Upcoming SF Book Releases – Spring 2013

There are a handful of science fiction novels coming out in the next few months that have caught our eye, including the final entry of a trilogy that really ought to go down as one of the most entertaining and well-written science fiction series ever, the fifth book in a great military sci-fi series, and a detective story set on Mars. Here’s a quick look at the three books Android Dreamer is most excited about:

Robert J. Sawyer Red Planet BluesRed Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer – Robert J. Sawyer is one of those writers that you either love or hate, and we love everything we’ve read of his so far. Red Planet Blues is apparently a noir-ish detective story set on a future dystopian Mars extrapolated from his Hugo & Nebula Award-nominated novella “Identity Theft”, which sounds too good to pass up. To be released on March 26th.

Ian Tregillis Necessary EvilNecessary Evil by Ian Tregillis – Although he may not be a household name yet, the Milkweed Tryptych (as the trilogy is called) is one of the most exciting and completely original works to come out of science fiction in years. The first chapter, Bitter Seeds, was among the best books of the year when it was released way back in 2010, and the middle novel, The Coldest War, definitely lived up to the thrill of the first. Raybould Marsh is one of the most memorable sci-fi heroes ever, and the series is a must read on the strength of his character alone. Necessary Evil is set to be released on April 30th.
John Scalzi The Human DivisionThe Human Division by John Scalzi – The fifth novel in Scalzi’s Hugo Award nominated Old Man’s War series, The Human Division is already available in individual story-length ebooks. Scalzi is a huge presence on the internet, and is also juggling being the president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and being a very prolific novelist. The Human Division will see release as a complete novel on May 14th.

What big science fiction & fantasy release are you looking forward to over the next few months? Which big ones did we miss?

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M.H. Mead, authors of the Detroit Next series | Interview

M.H. Mead Author Photo

Margaret Yang & Harry R. Campion: M.H. Mead

M.H. Mead is the name of Michigan-based writing team Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion. Margaret is a full-time writer and parent, and Harry writes in addition to teaching. Taking the Highway is their third collaborative novel, all of which are set in the same alternate future Detroit. Margaret also keeps up a blog about the writing process and books about writing called Writing Slices.

Android Dreamer: For those who haven’t read your novels yet, what’s the general idea behind the Detroit Next universe?

M.H. Mead: The Caline Conspiracy, Fate’s Mirror, and Taking the Highway are crime novels set in near-future Detroit. Our imagined Detroit is finally prosperous, but some strange political and economic compromises have been made to get there. The heroes are a PI, a hacker and cop. The books are fast-paced and don’t rely on high-tech jargon or far-out worlds to make the plot. Our fans tell us we write “science fiction for people who like thrillers.”

AD: How do you divide the writing duties between the two of you? How does the process differ from writing fiction alone?

MH: We live about an hour apart, so we have to plan our writing time or it won’t happen. We start by brainstorming together in marathon sessions where we throw ideas at each other—nothing is too crazy to think about. These sessions lead to a rough outline we would never show to another living soul. We get together again and make a more detailed outline. We each write part of the first draft, then come together again for editing. We do a ton of re-writing, both individually and together, so the whole thing sounds like one story told with one voice.

AD: Who are your biggest literary influences? Were there any in particular that affected choices you made in writing any of your novels?

MH: Well, of course, the sun rises and sets on Larry Niven. We’re inspired by Niven’s attention to social change. It’s fun to write about technology and new toys, but the real fun is marking the ways people react to the technology. It isn’t always in ways you’d expect. We also learned a lot from the novels of Bruce Sterling and George Alec Effinger. We love how their future worlds shine a spotlight on the world we live in today.

AD: Which character in your novels are you the most proud of?

MH: Morris Payne, the super-hacker from Fate’s Mirror. He’s a triumph of contradictions: a criminal you root for, a hermit who must interact with people, a nerd in the role of hero.

AD: How much does your personal experience influence the way your characters progress and the way the stories unfold?

MH: Every single one of our heroes is caught between two worlds–whether it’s work/family, job-for-pay/job-you-love, or in the case of Morris Payne, hiding/living. As parents with careers in addition to writing, we are constantly pulled in two (or three) directions. So that’s one way our characters are like us. Their circumstances might be different, but the emotions are the same. Maybe that’s why our readers like our heroes. Everyone can relate to that feeling.

AD: Are you happy with the results of self-publishing? Is there anything you wish you’d done differently based on what you’ve learned in publishing your three novels?

MH: We like it a lot. It’s fun to have the final say over content, jacket copy, cover, and price. The community of other indie authors is extremely supportive and helpful. For example, Lindsay Buroker was one of our first twitter friends and she introduced us to our cover artist. We learned so much from those who came before us that we were able to avoid most of the pitfalls of DIY publishing–so far, at least.  After all, there are always new mistakes to make.

AD: Do you have any plans for another entry in the series, or will Taking the Highway be it?

MH: There are things in our world still pestering us. If something clamors for enough attention, we’ll listen to it. If the idea is good enough to sustain the standards we’ve set for ourselves, we’ll write it.

AD: Is there anything in particular you’d like readers to take away from your novels?

MH: The general tone is cautious optimism. Although a lot of people have given up on Detroit, we think it still holds promise. We believe that Detroit and the people of Michigan will make some tough choices and adapt to the world. There will be some choices that make life even more difficult. Our books deal with those, too. But overall, our books are meant to be good reads. We’re here to entertain the readers for a few hours with some murder and mayhem in near-future Detroit. If we can do that, we consider our books a success.

Taking the Highway, the latest entry in the Detroit Next series, is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. You can follow Margaret on Twitter at @Margaret_Yang, read about M.H. Mead’s literary exploits at their website, and like them on Facebook.

Daniel Powell – The Silver Coast and Other Stories | Book Review

Short story collections as a rule are a bit more difficult to do well. On average, you’re relying on around a dozen stories to keep the reader’s interest, and one or two duds can really drop the overall thoughts on a collection. As it so happens, Daniel Powell‘s collection The Silver Coast has issues, but consistent quality of readability is not one of them.

All of the stories have some kind of science fiction element. Powell shines especially when dealing with post-apocalyptia, including a touching story about the few remaining survivors of a small town in a zombie apocalypse. Another tells of a man escaping prison to find his lost love in a post-nuclear world, not knowing one way or another if his partner even survived the disaster. This story in particular feels a bit too brief, however. If it were stretched to closer to a novella length Powell would have had better opportunity to highlight the troubles of the search and make the payoff a lot more satisfying.

Other stories, such as one about a man’s obsession with an old car he sees parked on the side of the road, have a good twist but don’t grab the imagination quite as vividly a the better parts of the collection. That said, Powell is a solid writer with good dialogue that moves things along, with his biggest strength being his ideas. Although not every story is brilliant, his ideas are consistently interesting enough to inspire continued reading.

Strangely enough, there are some stranged formatting problems in the eBook edition. The first few pages are nothing but weird tags that don’t register as anything but jumbled HTML on the basic Kindle. For the entirety of the collection, full empty lines are used between each paragraph, which doesn’t really come across well in a book such as this. If you can get past the formatting issues associated with the ebook (which we cannot verify are also present in the print edition), this is a strong collection. It seems that if Powell were to do a full length novel that gives him more time to build his characters and work through his wonderful ideas, he could write something really special. The Silver Coast and Other Stories is at the very least a readable and enjoyable collection, but has a few stories that stand out as borderline excellent.

Rating: 3.5 stars (of 5)

Release Alert: Zeus, Inc by Robin Burks

Robin Burks, a talented writer for a handful of websites including DVICE.com, FanGirlConfessions.com, and RantGaming.com has released her first novel through her own publishing company Bad Karma Studios as of July 28th. The novel, which is primarily futuristic science fiction, has received some very positive reviews so far. The synopsis:

50 years ago, Zeus, Inc., and its CEO, the mysterious Joseph Brentwood, saved the world from a major energy crisis by discovering a new unlimited energy resource. Now, in 2069, Mr. Brentwood has gone missing and private eye Alex Grosjean has been hired to find him by his daughter (and Alex’s best friend), Aleisha.Black-outs begin to occur all over the world and somehow Alex believes it’s tied to Mr. Brentwood’s disappearance. Her search leads her through her own murky past and into the fantastical depths of Hell itself, where she discovers that Mr. Brentwood is not who or what he seems to be.With the help of an otherworldly man named Pip, Alex must save both Mr. Brentwood and the world. But will she be able to face her own guilty past in order to do it?

The novel is available through Amazon as well as Smashwords. Priced at only $2.99, take a look at the sample and help support Ms. Burks if it grabs you.

If you yourself or a self-published writer you know are releasing a book soon or doing a signing, tweet at us @androiddreamer with a link to the information and we may post about it here.

Signing Alert: Gary A. Ballard, writer of the Bridge Chronicles

Gary A. Ballard, the self-published writer behind the novels that make up the Bridge Chronicles, will be doing a book signing on August 21st at  G. Chastaine Flynt Memorial Library in Flowood, Missouri. This is his first public signing, and he will be autographing previously purchased copies of his works as well as having some for sale. He will also be doing a talk about the development of his characters. Ballard’s novels are fun, fast-paced cyberpunk adventures with good characters; definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area.

All three of the novels of the series are available on Amazon, including a collection of all three books in ebook form. For more information about Gary A. Ballard and his work, see his website: Tales from the Bridge Chronicles.

If you yourself or a self-published writer you know are releasing a book soon or doing a signing, tweet at us @androiddreamer with a link to the information and we may post about it here.

Paolo Bacigalupi – The Drowned Cities (2012) | Book Review

Paolo Bacigalupi‘s The Windup Girl was the best debut novel of just about anyone, maybe ever. It was fresh and brilliant with wonderful characters (despite almost all of them being unlikable) and a world unlike anything seen in science fiction. It won the Hugo Award, and Bacigalupi managed to follow that up with a National Book Award nominee and Michael L. Printz Award winner in Ship Breaker, which told the story of a young boy forced to scavenge from derelict ships in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by global warming. The Drowned Cities is that novel’s successor, in that it shares the world and one major character. It is the best work Bacigalupi has ever done.

The Drowned Cities centers around Mahlia, a part-Chinese war orphan living in the D.C. area who had one hand removed by soldiers. Despite her handicap, she works as the assistant for the doctor of her small town, in a region that is constantly ravaged by always changing regimes of violence. The current occupiers are the UPF, but it is hard to believe that one could tell the difference between them and the Army of God or any of the other potential military dictatorships. Life is miserable, and soldiers come through from time to time just to rape and murder for the hell of it. Mahlia is a remarkably strong and wonderful character, who believes that she can escape the horrors of her world despite everything around her being so miserable and so dire that hope is in short supply.

The plot really begins when Mahlia and her best friend Mouse discover an unconscious half-wolf man called Tool. Thinking him to be dead, they try to cut into him to salvage what they can for meat or otherwise, but he awakes and takes Mouse hostage. Mahlia pleads for Tool not to kill her friend, and in exchange promises to go steal antibiotics and other medication from the doctor to help the half-man recover from injuries sustained in a prison break. To go any further would be to spoil, but it is an absolutely amazing story that is sometimes hard to read because of gore and the pure sorrow in every aspect of Mahlia’s situation.

Bacigalupi’s quality of writing is astounding. Both his prose and dialogue are just about perfect, and there are so many moments through the novel that beg the reader to stop and re-read. There’s just so much here and so much power in every part that it gives one the strong urge to run around telling every single person about it. The book may not be for everyone; it is often so depressing that it can be hard to return to. But this novel is so good, so perfect, that it would be a crime if it were not to win just about every award for the genre. Paolo Bacigalupi is absolutely the best writer working today.

Rating: 5 stars (of 5)