The Behemoths Approach: Three Major SF/F Titles for 2008
That thunderous, earth-shattering sound vibrating through the pavement and up-ending your coffee is the harbinger of approaching giants: three novels of prodigious page count and ambitious intent. Yes, that's right, Iain M. Banks' new Culture SF novel Matter, Peter F. Hamilton's latest space opera The Dreaming Void, and first-time novelist Felix Gilman's incredibly imaginative New Weirdish urban fantasy Thunderer will all be unleashed upon the world in winter-spring 2008. You can either start running for your lives now, or show some spine, buckle down, and prepare to read over 1,600 pages of science fiction and fantasy goodness.
The only real question for the serious genre devotee is what plan of attack will work best--something you must work out before receiving the books. Once gazing upon their thick spines and mind-blowing covers, you will no doubt be struck dumb and senseless, unable to think properly.
Personally, I recommend beginning with Thunderer, the purest fantasy of the bunch (as well as the shortest and, well, it's always polite to give a brilliant new author the first position), followed by Matter, because it has a fair amount of fantasy in it. Much as in Banks's previous novel Inversions, Matter concerns the all-encompassing space-faring Culture impinging on a less technologically advanced culture. In this case, that culture resembles a somewhat Medieval society. Thus nicely protected from the bends by this gentle transition (Matter is also the second-longest of the three), you may easily pass on to Hamilton's all-out SF novel, The Dreaming Void (also the longest). There you'll find your space battles, your mysterious alien research facilities, and surprises galore.
Once digested in this order, these novels, while still unruly monsters, will be much better behaved than they might otherwise, and you may safely leave them on the shelf without fear that they might devour your smaller, more timid books. --JeffV