The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit, though Joyce’s is set for audio from Dreamscape in a couple of weeks. In audiobooks news, a pair of successfully-funded Kickstarters with audiobooks attached to pass along: The Maze of Games read by Wil Wheaton, and the An Alphabet of Embers anthology edited by Rose Lemberg. While it’s too late to get in on the Kickstarters, both of these look to be fantastic projects. Speaking of projects, Audible unveiled a new Author Spotlight on The Books that Changed My Life feature with 3 books picked and pitched by a fantastic (and huge) panel of authors, including (among others) Deborah Harkness, Michael J. Sullivan, B. V. Larson, Cassandra Clare, Ernie Cline, Christopher Moore, Kevin Hearne, Lev Grossman, Emma Straub, Megan Abbott, Brandon Mull, Jack McDevitt, and Shawn Speakman. Also new (at least to me) is the Try Audio Books website from Random House Audio and Listening Library where, among other choices, you can get a free download of Jason M. Hough’s The Darwin Elevator. Happy listening!

PICKS OF THE WEEK:

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman Frostborn by Lou Anders Continue reading

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Release Week(s): World of Trouble, Land of Love and Drowning, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Half a King, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice, Blightborn, and Kaiju Rising

JULY 9-29, 2014: Covering three weeks worth of releases in mid-to-late July, with picks including a terrific ending to Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy, new standalone epic fantasy, magical realism, near-future sf, comedic high fantasy, CornPunk, and a Kickstarter-funded anthology of megamonster invasion. Beyond the picks, there are more trilogies concluded (Hannu Rajaniemi’s Jean le Flambeur, Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy), more next books in a series (Melissa Scott and Jo Graham’s Order of the Air series, Mark Hodder’s Return of the Discontinued Man), and a fantasy classic come to audio in advance of the author’s return to the series (Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand), along with Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House, a pile of Robert McCammon, William Dufris reading Isaac Asimov’s Robot trilogy, new collections (Ben Bova read by Stefan Rudnicki and company, David Drake read by Christopher Grove), Tim Pratt’s The Nex, and The Golden Compass director Chris Weitz’s fiction debut, The Young World. And! Just in time for the movie adaptation, Joe R. Lansdale’s Cold in July. But! I’m frustrated to note that the “seen but not heard” listings include Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five and are headlined by Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman — there’s a fantastic UK audiobook edition of Tigerman out since May, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until November to get a US audiobook.

One bit of good news, however, is the appearance of new library CD and MP3-CD editions of Glimpses by Lewis Shiner, read by Stefan Rudnicki. Out since 2011 in digital audio — and my pick that year for best new audiobook of the year — the book of time travel (of a sort) and rock-and-roll won the 1994 World Fantasy Award, and really is a wonderful book and audiobook. In other news and such, I have a fantastic narrator interview to pass along: Jeff VanderMeer interviews Bronson Pinchot for Vulture — it is a fantastic, fantastic, in-depth interview. Speaking of interviews, I hadn’t yet seen Cory Doctorow’s interview at Downpour.com by narrator Malcolm Hillgartner, so while it may not be new, it’s new to me. See you in August for the next roundup, including reviews of Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land and Lou Anders’ Frostborn. Enjoy! [And if you’re new to audiobooks, among the many ways to get started are: you can try Audible with a free audiobook or get your first 3 months at Audible for $7.49/month; try a free 30-day trial at audiobook streaming service Audiobooks.com; or sign up for a $12.99 monthly membership at DRM-free Downpour.com.]

PICKS OF THE WEEK:

World of Trouble: The Last Policeman, Book 3 | [Ben H. Winters] 

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Review: Blood Song

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow: Book 1) [Downpour | Audible]
By Anthony Ryan, Narrated by Steven Brand for Penguin Audio
Length: 23 hours, 8 minutes

In a time where people are chomping at the bit for George R.R. Martin’s next installment in A Song of Ice and Fire, there’s no shortage of epic fantasy novels to choose from. Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song has seemingly come out of nowhere, and it’s easy to see why so many of Martin’s readers are devouring it: Blood Song feels a lot like the continuing adventures of Jon Snow. An estranged father drops off his only son to be raised at a sacred order. We follow young Vaelin Al-Sorna through his training to become a brother of the sixth order as he survives desolate landscapes, discovers the secrets behind his father and mother’s romance (as well as his father’s infidelities), foils surprise attacks and assassinations, finds forbidden love, discovers dark prophecies and ancient evils, and becomes the warrior leader we all knew he’d end up becoming. There’s even a giant wolf or two.

For some, that’ll be enough. The same friend who finally talked me in to giving A Game of Thrones a chance five years ago hounded me to read Blood Song for about a month because (like the titular song for our young hero) he couldn’t get it out of his head. And I can see why – Ryan definitely knows how to tell a story. But it’s a story most of us have heard many times before.

For me, Blood Song is a perfectly adequate Epic Fantasy that made me realize how bored I am with Epic Fantasy in general. It has an Epic Fantasy Greatest Hits vibe going for that you’d expect to hear covered at your local karaoke tavern. And I get the comfort and enjoyment out of that – really, I do. Blood Song is not badly written (though I did feel the final chapter was a bit too much monologuing and revelations) and Steven Brand’s excellent narration made listening relatively enjoyable. But it’s like a Nickleback song – you’ve heard it before, and you’ve probably heard it done better. Maybe that’s part of the appeal – there aren’t any real surprises here. Our hero is always in danger, except you never actually believe he’s going to lose. The setting is typical European medieval. In the end, Blood Song is not a bad book, but it is predictable and safe. This stands in stark (heh) comparison to Martin – an author who may take a long time to get there, but one I feel like manages to surprise me by his choices.

I don’t doubt Anthony Ryan is a talented author, and Steven Brand is a very gifted narrator. But Blood Song made me realize I’ve been wandering the desert that’s become Epic Fantasy for way too long, and I’m craving something new at the next oasis.

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