Haul of Books 2010: Stuff For Me v.17

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I’ve got an interesting story to tell about the books below. Both were won by me for separate reasons: one for something amusing I did and one for something nice I did for someone else. And perhaps more importantly, both books have received considerable buzz within the fantasy community for, I presume, being quite good. I haven’t read either, so I can only hope that the fans are right.

So, without further delay, here are the books (after the fold, hopefully):

(Because each book has a story, I’m going to change things up for the description section. I’m also saving the best for last, because it has a fun little story and some free “fiction.”)

First up is a signed copy of Naomi Novik’s Tongues of Serpents, the next novel in her Temeraire series. This particular book arrived unannounced in my mailbox. It turns out that a number of months ago I had participated in a promotion by the fine folks at Del Rey, which resulted in the first book in Novik’s series ending up in the hands of my mother, who promptly rebuked me for getting her hooked on the series. As a result, some many months later, the folks at Del Rey saw fit to send a signed copy of her newest book. A very unexpected and wonderful thing indeed.

What is the book about? Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):

A dazzling blend of military history, high-flying fantasy, and edge-of-your-seat adventure, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire novels, set in an alternate Napoleonic era in which intelligent dragons have been harnessed as weapons of war, are more than just perennial bestsellers—they are a worldwide phenomenon. Now, in Tongues of Serpents, Naomi Novik is back, along with the dragon Temeraire and his rider and friend, Capt. Will Laurence.

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

Sounds pretty interesting, no?

The second book is Nights of Villjamur by Mark Charan Newton. Before getting into the story about how I acquired it, I’m going to give you the synopsis:

Following in the footsteps of writers like China Miéville and Richard K. Morgan, Mark Charan Newton balances style and storytelling in this bold and brilliant debut. Nights of the Villjamur marks the beginning of a sweeping new fantasy epic.

Beneath a dying red sun sits the proud and ancient city of Villjamur, capital of a mighty empire that now sits powerless against an encroaching ice age. As throngs of refugees gather outside the city gates, a fierce debate rages within the walls about the fate of these desperate souls. Then tragedy strikes—and the Emperor’s elder daughter, Jamur Rika, is summoned to serve as queen. Joined by her younger sister, Jamur Eir, the queen comes to sympathize with the hardships of the common people, thanks in part to her dashing teacher Randur Estevu, a man who is not what he seems.

Meanwhile, the grisly murder of a councillor draws the attention of Inspector Rumex Jeryd. Jeryd is a rumel, a species of nonhuman that can live for hundreds of years and shares the city with humans, birdlike garuda, and the eerie banshees whose forlorn cries herald death. Jeryd’s investigation will lead him into a web of corruption—and to an obscene conspiracy that threatens the lives of Rika and Eir, and the future of Villjamur itself.

But in the far north, where the drawn-out winter has already begun, an even greater threat appears, against which all the empire’s military and magical power may well prove useless—a threat from another world.

Another interesting book, if you ask me. Fantasy seems to be hitting all the right buttons these days, that’s for sure.

But how did I acquire this particular book? Well, Mr. Newton hosted a contest on his blog for signed copies of the U.S. edition of Nights of Villjamur; in that contest, he asked folks to write an entertaining, guilt-tripping, or weird explanation for why we deserved or wanted a copy of the book. I wrote the following unusual peace of nonsense, which one might call New Weird if one is so inclined:

Dear Mr. Newton,

I’m going to be totally honest about my response. I feel you deserve it. I’ve hidden this from the public, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In fact, it’s very true indeed.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with a very rare disease called librania neuroitus, which is an affliction of the brain. The disease is so rare that I am the only person to have been diagnosed with it. The symptoms include an innate desire to eat the pages from books, which, I might add, is a terrible thing for a book lover like myself because now my entire library has been ruined and I’ve been forced to replenish my book coffers and store the new books in a special location that is not made immediately known to me. There are other symptoms, but I won’t bother you with them.

The last ten years have been a trying time, but I have used the time well. I have dedicated myself, in secret, to researching this disease in order to find a cure. And I have found it in the most unusual of places: your book.

Only through the arrival of a signed copy of your book, with an inscription wishing me well and possibly a doodle of an amoeba wearing a viking hat and carrying a silly looking sword, can I be cured of this affliction. I won’t bore you with the details of how I know this will work (you will, of course, find the irony of this whole situation rather humorous, as I have). Needless to say, I will be attempting to publish a five-hundred page book detailing my research entitled “The Great Book Disease: Finding the Cure For the Worst Disease In Human History” under the pseudonym Virgil G. Coddlefoot. I will furnish you with a copy of the final product as a fair exchange, if you so desire.

That is why I want a copy of your book, and I thank you kindly for the opportunity to finally acquire the cure for this terrible illness.

Thank you very much for your time.


P.S.: Everything written above is absolutely, 100% true. I cannot stress that enough. I would not make up such a ridiculous story to get a book. Never.

How’s that for a winning entry?

Oh, and you might be curious about the final product. Here it is:
So, there you have it. Two interesting books that I managed to snatch for two entirely different reasons. Cool, huh?

About the Author:

Shaun Duke is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and an academic. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Digital Rhetoric and Writing at Bemidji State University. He received his PhD in English from the University of Florida and studies science fiction, postcolonialism, digital fan cultures, and digital rhetoric.

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