July 2014 archive

Series for ‘Shippers, Part 2: Urban Fantasy

As I said in yesterday’s post on mystery series with slow-building romance, I’m a shipper. I adore relationships that take a while to kindle, where you watch two people dance around their attraction before acting on it. Love at first sight kind of bores me (although attraction at first sight — YES), as it seems far-fetched and leaves no place for your couple to go.  But a romance that has its ups and downs, setbacks and betrayals? That’s just more interesting.  Series books have a great potential to string along a good attraction across multiple volumes. In paranormal romance, a sort of sister to urban fantasy, you are often dealt a different couple in every book, and the happiness of the couple is never really in any doubt.  The worldbuilding might be important, but the thrust of the plot will be getting this couple to their happy ending.  Urban fantasy that includes romance (and they don’t always — I promise to roundup some great ones that are love-free for those who don’t want any k-i-s-s-i-n-g in their fantasy) can have devastatingly swoony love stories, but that is not usually the point of the story.  And because urban fantasy often runs in series, authors often spin out the arc of the couple over many, many books. Let’s face it: the obstacles to love in urban fantasy are high. You might not even be the same species as the object of your attraction.  And then there’s the whole “have to save the world from monsters and evil” thing that can get in the way.  But when it is done well, the slow burn romances of urban fantasy are some of the best around. Perhaps I should say here that there are SPOILERS for those who haven’t caught up on some of these series. While a lot of urban fantasy telegraphs the love interest to come loud and clear, there are at least a couple that caught me by surprise.  In the best way possible. (more…)

Series for ‘Shippers, Part 1: Mystery

There are a word for those who root for romance, no matter what.  In the wider world of fandom, especially genre fandom, they are known as “shippers”, short for “relationshippers.” More commonly used for TV series (one show that had adamant shippers was The X-FIles, where from almost the first episodes there were fans that wanted Scully and Mulder to get it on), there are plenty of potentials for a good ship in book series as well. Sometimes in books as in TV the ship never comes in, the romance never gets consummated or even acknowledged. But that doesn’t stop a romance fan from hoping for their happy ending. There is no obstacle that a true blue shipper cannot willfully in search of their ship: plot mechanics, basic compatibility and sexual orientation can all be overcome in the heart of a true shipper. I’m a devoted shipper, but I’m a patient shipper. A big part of shipping is anticipation. Long looks, sexual tension, a lot of  “He annoys me. I don’t like him at all. Why can’t I stop thinking about the way his lips look when he….DAMMIT” internal monologues.  I love series where the relationship builds over time and the couple has to overcome a ton of obstacles.  While in traditional romance there are relationships that are more of the “slow burn” variety, the couple almost always get together in the end.  But in genre blends, especially blends that are part of a series, the romantic relationships might develop over multiple books. Will they?  Won’t they?  Ahhhhhh….. (more…)

Genre Blend New Releases for August 2014

Here are some of the genreblended books coming out in August 2014.  The focus is on blends with a SF, Fantasy or Horror element, but I also include blends from other genres from popular authors or to which I’m especially looking forward. Genres are listed in my best estimation as to the order of prominence to the story. For example, if the first genre listed is SF, that is probably the first audience for the book. What are you most looking foward to?
   

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Featured Blend: Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is dead, long live cyberpunk!  The genre that was the hottest thing in science fiction in the 1980s and early 1990s has had its death certificate drafted many times.  From the signature works of William Gibson, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling and K.W. Jeter it supposedly ended soon after authors like Neal Stephenson started writing cyberpunk so over-the-top that it almost parodied the genre. But if you look at some of the classic elements of cyberpunk:

  • A near-future urban setting, often gritty and veering towards dystopia.
  • A dark view of technology often with innovations that seem amazing but end up with a loss of individual privacy or identity, and the technology being often embedded or integrated into biology.
  • A tone Influenced by hardboiled and noir detective fiction, usually paired with the fast pace of a thriller.

This description could be applied to plenty of books before Neuromancer came along, (Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination being one strong example), and there are books published in recent years that carry the cyberpunk torch, using elements from this recipe book to create new and entertaining SF novels. By all means, if you prefer you can call it something else, but I’ll just be over here reading it. From a blend point of view, most cyberpunk falls under the SF/Adrenaline umbrella in the blender.  Here are a few from the last 5 or so years, but feel free to comment with your favorite cyberpunk torch carriers. (more…)

Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

SCIENCE FICTION/ROMANCE

TITLE:  Fortune’s Pawn
AUTHOR:  Rachel Bach
PUBLISHER:  Orbit, 2013
SERIES:  Paradox, Book 1

THE BOOK: Searching for a way to get noticed and get a spot with the Devastators, the elite king’s guard of Paradox, Devi Morris takes a security job on the most dangerous trading ship in the region, The Glorious Fool.  It doesn’t take long for Devi to realize why one year with this ship counts as five years with any other trader.   (more…)

Featured Microgenre: The Hidden Heir

Periodically, rather than focus on a Featured Blend, I thought it might be fun to look at a popular microgenre. Not sure what I mean by that? Many people have favorite genres — the big categories that books that share characteristics can fall into.  And even in a genre there are subgenres that they are more likely to read and enjoy —  readily identifiable groupings under the big genre categories.  A example for genre might be “Fantasy” while a subgenre of fantasy could be “Epic Fantasy.”  But any readers’ advisor worth her salt knows that there are sometimes even smaller subdivisions of genre that readers are drawn to. Particular story lines that are catnip to the reader or tropes that they look for in their reading again and again.

One popular storyline for epic fantasy fans is one that I call “The Hidden Heir.”  This story follows a general opening pattern that a young man or a woman who was for some reason or another passed over as the ruler of a realm is suddenly brought forward to claim the throne.  The story can evolve in many ways from this premise, including a regal coming-of-age story, a rags to riches odyssey, an exploration of political intrigue, or a full-out battle for the crown.  But there are people who love the idea of a character who did not think they were going to rule suddenly stepping up as the rightful heir.

This week a much buzzed debut novel, The Queen of the Tearling (already headed to movie theaters with Emma Watson to star) takes this premise and runs with it, but there are some other popular examples of the microgenre.  Some of my favorites are below, but what are yours?

  The Queen of the Tearling   by Erika Johansen
The death of her mother prompts Kelsea to come out of hiding and claim the throne that is rightfully hers. She will have to prove herself quickly as her uncle has made an alliance with the the Red Queen of neighboring Mortmense and breaking the treaty with that sorceress ruler will bring her country to war. (more…)

Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch


SCIENCE FICTION/MYSTERY/THRILLER
TITLE: Tomorrow and Tomorrow
AUTHOR:
Thomas Sweterlitsch
PUBLISHER:
Putnam, July 2014

THE BOOK: In the near future the city of Pittsburgh has been destroyed in a nuclear blast, and even though John Dominic Blaxton was out of town when the bomb went off, he never recovered from the loss of his wife. Ten years after the tragedy, the Pittsburgh Archive is a digital recreation of the city and its people that serves as a virtual environment survivors and tourists alike can visit.   (more…)

Featured Blend: Fantastic Spies

Do you like spy stuff? James Bond movies, TV shows like MI-5, and books by John Le Carré? Sure you do.  The action, the double-crossing, the sneaking about.  It’s all good.  But even a genre as delightful as the spy novel can get new life by blending in other genres like fantasy.  Although there are dozens of epic and grimdark fantasies with spies and assassins as characters (maybe I’ll do a roundup of those some day), I wanted to pull together a list of books that took the tried and true formula of a secretive spy agency, like the CIA, MI-6, etc. and blended it with fantasy.  Some of these blends went for a more campy parody of the form, some take it deadly serious. Perhaps not surprisingly, the ones I found were mostly British settings, as the Brits do love their spy stories. It wasn’t hard to find some great ones, but do let me know if I missed a favorite:

 The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by corpses and with no memory.  Luckily she left herself a letter, which leads her to impersonate herself in her job at a supernatural intelligence agency, The Checquy.  The Checquy protects Great Britain from supernatural threats, and many members have special powers or abilities themselves. The agency has a rigid hierarchy and agents are recruited at a young age.  One of the joys of this one is watching Myfanwy decide who she is going to be, even after she finds out who she was. While there is a LOT of fantastical elements in this book (fantasy, horror and even SF), readers who enjoy spy novels and who are looking for a departure could really enjoy it, although the fast pace might make it a better fit for fans of Robert Ludlum or Daniel Silva rather than Le Carré. (more…)

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

FANTASY/HISTORICAL FICTION

Title: His Majesty’s Dragon
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Del Rey, 2006
Series: Temeraire, book 1

THE BOOK: Will Laurence is the Captain of a British frigate fighting Napoleon’s French Navy in the Mediterranean. He captures a French ship that happens to be carrying an unhatched dragon egg. It turns out that in Novik’s alternative world, dragons are used by the military to fight aerial battles. (more…)