Friday, June 20, 2008

Another (Yawn) Starred Review

We're coming up on the end of the promotion cycle for The Dragons of Babel, which means that I'll be downsizing this blog soon. More on that later.

Meanwhile, I just got another starred review from School Library Journal. So I can put it next to the starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and Library Journal. I gather, from the way my agent and my editors react whenever I get one of these things, that this is a big deal.

Anyway, here's the review:

*SWANWICK, Michael. The Dragons of Babel. 318p. CIP. Tor. 2008. Tr $25.95. ISBN 978-0-7653-1950-0. LC 2007034918.

Gr 9 Up–An unusual combination of Faerie, postindustrial Earth, and biblical places, The Dragons of Babel will immediately capture readers’ interest. A war is going on, but the “dragons” involved are part machine and part magic. One crash-lands near a Faerie village and declares itself king. Teenaged Will, part mortal, is forced to become its lieutenant and carry out its commands to the villagers, which eventually causes him to be driven out after it is killed. He is rescued by female centaurs during a battle of giants and ends up on the train to Babel accompanied by Nat Whilk and his adopted daughter, Esme. The three of them wind up in underground Babel (think New York City with a postindustrial fairy twist) where he helps the downtrodden. In a world full of every fairy imaginable (and maybe a few that aren’t), Will becomes the center of Tower of Babel itself. Readers will empathize with the teenager, who is struggling to find his place in this world, and growing both in stature and knowledge, and the zany characters who accompany him. Earthy, bawdy, and often brutal, it’s a story that will keep science fiction/fantasy fans involved till the end.–June H. Keuhn, Corning East High School, NY.

And, As Always . . .

The poem du jour continues, this time with a brief example of narrative poetry.



HANNAH'S DAD said...

A fine and generous review, but it's hard to explain why Babel (or Iron Dragon) is good by reiterating the plot points.

If anything it makes me nervous to describe your books as "fantasy mixed with elements of modern technology" as the reviews so blithely do, as that evokes pretty much my least favourite sort of (usually humorous) fantasy - the sort of thing I handle only with gloves and tongs.

Michael Swanwick said...

You're absolutely right. It's a weakness of our reviewing system that reviewers get paid so scandalously little. In an ideal world, they'd have the time and incentive to make their reviews brilliant 200-word gems worthy of Proust.

But what we get (ideally, as here) are teachers and librarians and entry-level publishing types who have a living to scrounge elsewhere and steal the time from an overstuffed schedule out of . . . well, love and ambition, I guess.

That's the good ones. A friend who does the occasional review tells me that other reviewers have told him that he's a fool to actually READ THE BOOK, given how little he's being paid.

HANNAH'S DAD said...

Actually I wasn't blaming the poor old reviewers - I simply think that some good things sound interesting when their surface is described and other equally good things don't.

Back in the distant past I had a couple of goes at reviewing for our local newspaper (my qualification: "friend of the reporter"). I wrote a positive review of a Theodore Sturgeon short story collection, and heard back that the book section editor liked my writing and the review. Then I wrote a moderately negative review of an Anne McCaffrey book and never heard from them again.

I can't help wondering if may have learnt something about book reviewing that day...

But I got to keep my shiny shiny books - you can't call that scandalously underpaid, can you?

Unknown said...

So today I walk into Borders to get the latest year's best SciFi anthology to read on vacation (as I have done the last few years) only to find out its not out yet.

Each yearly Anthology (and I'm talking about the ones Gardner Dozois edits) generally has several stand out stories, but one in particular really intrigued me, so I go through the various reviews on Amazon and find that it is "King Dragon" by some guy named Michael Swanwick.

After reading that story the first time I looked for more of the same but couldn't get a copy of the first novel, so this time I was very happy to find out about "Dragons of Babel"! I just hope it arrives from Amazon in time for me to take on vacation.