Booklist Reviewers Turn a Phrase
"A beautiful meditation on what it means to be human."
From the Editor
Heads in the Stars
Yes, Mystery Month won't be over until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 31—but that doesn't mean we're giving other genres short shrift. The May 15 issue of Booklist, our Spotlight on SF/Fantasy, is one of our best in years, and, in addition to our Top 10 SF/Fantasy, Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth, and other features, you're sure to enjoy a rich selection of reviews.
Nonconverts who think these genres are all space opera and unicorns had better think again. Both, especially sf, have a rich tradition of using fantastic settings as neutral ground from which to ponder the deepest mysteries of human existence. Take Matt Haig's The Humans, for example, in which an alien protagonist with a ruthless agenda ends up becoming bewitched by Homo sapiens in all our illogical and messy glory. Or Jason Mott's The Returned, which uses a far-fetched idea—that dead people are being returned to their familes—to meditate on the very nature of humanity. (Never mind the problem of overpopulation.) You can send humans to the stars, but, to paraphrase Buckaroo Banzai, we'll still be us when we get there.
Neil Hollands, a blogger at Book Group Buzz and a member of the Booklist Publications editorial advisory board, has been thinking along the same lines. In the latest installment of our popular Great Reads series, he looks at sf/fantasy that asks big questions, such as what it means to be human. Oh, the humanity—there it is again.
Lest you think it's all rhetorical questions and metaphor, we still haven't forgotten the best attribute of the best sf and fantasy: whether the pretensions are lofty or low, it's entertaining to read. Reviews of lighter fare include Michael Logan's Apocalypse Cow, Richard Ellis Preston's Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders, and Janet Edwards' Earth Girl. And don't miss our fun, online-exclusive list, "My Raygun Is Quick: 8 of the Best SF Mysteries."
Did I mention that it's still Mystery Month? In that case, I should also draw your attention to Darynda Jones' Fifth Grave Past the Light and Kevin J. Anderson's Hair Raising: Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I., two fantastic mysteries—with a strong emphasis on the fantasy.
Spotlight on SF/Fantasy
By Michael Logan
Co-winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Award (which seeks out stories set in a recognizable but alternate version of Earth), this startlingly funny novel imagines a contemporary Scotland in which animals are infected with an experimental virus that turns them into crazed killing machines and makes them damned near impossible to kill. Yes: zombie animals.
Top 10 SF/Fantasy: 2013
By Brad Hooper
The creative imagination displayed by science-fiction and fantasy writers continues to impress us, and the 10 titles listed below, reviewed in Booklist between May 15, 2012, and May 1, 2013, only confirm the ingenuity found in these two genres.
Romulus Buckle & the City of the Founders
By Richard Ellis Preston
What a glorious novel! What a glorious, steam-filled, larger-than-life, action-packed adventure!
Carte Blanche: Suspending the Old Disbelief
By Michael Cart
For the third year in a row, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement in Young Adult Literature has gone to a fantasist. This year's winner is, of course, the redoubtable Tamora Pierce. Last year the recipient was Sir Terry Pratchett, and the year before that Susan Cooper got the nod. Is it just me or is there a pattern emerging here?
The Bone Season
By Samantha Shannon
"We are the minority the world does not accept," Paige Mahoney tells us, referring to the struggles of clairvoyants, from soothsayers and mediums to her own high standing as a dreamwalker.
Story behind the Story: Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season
By Donna Seaman
Booklist reached Samantha Shannon as she was completing her final year at Oxford University, a key setting in her high-adrenaline debut novel, The Bone Season.
By Janet Edwards
Tired of bitter, angst-ridden heroines and their associated dark dystopias? Look no further than Edwards' refreshing debut, set in the darn-near-utopian universe of 2788 and starring a confident, motormouthed, giggly 18-year-old named Jarra.
Top 10 SF/Fantasy for Youth: 2013
By Ann Kelley
Aliens! Shape-shifters! Deadly diseases! It's another powerhouse (and perilous) year for sf/fantasy, as these novels, all reviewed between May 15, 2012, and May 1, 2013, in Booklist, illustrate.
Another Look At: William Sleator's Singularity
By Daniel Kraus
How many great books have been ruined for readers by English-class force-feeding? An informal poll at Booklist had our learned staffers ragging on such vaunted masterpieces as Watership Down and A Separate Peace—books they hadn't dared touch since. I have my own literary traumas.
Encyclopedia of the U.S. Presidency: A Historical Reference
Edited by Nancy Beck Young
This set from Facts On File distinguishes itself in an already crowded field of reference works covering those who have served as president via excellent organization, presentation, and writing.
Outstanding Reference Sources: The 2013 List of Titles
By Rebecca Vnuk
This year's list was compiled by the Outstanding Reference Sources Committee, Collection Development and Evaluation Section, RUSA. The committee was established in 1958 to recommend the best reference publications of the year for small and medium-sized libraries. The annotations below come from the Booklist reviews, where available.
Focus: Inside the 2013 Dartmouth Medal Winner
By Christine Bulson
The American Library Association's Reference and User Services Association selected Dictionary of American Regional English (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013) as the winner of the 2013 Dartmouth Medal, calling the work "stupendous" and "a culmination of extensive fieldwork, attention to detail, and a lot of hard work."
What's New with . . . SAGE
By Rebecca Vnuk
SAGE Publications is a powerhouse publisher of reference works in the humanities and social sciences. "SAGE and librarians share the same goal of supporting teaching and research, and SAGE is dedicated to supporting academic libraries by maintaining an open dialogue with librarians," notes Michele Sordi, vice president, editorial.