Week of July 1 Pull List: More Steampunk, Space Exploration and New York Ghosts

Anyone with a fondness for books knows how quickly a To Be Read pile can get out of control.  It seems the more I read, the more books end up on that pile.  These are the books that hit my radar and got added to that list over the past week.

I stumbled across a lot of books this week, but many of them were already on my radar.  Barnes & Noble is having a huge summer sale, so of course I had to buy some books, and I had an Amazon gift card collecting dust from Christmas so… I had to buy books.  In my purchasing frenzy, I stumbled across a few new ones: some steampunk from a few years ago, some intriguing non-fiction, and some magical realism.  It’s been awhile since I’ve read some good magical realism…


Martian Summer: Robot Arms, Cowboy Spacemen, and My 90 Days with the Phoenix Mars Mission by Andrew Kessler
Pegasus (04/12/11)

Buy it on Amazon here

There's never been a better time to be an armchair astronaut. Forget this planet. The economy is terrible, global warming is inevitable, and there are at least eight major wars happening right now. That's why Kessler left home and moved to Mars. Well, not all the way to Mars. The closest spot on Earth you can get without a rocket. In the summer of 2008, he lived his space dream, sending the months in mission control of The Phoenix expedition with 130 top scientists and engineers as they explored Mars. This story is a human drama about modern-day Magellans battling NASA politics, temperamental robots, and the bizarre world of daily life in mission control. Kessler was the first outsider ever granted unfettered access to such an event, giving us a true Mission-to-Mars exclusive.

The Phoenix Mars mission was the first man-made probe ever sent to the Martian arctic. They wanted to find out how climate change can turn a warm, wet planet (read: Earth) into a cold, barren desert (read: Mars). That might seem like a trivial pursuit, but it's probably the most impressive feat we humans can achieve, and it took the culmination of nearly the entirety of human knowledge to do it.

Along the way, Phoenix discovered a giant frozen ocean trapped beneath the north pole of Mars, exotic food for aliens and liquid water. This is not science fiction. It's fact. Not bad for a summer holiday.

I’ve started trying to read a little more non-fiction as a palate cleanser between all the zombies, urban fantasy, and sci-fi that normally occupies my time.  This has the benefit of also combining my interest in space and exploration of unknown spaces.  Considering what is released in the news regarding the Mars rover, I think this would be a much more enlightening book.  Plus they subtitled it with a reference to cowboy spacemen.  How can I deny something like that?


The Ghost of Greenwich Village by Lorna Graham
Random House (06/28/11)

Buy it from Amazon here

In this charming fiction debut, a young woman moves to Manhattan in search of romance and excitement—only to find that her apartment is haunted by the ghost of a cantankerous Beat Generation writer in need of a rather huge favor.

For Eve Weldon, moving to Greenwich Village is a dream come true. She’s following in the bohemian footsteps of her mother, who lived there during the early sixties among a lively community of Beat artists and writers. But when Eve arrives, the only scribe she meets is a grumpy ghost named Donald, and the only writing she manages to do is for chirpy segments on a morning news program,
Smell the Coffee. The hypercompetitive network environment is a far cry from the genial camaraderie of her mother’s literary scene, and Eve begins to wonder if the world she sought has faded from existence. But as she struggles to balance her new job, demands from Donald to help him complete his life’s work, a budding friendship with a legendary fashion designer, and a search for clues to her mother’s past, Eve begins to realize that community comes in many forms—and that the true magic of the Village is very much alive, though it may reveal itself in surprising ways.

A friend on Goodreads wrote a positive review of this book earlier this week and it caught my attention.  As a former journalist/writer, behind the scenes books about the news industry fascinates me.  Although this is fictitious, it sounds like it has at least one foot in reality.  The other foot is firmly planted in ghost land, which just adds another dimension to what would probably already be a pretty interesting realm to base a mystery in.  It's hard to do magical realism well, but I'm willing to give this one a chance.


Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Peters
Roc (02/05/08)

Buy it from Amazon here

A thrilling new Steampunk fantasy from a talented debut author


In Victorian London, the Whitechapel section is a mechanized, steam-driven hell, cut off and ruled by two mysterious, mechanical gods-Mama Engine and Grandfather Clock. Some years have passed since the Great Uprising, when humans rose up to fight against the machines, but a few brave veterans of the Uprising have formed their own Resistance-and are gathering for another attack. For now they have a secret weapon that may finally free them-or kill them all…

I admit: I judge books by their covers.  This cover caught my eye while scrolling through the 4-for-3 books on Amazon.  I’m not sure why steampunk novels tend to take place at least partly in Whitechapel, but I really don’t care when the cover is this gorgeous.  A mechanical man in a top hat and coat with a creepy giant spider on his shoulder and fire burning through his chest?  Reference to a mechanical gods and a potential machine versus man war?  This might be the serious sci-fi steampunk I’ve been looking for recently.


All book blurbs pulled from the wonderful Goodreads.com