To read, or not to read???

I have several piles of books scattered around my apartment. As a matter of course, there is my "books to read" pile, which is actually made up of a number of piles and always keeps growing bigger. There's the "this one looks good" pile, which is sort of like the "maybe" pile. And then, there's the "books to donate to the library" pile, where every review copy I know I'll never read ends up.
Now, in a perfect world I would have time to read and review basically all the material which ends up in my mailbox. At this rate, I'll have received between 400 and 500 books in 2009. Sadly, this is the real world. I have two jobs and a social life and a family and friends and shit to take care of. What it comes down to is that I can't read more than 40 to 45 novels a year. Not bad for a guy who doesn't that many hours left in a typical day to read, but nowhere near as good as some other online reviewers who can read well over 100 books per year.

Rounding up the stuff in my "books to donate to the library" piles, I selected a few titles to give to my friend Émilie. She pimps Japanese animated features to me, and I give her books to read. I'm happy with this arrangement, and so is she.=) In the process of doing that, it occurred to me that my "this one looks good pile" was always increasing due to the fact that I haven't picked up one of its titles in ages. So much so that I'm now considering giving those I believe she'll enjoy to Émilie and donate the rest.

So here's a list of five speculative fiction titles that look quite promising, but which I haven't gotten around to read just yet. I've been keeping an eye out for reviews, but they have been few and far between. Not enough to entice me to give any one of them a shot.

What say you? Have you read any of these, or heard good things about them? Here's the list:

- Wolfbreed by S. A. Swann (Canada, USA, Europe)

This one comes with a great blurb from George R. R. Martin: "S. A. Swann has written a spellbinding fantasy of the Teutonic knights and the great Northern Crusade, set in a little-known period of history amidst the gloomy forests of Prussia and Lithuania. Vivid and visceral, dark and delicious, this one kept me turning pages from start to finish."

In this captivating reinvention of the werewolf novel, S. A. Swann propels readers into the darkest days of the Middle Ages, weaving a rare blend of soaring romance, historical intrigue, paranormal thrills, and spiritual questioning to tell a story that forever changes those who hear it.

When a monk inadvertently discovers a lair of werewolf young, he unleashes what will become the Church’s most powerful–and secret–weapon. Clandestinely raised by the Teutonic Order, these lupine creatures serve as instruments of God against pagan unbelievers. Trained to slip into villages cloaked in human form, they are all but unstoppable. Only one, called Lilly, has cunningly fled her brutal master.

Uldolf is too young to remember the massacre eight years earlier that claimed his village, his arm, and his kin. But he knows the pain of loneliness. When he sees what appears to be a beautiful young woman, injured and cowering in the woods, he races to her aid. Uldolf and his adoptive family will do anything to protect the terrified girl, but the danger is greater than they can possibly imagine. For death is the only life Lilly has ever known–and if their humanity can’t pierce the darkness Lilly harbors in her soul, they’ll soon come to know it, too.

- The Human Disguise by James O'Neal (Canada, USA, Europe)

The world has been shattered. Disease and war have ravaged the Earth. A resurgent Germany once again threatens Europe, and the United States is engaged in the Middle-East while New York sits, an empty, radioactive ruin. The city of Miami has become a virtual prison, home to the worst life has to offer.

Tom Wilner lives on the outskirts of this foresaken realm. He's what this future passes off as a police officer. With his family shattered, Wilner is just a pale version of the police hero he once was. When a chance encounter in a rundown roadhouse erupts in violence, Wilner is forced to step in.

His exploration into the violence of that evening leads him onto the path of two ancient warring races. They have been manipulating power and control on Earth for centuries, and are about to enter into a battle for ultimate supremacy. Unless Tom Wilner puts an end to their fury.

- The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff (Canada, USA, Europe)

A terrifying novel of suspense based on the Rhine parapsychology experiments at Duke University.

After experiencing a precognitive dream that ends her engagement and changes her life forever, a young psychology professor from California decides to get a fresh start by taking a job at Duke University in North Carolina. She soon becomes obsessed with the files from the world-famous Rhine parapsychology lab experiments, which attempted to prove ESP really exists.

Along with a handsome professor, she uncovers troubling cases, including one about a house supposedly haunted by a poltergeist, investigated by another research team in 1965. Unaware that the entire original team ended up insane or dead, the two professors and two exceptionally gifted Duke students move into the abandoned mansion to replicate the investigation, with horrifying results.

The Unseen is Alexandra Sokoloff's most thrilling novel to date: a story of deception, attraction, and the unknown.

- Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America (Canada, USA, Europe)

In the reign of President Deklan Comstock, a reborn United States is struggling back to prosperity. Over a century after the Efflorescence of Oil, after the Fall of the Cities, after the Plague of Infertility, after the False Tribulation, after the days of the Pious Presidents, the sixty stars and thirteen stripes wave from the plains of Athabaska to the national capital in New York City. In Colorado Springs, the Dominion sees to the nation’s spiritual needs. In Labrador, the Army wages war on the Dutch. America, unified, is rising once again.

Then out of Labrador come tales of a new Ajax—Captain Commongold, the Youthful Hero of the Saguenay. The ordinary people follow his adventures in the popular press. The Army adores him. The President is…troubled. Especially when the dashing Captain turns out to be his nephew Julian, son of the falsely accused and executed Bryce.

Treachery and intrigue dog Julian’s footsteps. Hairsbreadth escapes and daring rescues fill his days. Stern resolve and tender sentiment dice for Julian’s soul, while his admiration for the works of the Secular Ancients, and his adherence to the evolutionary doctrines of the heretical Darwin, set him at fatal odds with the hierarchy of the Dominion. Plague and fire swirl around the Presidential palace when at last he arrives with the acclamation of the mob.

As told by Julian’s best friend and faithful companion, a rustic yet observant lad from the west, this tale of the 22nd Century asks— and answers—the age-old question: “Do you want to tell the truth, or do you want to tell a story?”

- Bitter Angels by C. L. Anderson (Canada, USA, Europe)

An Imploding Star System.

A Murdered Galactic Spy.

A Woman Seeking the Truth—and Finding the Unbelievable…

The Erasmus System is a sprawling realm of slavery, smugglers, spies—and constant, creeping decrepitude. Here everyone who is not part of the ruling Four Families is a slave of one kind or another. But the Guardians, a special-forces branch inside the United World Government for Earth, have deemed Erasmus a “hot spot.” Somehow, it is believed, this failing colony intends to launch a war upon the solar system.

Ex-Field Commander Terese Drajeske, now a mother of three, has been called back to active duty and sent to Erasmus, ostensibly to investigate the murder of her colleague—and friend—Bianca Fayette. At first blush, the death defies explanation: Bianca was immortal. But beneath that single murder lies a twisted foundation of deceptions. Suddenly Terese is plunged into a vortex of shattered lives, endemic deceit, and one dreadful secret. In this society without hope, someone has put into motion a plan that will cast humanity into chaos. And Terese, who has given up her family and her sanity to prevent war, may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice…

16 commentaires:

RobB said...

I finished up Wolfbreed a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it. Good solid story, review to come soon.

Reviews for Julian Comstock are all over the internet, including my review - it is in my top 5 reads for 2009.

Blodeuedd said...

I'd go for the first one, it looks good

Ian said...

If you haven't read Robert Charles Wilson, give him a try. One of the most imaginative SF authors out there (and Canadian).

Stefan said...

Julian Comstock is one of the best Sf novels I've read this year. None of the others looks interesting to me, but I'd definitely suggest Julian Comstock.

ediFanoB said...

I posted some information (review, book trailer, 100 pages impression) about Wolfbreed. It is on my to by list for December 2009. I don't know the rest of the books

RobB said...

...also Pat, Robert Charles Wilson is a fellow Canadian.

Clifford said...

I've like to know what you think of Bitter Angels. It might say it's by C.L. Anderson but the copyright is for Sarah Zettel. She has written some fine SF, but that was a while ago. Since 2002, she has only been coming out with Fantasy novels.

Jebus said...

Have you thought about handing out the books to other people to contribute to the reviews? I'd assume only locals to keep postage down, but it's a thought - more reviews can only be a good thing eh?

Val K. said...

I just got Wolfbreed signed by the author, as he lives in Cleveland and so I do. I'm looking forward to it, but don't know anything about it yet.

Unknown said...

I have heard that Julian Comstock is good stuff, but honestly all the rest look terrible. There are a million books out there you know are good reads. If you have to read one go with Comstock. Skip the rest.

Anonymous said...


G. R. R. Martin really can't do without metaphors of eating, can he?

Anonymous said...

You should like "Comstock". The Saguenay ? That's right on your doorstep !

Kerrygirl said...

I'm sorry but the blurb for 'Bitter Angels' makes it sound like the most unbelievable pile of poo...

Darkstar said...

Didn't hear from any of it yet, but WOLFSBREED sounds promising!

Michelle said...

I'd go with Wolfbreed. It's a great book. But in the interest of full disclosure, I'm the author's wife, so I'm probably a bit biased :) But Wolfbreed did get a starred review in Publisher's Weekly, plus Booklist referred to it as "possibly the werewolf novel of the year." If you're interested in other reviews for the book, I can always email you a list of links.

rastronomicals said...

Another voice for the Wilson.

I've not read the novel, but I did read the short story, "Julian: A Christmas Story," which basically ended up being the first two chapters of the novel. I quite enjoyed it, and it was a finalist for the Hugo, and was reprinted in the Dozois Year's Best anthology.