Apr 3 2012 10:00am

Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Picks for April

For over a decade, Barnes & Noble buyer Jim Killen has been a driving force behind Barnes & Noble’s science fiction and fantasy sections. Each month on Tor.com, Mr. Killen curates a list of science fiction & fantasy titles, sometimes focused on upcoming titles and sometimes focused on a theme.

Here’s the Barnes & Noble science fiction and fantasy picks for April.

Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson (Knopf, 4/17-paperback release)

Daniel H. Wilson has a doctorate in robotics from Carnegie Mellon and his writing credits include the nonfiction How to Survive A Robot Uprising and How to Build a Robot Army. That knowledge alone should activate your senses as you enter Robopocalypse, a realm where robots run free and humans flee skittering in many directions. Told with the unfolding menace of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this novel will keep you up late and your computer unplugged.


Return Man by V.M Zito (Little Brown, 4/1)

The outbreak tore the US in two. The east remains a safe haven. The west has become a ravaged wilderness, known by survivors as the Evacuated States. It is here that Henry Marco makes his living. Hired by grieving relatives, he tracks down the dead and delivers peace.  Now Homeland Security wants Marco for a mission unlike any other. He must return to California, where the apocalypse began. Where a secret is hidden. And where his own tragic past waits to punish him again. But in the wastelands of America, you never know who - or what - is watching you.


Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare by Jason Fry and Paul R. Urquhart (Random House 4/3)

Like many a great epic, Star Wars is rooted in a rich history of armed conflict. Now, for the first time, the facts, figures, and fascinating backstories of major clashes and combatants in the vast Star Wars universe have been documented in one fully illustrated volume. Encompassing all of the Star Wars media, including the legendary films, the hit TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the bestselling books, comics, and videogames, and packed with original full-color artwork, Star Wars: The Essential Guide to Warfare is a conquering achievement.


Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide by the Dorling Kindersley Publishing Staff (DK Books 4/30)

Newly revised and expanded, reveals the story of the amazing Star Wars saga in full detail. 40 new pages help to explain every detail about Star Wars from the millennia-spanning history of George Lucas’s long ago, far away galaxy to the Star Wars movies and ever-expanding range of books, novels, comics, and media. Packed full of interesting facts about the world of Star Wars merchandise and fandom, astonishing pieces of art, and full-color photographs, DK’s compendium is the key to knowing ALL there is to know about the iconic brand that is Star Wars!


Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith (Grand Central Publishing 4/10)

In Grahame-Smith’s telling, the so-called “Three Wise Men” are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod’s prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod’s men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt. It’s the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.


Rage of the Dragon by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (Tor Books 4/24)

Skylan Ivorson is the gods-chosen Chief of all Vindras clans. But the gods from whom the Vindrasi draw their earthdwelling power are besieged by a new generation of gods who are challenging them for the powers of creation. The only way to stop these brash interlopers lies within the Five Bones of the Vektia Dragon—the primal dragon forged during the creation of the world—which have been lost for generations.



Shadow Blizzard by Alexey Pehov (Tor Books, 4/24) 

Shadow Blizzard is the third book by the international bestselling fantasy author Alexey Pehov. Like Shadow Prowler and Shadow Chaser, Shadow Blizzard is epic fantasy at its best; this is the third book in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold, Siala’s master thief, on his quest for the magic Horn that will restore peace to his world. After the loss of friends and comrades, after betrayal and battle, after capture by fearsome orcs, Harold finally reaches the dreaded Hrad Spein. But before he can complete his quest by stealing the magic horn, he will have to brave the most fearsome obstacles yet—obstacles that have destroyed everyone before him...and Harold must do so alone.


Road of Danger by David Drake (Baen Books, 4/3)

Captain Daniel Leary with his friend–and spy–Officer Adele Mundy are sent to a quiet sector to carry out an easy task: helping the local admiral put down a coup before it takes place. But then the jealous admiral gets rid of them by sending them off on a wild goose chase to a sector where commerce is king and business is carried out by extortion and gunfights. With anarchy and rebellion in the air, a rogue intelligence officer plots the war that will destroy civilization and enlists the help of a brute whom even torturers couldn’t stomach. And, of course, it’s up to Leary and Mundy to put a stop to the madness.


Night Angel: The Complete Trilogy by Brent Weeks (Hachette, 4/24)

The omnibus edition of New York Times bestselling author Brent Weeks’ blockbuster NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY. With over one million copies in print, Brent Weeks has become one of the fastest selling new fantasy authors of all time. For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art - and he is the city’s most accomplished artist. For Azoth, survival is just the beginning. He was raised on the streets and knows an opportunity when he sees one - even when the risks are as high as working for someone like Durzo Blint. Azoth must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and become the perfect killer.


Magic Without Mercy by Devon Monk (Penguin, 4/3)

Allison Beckstrom’s talent for tracking spells has put her up against some of the darkest elements in the world of magic. But she’s never faced anything like this. Magic itself has been poisoned, and Allie’s undead father may have left the only cure in the hands of a madman. Hunted by the Authority—the secret council who enforces the laws–wanted by the police, and unable to use magic, she’s got to find the cure before the sickness spreads beyond any power to stop it.


Plague Town by Dana Fredsti (Titan, 4/3)

Ashley was just trying to get through a tough day when the world turned upside down.  A terrifying virus appears, quickly becoming a pandemic that leaves its victims, not dead, but far worse. Attacked by zombies, Ashley discovers that she is a ’Wild-Card’ — immune to the virus — and she is recruited to fight back and try to control the outbreak. It’s Buffy meets the Walking Dead in a rapid-fire zombie adventure!




Agatha H. and the Clockwork Princess by Phil and Kaja Foglio (Night Shade Books, 4/10)

In a time when the Industrial Revolution has escalated into all-out warfare, mad science rules the world... with mixed success.

With the help of Krosp, Emperor of All Cats, Agatha has escaped from the massive airship known as Castle Wulfenbach. After crashing their escape dirigible, Agatha and Krosp fall in with Master Payne’s Circus of Adventure, a traveling troupe of performers dedicated to staging Heterodyne shows-dramatizations of the exploits of Bill and Barry Heterodyne and their allies-who are unaware of Agatha’s connection to the Heterodyne line. Pursued by the ruthless Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, his handsome son Gil, and their minions (not to mention Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer), Agatha hides in plain sight among the circus folk, servicing their clanks and proving herself adept in performing the role of Lucrezia Mongfish, nemesis to-and later wife of-Bill Heterodyne. She also begins training under Zeetha, swordmistress and princess of the lost city of Skifander. Together, Agatha, Krosp, and the performers travel across the treacherous wasteland of war-torn Europa, towards Mechanicsburg, and the ancestral home of the Heterodynes-Castle Heterodyne....


Check back with us at the beginning of May for next month’s B&N Picks!

This article is part of Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Picks: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Liz Bourke
1. hawkwing-lb
As a feminist geek, the recent publication of the 2011 SF Count over at Strange Horizons prompted me to do a little maths. Namely, the proportion of male to female authors or editors featured in the Barnes and Noble Booksellers' Picks here at Tor.com.

Here are the numbers from the eight months since September (human error may have crept in):

Total: M=68, F=24, NA=1

So, for every one (1) featured book by women, there are approximately two point eight (2.8) featured books by men.


Women authors represent a) more than one quarter of books published and b) definitely more than one quarter of the reading public.

Therefore, may I beseech you to reflect us more proportionately in the B&N features, going forward?

Numbers by month:

Apr: M=7.5, F=3.5, NA=1

Mar: M=8, F=5

Feb: M=8.5, F=5.5

Jan: M=14 F=1

Dec: M=6, F=3

Nov: M=9, F=3

Oct: M=5, F=3

Sept: M=10, F=0

As you can see, a few months are very sad indeed for the presence of women authors, and in none does the gender ratio approach the ratio of Locus' Books Received. So as a reader and a contributor and a customer, I implore: you can do better, so please do.
Nick Rogers
2. BookGoblin
hawkwing, I'm confused. Do you limit yourself to only books by women authors? Do you believe that you are somehow going to innately connect to women authors over men? Is the author's gender really a driving factor to your book purchasing?

Tor.com (and Tor the publisher) have done amazing things for the careers, profile, exposure and proliferation of women authors...I'm confused how the gender-ratio of a particular distributor's pick-list is germane to the general tastes of the readership of Tor.com or it's editors.

Please, scan the featured stories, scan the names and positions of the editors and contributors. Please, pay attention to the verve of the site.

They do. Every day. If you think this isn't a woman-friendly place (for writers, readers, editors, contributors, artists, etc.) you clearly aren't seeing the same site I am.
Michael M Jones
3. MichaelMJones
Remember: Tor.com does not choose the list of Barnes and Noble Booksellers Picks. Barnes and Noble book buyer Jim Killen does. So if you want a better distribution of, well, -anything-, be it based on gender, race, genre, color of book cover, address it to Jim. He's the one making up this particular list each month.

I assure you that, as a Tor.com contributor, I'm doing my best to cover a wide range of authors and topics. Some are "assigned" to me from a list of choices, while other books I win by arm-wrestling my colleagues.

For what it's worth, I currently have a stack of 11 books on my To Be Reviewed For Tor list. Of those, two are written by men, eight by women, and one is co-written by a man and a woman.

I think for a more interesting and more in-depth study, you should run the numbers for Tor.com as a whole, not just the one feature written by, for all intents and purposes, just another Tor.com contributor. :)

Now as for me, I want to know why we don't feature more books with red covers.
Liz Bourke
4. hawkwing-lb
You know, guys, just because Tor.com is better than average (and it is, much better than average, and I appreciate that) when it comes to the representation of women, does this mean I shouldn't hope for it to be better yet?

But who gives a crap, right? It's just one guy's list. It doesn't matter that that one guy in question is a book buyer for a major chain. Clearly, I shouldn't even bother pointing out that his list doesn't even come close to including a similar proportion of books by women as are published in the genre as a whole. (F:M = 47:53, in the US; in 2011 Tor.com's book reviews were 42%F, 58% M.)
Jenny Kristine
5. jennygadget

"Is the author's gender really a driving factor to your book purchasing?"

Clearly it is for someone, unless you are trying to argue that it is merely some great cosmic coincidence that only a quarter of the BN picks are written by women.

In other words, nice attempt to make it seem like the problem is with the person aware enough to be pointing out the overwhelming disparity, but no dice.


Oh dear, are we not doing consciousness raising in the manner approved? Silly us! We women are always doing that you know. No wonder we never get anything fixed!

But seriously. Tor.com is _publishing the list_ - not to mention the
reviews. No matter who picks them to begin with, Tor.com has some say in this. They are also much more likely to listen to what hawkwing_lb has to say. And, oh, gee they _have a forum to say it in_. A forum that reaches more people than a private email to a BN employee would.

As for why hawking_lb did not do the numbers for all of Tor...Well, possibly bc she didn't see the need to redo some else's work and felt a link sufficient? So before you tell her what she should do so that you will find her more interesting, perhaps you might want to click the link?

To both BookGoblin and MichaelMJones:

First, I assure you I only find Tor.com to be unfriendly to my gender when fellow commenters and contributors argue that the presence of my gender - or lack thereof - is as insignificant as the colors chosen for
cover art.

Secondly, did you not read the part where hawkwing_lb said she is a contributor? (and, btw, has written some of the BN pick reviews) bc the tone of your responses suggests otherwise.
Michael M Jones
6. MichaelMJones
@5 - It was only afterwards that I followed the click-through on hawkwing-lb's name to see that she is indeed a contributor. I missed that, and I do apologize. I may have incorrectly read her response as a criticism of Tor.com and responded improperly. I'm also sorry if my attempt to inject a little humor into things was unclear and thus offensive. It certainly wasn't my intent to suggest that the gender ratios are really equivalent to the color of book covers.

Now, while I try to figure out if my foot tastes better with salt and pepper, or a nice brown sugar-and-balsamic vinegar glaze, I'll get back to reviewing this stack of books before the cats knock it over again.
Nick Rogers
7. BookGoblin
Alright, I'm going to both apologize AND hold essentially to my original position (through careful restatement) and I'm going to be up-front about that. Please pay careful attention to both parts of the statement.

First of all, and most importantly, if hawkwing's major thesis is that more women is good, alternative/gendeerqueer representation is good, etc. then I whole-heartedly agree. And I'm not talking token hotness stand-ins, I'm talking real, actual, representation. I think that genre and fandom and the outlets of such need a good, broad spectrum to be viable. On that count I will apologize categorically for any perception otherwise.

But that's not what came across to me when I read it. What came across was an overall criticism of Tor.com (which is why it got an instant response). It's very hard to take that criticism seriously when a simple glance at the front page shows very even representation; the contributors are very evenly represented (across gender/race/sexuality), and the articles include specific (and entirely serious) discussions of Women portraying iconic roles, genderqueer issues in genre, a story about a Lesbian contractor and her girlfriend's baby werewolf...and on and on and on.

These are good things. These are almost unique things in a general purpose, sci-fi community. Is this representation important? Yes. Does it require vigilance? Yes. Was hawkwing specifically calling for more vigilance or just criticizing in a very general tone?

I posit the latter.

Now, I will apologize to hawkwing for giving the impression that her opinion that gender representation is important was incorrect or unimportant. Honestly, I do agree with her, and I agree that vigilance on the part of "those in charge" is necessary. And her role as a contributor and a voice that others listen to makes her uniquely situated to make that call for vigilance.

But it came across differently. It sounded very general about Tor.com and it robbed her of the chance to be taken as seriously as she (and I only assume she based on context, but gender is certainly not implied by the argument or any other factor) should be.

A lot of us are incredibly proud of being fans of a place with this level of openness and equality of perspective, and we can get a bit frustrated when that seems to be criticized out of turn.

Should Jim Killen branch out and read some books with feminine names in the by-line? Absolutely. Is the list disappointingly weighted towards male authors? Yes. hawkwing was right on both counts. Is this indicative of Tor.com in general, I argue no.

hawkwing and I clearly disagreed, but I perceive that we're seeing two different aspects of a larger issue and our perspectives did not align. I concede that doesn't make me right, and it doesn't make her wrong; but I will continue to disagree with a statement that says Tor.com generally is failing in representation or perspective.
Nick Rogers
8. BookGoblin
In reading my most recent book-length response I realized I missed the most important part:

My first paragraph of my first comment was out of line and trivialized something important. I recognize that explicitly and apologize to hawkwing for the initial tone of my comment. Please see above for the rest of my thoughts.
9. Carrie80
FWIW I have also noticed and been disappointed in the low proportion of female authors in these B&N lists (not Tor.com in general).

Hawkwing-lb's initial first comment reads very clearly to me as being specifically about the B&N Bookseller's Picks. I'm not sure how it could have been clearer, except by adding a disclaimer that the comment didn't apply to the rest of the site, which really shouldn't be necessary. Also, Tor.com may not choose these books, but surely this thread is the appropriate place to discuss the lists?
Liz Bourke
10. hawkwing-lb
But that's not what came across to me when I read it. What came across was an overall criticism of Tor.com (which is why it got an instant response). It's very hard to take that criticism seriously....Was hawkwing specifically calling for more vigilance or just criticizing in a very general tone?I posit the latter.
Mate, I have to say, defensiveness much? I leave a comment about a failing of the B&N lists on a B&N post, and it gets read as a criticism of Tor.com as a whole?

If I thought that Tor.com's editorial direction was the problem, I wouldn't be here. But especially compared to the rest of the site, the low proportion of women authors in the B&N lists really stands out. And I don't know about you, but I think that's worth commenting on.

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