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New and Noteworthy

Once again we dive into the mix of books arriving at our office to pick out the week's most noteworthy titles, and take a look at notable SF and Fantasy books still in print that you may have missed in On The Shelves.

New Releases

We haven't seen an entire sub-genre blossom overnight since the publication of Neuromancer mid-wifed the entire Cyberpunk movement. But in the last twelve months the Millennium Apocalypse novel has arrived fully formed as a genre, attracting authors as diverse as Elizabeth Hand (with Glimmering) and Mark Fabi (Wyrm), not to mention the Millennium TV series tie-in books. One supposes there's something irresistible about watching all those zeros converging on the celestial odometer -- it gets the creative juices primed, perhaps.

The latest offering in this vein is a little more intriguing than most: The Seraphim Rising (Roc, October 1997, 298 pages, $5.99), a first novel by Elisabeth DeVos. As the new millennium approaches six Angels arrive on earth, proclaiming themselves God's heralds, and they find a planet ready and eager to believe. Still, there are a good number of skeptics who suspect the winged beings, who promise to open the gateway to paradise, to be the advance guard of something sinister. When the drugged-out video cult hero Harry Chen -- producer of the outrageous Freak Follies -- claims to be their leader and the new messiah, one man spots a chance at the truth: Carson McCullough, Harry's old friend and personal liaison to the Seraphim. All it will require it to overcome his own lack of faith... and perhaps betraying the messiah.

Felicty Savage's first novel was Humility Garden (1993), and she followed it with the acclaimed Delta City. Now, at the ripe age of 22, she offers perhaps her most significant work yet: Ever: The War in the Waste, Part One, (HarperPrism, September 1, 440 pages, $14.00). Crispin Kateralbin was born in a caravan and raised in a circus as a Daemon handler and high-wire aerialist. But when a careless accident results in death, he finds himself expelled from the circus into the crumbling Ferupian Empire. Soon he flees into the daemon-infested Raw, where he meets Rae, an orphan girl of equally exotic origins. Before long he is involved in the century-long war between the slowly dying Queen of Ferupe and her ancient enemy, the Lizard Significant, flying daemon-powered planes over a land torn by mystery cults and powerful dynasties. A moody and original dark fantasy.

Michael Swanwick has earned a reputation on the fringes of science fiction. Like Rudy Rucker and Lucius Shepherd, he's known for a modern sensibility and a non-linear writing style, as well as a fascinating penchant for off-the-wall ideas, but he's managed to escape the easy labels affixed to many of his contemporaries. Swanwick isn't a cyberpunk, a magic realist, or a urban fantasist. He's a writer of stature capable of wildly original concepts and attention-getting settings. And nowhere is that more evident than in his Nebula award-winning classic, Stations of the Tide (Avon, September 1, 252 pages, $13), first released in 1991 and now re-published in an attractive format by Avon Books.

It's the final, dying days of the planet Miranda, drowning under its own oceans in a great natural disaster. Gregorian is a brilliant scientist and wizard, a man with access to forbidden technology and even more compelling magics, obsessed with a plan to remake the planet into his own image. As the Jubilee Tides rise -- obliterating the only clues to Gregorian's whereabouts, Miranda civilization, and the inhabitants' final refuges -- the race is on to locate the renegade scientist. An unusual story in an unforgettable setting.

C. J. Cherryh won her first serious acclaim with the Hugo award winning novel Downbelow Station and the books that followed, including Cyteen. Now she returns to "One of the best-built and most live-in futures in science fiction" (Chicago Sun Times) with a new Merchanter novel featuring the Neihart family and their historic ship, Finity's End (Warner Aspect, August 1, 471 pages, $22). A truce has been declared in the Company Wars, and Finity's End's Captain James Robert Neihart can finally turn his attentions to pressing matters of family. During the wars his ship was forced to leave a pregnant crew member on the planet Pell; now the orphaned child has been located on the planet Downbelow, where's he's found happiness working with the planet's mystical and peaceful natives. For Neihart and his family this is more than merely a matter of honor -- half his family has been killed in the war, and the recovery of this prodigal son will be a crucial symbol of hope for his battered generation.

But Fletcher, the orphaned boy suddenly torn away from the first peace he's ever known, finds himself a virtual hostage to a group of battle-scarred strangers. In the midst of an exciting tale of interstellar intrigue Cherryh has woven a touchingly human story of a young man who not only must learn who he truly is, but how to find a place of honor in a society far more alien to him than non-humans he grew up with. Recommended.

Howard V. Hendrix has been nominated for the Nebula Award and the Pushcart Prize for his short fiction, and now his first novel appears with significant advance praise. Lightpaths (Ace, September, 345 pages, $5.99) is the tale of the Orbital Complex, a self-contained city of 4,000 residents high above the Earth. A research haven and theoretical Utopian society, the Complex is a shining jewel of human accomplishment. But every jewel has those who covet it, and when their "perfect world" is attacked the inhabitants of the station discover they must fight to protect it. "If Robert A. Heinlein had grown up reading William Gibson, Lightpaths is the novel he'd have written." -- Robert J. Sawyer. A second novel set in the same universe, Standing Wave, is scheduled to appear from Ace/Berkley in September 1998.

Years ago I found myself in an unusual situation -- departing the country to live and travel in Europe for an unspecified time. I stuffed my pocket and pack with paperbacks, which I read in train stations and in our small apartment. The first book I selected for the trip was The Eye of the Hunter by Dennis L. McKiernan -- a book with one of the most memorable villains in modern fantasy. McKiernan has returned to the world of Mithgar to start a new fantasy series with Into the Forge (Roc, August, 426 pages, $23.95), the first volume in the Hel's Crucible Duology. The series tells the tale of the Great War of the Ban, a conflict that swept over much of Mithgar, as seen through the eyes of two ordinary folk -- Tipperton Thistledown and Beau Darby -- who are inexorably drawn into the conflict.

Ancient sorcery has engulfed the kingdoms surrounding the Grimwall mountains. When Tip and Beau attempt to save a mortally wounded soldier they inherit a mission of great importance. Soon hordes of Foul Folk are at their heels as they plunge eastward into foreign lands filled with monsters, magic, and a terrible war. "The story of the Ban War would cover many volumes, but I chose to tell only Tip and Beau's portion of it, and even that bit covers two full volumes of text. But fear not, it is an adventure well worth the telling." -- Dennis L. McKiernan

On the Shelves

Here we point out those books still in print which we've recently discovered or which we've just had recommended to us. As always, if you have your own suggestions be sure to let us know.

When Brenda Seabrooke and her family moved into a new home built over an old pre-Civil War road in Falls Church, Virginia, they heard strange, unexplained noises throughout the house. To Seabrooke's trained imagination they sounded like footsteps, and before long the noises had inspired the author of The Bridges of Summer and Judy Scuppernong to write her next novel: The Haunting of Holroyd Hill (Puffin, May 1997, 136 pages, $3.99).

Melinda and her brother Kevin are having trouble adjusting to their new home. But they soon forget all their troubles when they discover the house is haunted. The spectre appears at the same time every night. But where does he go, and why? Is he the ghost of a Civil War soldier? And if so, what is he trying to signal? This book for young adults is both a spooky ghost tale and a satisfying mystery.

It's been a great season for first novels, but Lightpaths and The Seraphim Rising are by no means the only good recent work from talented beginners. Kay Kenyon's debut SF novel, The Seeds of Time (Bantam Spectra, June 1997, 513 pages, $5.99), first appeared three months ago and has gradually been garnering real attention. An unusual tale of time travel and ecological disaster, it's also a tense SF thriller of a woman on the edge. Clio Pinn is a Dive pilot, one of the very few capable of making the dangerous plunge into the time stream to retrieve vegetation vital to Earth's survival. In 2019 the planet is dying, most of its greenery killed as a result of a depleted ozone layer. The future of Earth depends on missions to the distant past in search of viable plant species capable of revitalizing our world.

But Clio is on the edge of burnout, using powerful drugs to keep her going. For she and two others have gotten a glimpse at just how desperate the situation really is, making a forbidden dive into the future where they record the last transmissions from a dying Earth. Now she has risked everything to bring seeds back from a lush alien world -- seeds that will either end our planet's slow decay, or push it over the edge completely.

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