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Books in Your Future
by John O'Neill

The Lure of the Uncorrected Proof

I haven't met a serious SF fan yet who doesn't like to wrap her hands around an advance proof. You've seen them -- those handsomely-packaged preview editions of upcoming books sent out by publishers to generate review quotes, excitement amongst distributors, and general street buzz. Often wrapped in preliminary art and arcane but vaguely promising marketing jargon (like "Die-Cut, full-colour easel-backed display card! 900-copy floor display with special riser! Special vanishing print!"), these little gems just seem to whisper sweet nothings to collectors, passionate readers, and casual fans alike.

Yes, they're rare and collectible. And yes, they can cut down the wait for that final volume of your favourite fantasy megaology by up to four months. But it's more than that, apparently. Even the most casual reader of SF feels the magnetic charm of an uncorrected proof, and is drawn to pick one up. Perhaps there's a naturally stronger appeal to lovers of speculative literature. After all, they're not just science fiction -- they're future science fiction.

So how do you obtain an advance proof, exactly? Seems like there's quite an aftermarket for them, truth be told. Charlie Brown at Locus sells them by the ton out of the back of a truck in Oakland. Current ones are a tougher find, but not for everyone. If you're a book dealer or marketing rep at a company like Borders or W. H. Smith, they come at you like asteroids at a faulty astronomer. And if you're a commercial website with over a million hits a month, they land at your doorstep and smother your dog.

After a while though, you start to take them for granted. You catch yourself saying things like, "Oh, you haven't seen the new Kim Stanley Robinson yet?" People start to dislike you. No one invites you to parties. You spend your nights at home reading bizarrely edited manuscripts printed on bad paper, and wondering why no one calls.

If this should happen to you, just remember there are things you can do. Snitch, for instance. Sure, there's something of an unwritten agreement between you and the publisher when an uncorrected proof schlepps your way. You're not supposed to, you know, call up the local TV station and yell "Spock dies! Spock dies!" or anything. And it's not a good idea to quote that horrible plunger murder scene on page 192, because it'll be fixed in the final release, and in fact never would've made this version if the editor hadn't had a hangover.

But really, no one made you sign a contract when the manuscript arrived. If you really wanted to, you could... well, let your close friends and neighbours have a glimpse of the covers. Perhaps even a peek at the plot synopsis. And maybe then they'd forgive you, and all would be well again.

Are you listening, Mom?

Book Previews: May - August

May

Bhagavati (Blood of the Goddess, Volume 3) by Kara Dalkey (Tor, 384 pages, $24.95 US/$34.95 Canadian in hardcover, May 1) is the third installment in her intriguing and epic fantasy series set in ancient India, and the sequel to Goa and Bijapur. Dalkey is the author of Steel Rose and the wife of SF writer John Barnes, who just released Earth Made of Glass last month. Must have been a busy week in that household... Terry Pratchett fans have been waiting none too patiently for the latest Discworld novel, and at last it arrives on this side of the Atlantic. In Jingo (HarperPrism, 323 pages, May 19) we find that a new island has appeared between the lands of Ankh-Morpork and Al-Khali. Instead of sharing the new land equally, forces on both sides scheme to drive the two countries to war, something that neither side has experienced in over a century... and finally for May we have Child of the River by Paul J McAuley (Avon/EOS, May), subtitled "The First Book of Confluence," from the author of Fairyland, Pasquale's Angel, and Eternal Light. It's the tale of a young man named Yama, a journey through a ghostly city of the dead and a metropolis of living wonders, and an astonishing secret behind the reality of his world. SF Site reviewer Lisa DuMond checks in next issue with a full review.

June

Carnivores of Light and Darkness from Alan Dean Foster (Warner Aspect, 320 pages, $23 US in hardcover, June 1) is the start of an epic new series called Journeys of the Cathechist from the author of The Dig and Dinotopia Lost. Like all of Foster's work, it promises to be exciting and fast paced, so grab a copy and hold on to your hat. Todd Richmond did, and he's back from the front next month with a full review... Fire Angels (Avon/EOS, 448 pages, $13 US in trade paperback, June 1), is the newest from Jane Routley and the sequel to her debut novel from last year, Mage Heart, a magical romance which featured a powerful young Mage named Dion. Dion now finds her homeland of Moria threatened by marauding Witch Hunters and the dreaded and mysterious Fire Angels. Soon enough she is thrust back into the world of court intrigue, political conspiracy, and furious passion, and forced to confront the deadly, seductive world of demons.... and the sharp pen of Lisa DuMond, who'll give us the full scoop in June... Juniper, Gentian, & Rosemary (Tor, 352 pages, $23.95 US in hardcover, June) is the latest from by Pamela Dean, author of Tam Lin and The Dubious Hills, among other fine fantasy novels. This was one of the most hotly contested advance proofs to arrive in our office, and it'll no doubt be a while before the well-worn copy lands on my desk again. Try her yourself and see what all the fuss is about -- or tune in in June for the complete report from SF Site reviewer Margo MacDonald.

July

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells (Avon/EOS, 368 pages, $23 US in hardcover) is our first peek at a July book. Martha Wells wrote the The Element of Fire and the well-received City of Bones. This is her third novel, a dark fantasy about... um, necromancers. I'm hooked... Tad Williams won a sizeable audience with his fine fantasy trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. His first major science fiction effort was Otherland, which SF Site reviewer Victoria Strauss called "enthralling" in her recent review. July sees the second part of this four volume opus, River of Blue Fire (DAW, 576 pages, $24.95 US/$33.99 Canadian, July), and Victoria is already devouring it in preparation for a full report... Parke Godwin's novels of Sherwood are some of the most beloved retellings of the Robin Hood legend in recent memory. He returns to that era with a prequel set in eleventh century England, Lord of Sunset (Avon, trade paperback, July). "Parke Godwin's Lord of Sunset is a symphony of eleventh-century voices, realized with Godwin's dramatic skill... Godwin has created a story that is both virile and tender and in which his love and reverence for the myth of England plays an active part." -- Susan Shwartz... Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson (Bantam Spectra, 511 pages, $24.95 US in hardcover/$34.95 Canadian) promises more surprises from the multi-talented author of the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Mars series. A near-future ecological thriller only peripherally SF, if at all, the proof showed up with an impressive photo of Robinson presiding over a rocky Antarctic landscape, looking very adventurous and inspired. The main character of the novel is a representative of a US senator, sent to Antarctica to investigate environmental 'ecotage.' Trouble ensues from there. Jean-Louis Trudel promises a complete rundown for our July issue... and then there's Inhuman Beings by Jerry Jay Carroll (Ace, 256 pages, $12 US in trade paperback/$17 Canadian). I like the looks of this one. Kinda The Usual Suspects meets Men in Black. Goodwin Armstrong is an ex-cop turned private eye whose newest client is a beautiful young psychic predicting something very, very bad on the horizon. Carroll's previous novel was the literary fantasy Top Dog. The hard-working Victoria Strauss has promised a thorough examination just in time for beach season... and finally in July we have another handsome and hefty fantasy debut from Tor: The Runelords by David Farland (Tor, 448 pages, $25.95 US in hardcover). If you peer carefully at the cover scan you can make out a nice endorsement from author Terry Brooks. Details on this one are scant, but that shouldn't stop all you thick fantasy fans out there from lining up to try it out. C'mon, you know who you are.

August

August is an exciting month for fans of quality fantasy. It begins with two of the most anticipated novels to arrive in our offices in some time. Canadian Sean Russell's The Compass of the Soul (DAW, 432 pages, $24.95 US/$33.99 Canadian in hardcover, August) is the sequel to his masterful Beneath the Vaulted Hills, in itself a subtle continuation of Russell's earlier books World Without End and Sea Without a Shore and one of the best fantasy novels we reviewed last year. Watch for it -- and watch for the complete review from the SF Site's Rodger Turner... Irrational Fears by William Browning Spencer (White Wolf, $19.99 US/$27.99 Canadian in hardcover). The acclaimed author of the bizarre and eerie Resume With Monsters, The Return of Count Electric and Zod Wallop returns with a new novel of dark fantasy. There were violent scuffles in the lunch room over this one, and it finally vanished late one stormy evening, with only a small note left behind marked "Review -- mid-August." Once we get it, we'll pass it along to you... Swords Against the Shadowland by Robin Wayne Bailey (White Wolf, 207 pages, $9.99 US/$13.99 Canadian in trade paperback, August): According to the White Wolf press release tucked into this little artifact, Fritz Leiber and Robin Bailey announced a new series of collaborative novels featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser just before Leiber's death in 1992. Bailey soldiered on, and this book is the result. And it looks considerably more interesting than I thought at first glance, with ghosts, a devastating plague ravaging Lankhmar, and ancient sorceries at work. Bailey is the author of Triumph of the Dragon and Night Watch... Heartfire (The Tales of Alvin Maker, Book 5) by Orson Scott Card (Tor, 301 pages, $24.95 US in hardcover/$32.95 Canadian, August 7) is the fifth and final volume in the well-received Alvin Maker series from Card. SF Site contributing editor Steven Silver completed his copy in a single evening and gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up... but we'll hold the review until August to keep those secrets safe.

You know where to find us.

Copyright © 1998 by John O'Neill


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