Monday, September 29, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/27

Since I review books -- whatever I feel like here and various graphic novels and manga for ComicMix -- I get books to review in the mail. (It's what they call a virtuous circle.) But I do feel a bit guilty, since there's no way I could review everything I see in the mail. What I can do, though, is note everything that comes in, and say a little bit about it here. And so I do, every week.

This week, the mailbag brought me:

Neil Gaiman's new novel for young readers, The Graveyard Book. I have theories about many writers -- usually frivolous ones, based on slight evidence -- and my theory about Gaiman is that he gets bored easily. That comes from my observation, around 2002 or so, that every single Neil Gaiman novel was (reasonably) described by its publisher as the first something -- Good Omens was his first novel, Neverwhere his first solo, Stardust his first not based on something else, American Gods his first novel written solo as a novel to begin with, Coraline his first YA, Anansi Boys his first sequel (sort-of), and InterWorld his first co-written YA. Add onto that all of his film and comics work, and Gaiman looks like a guy who keeps himself interested by doing very different things regularly. Whether that's true or not, he's managed the difficult feat of building a devoted audience who will follow him no matter what he does (really, this is astonishing in publishing) and who does a lot of interesting, different stuff. I read one chapter of Graveyard Book as a story in the anthology Wizards a year or so back, and didn't think it entirely worked all by itself. But I expect to read this book as soon as possible, and I hope to love it. The Graveyard Book will be published by HarperCollins in October.

David Marusek -- author of the excellent but slightly flawed novel Counting Heads, which was also briefly famous as the target of David Itzkoff's first misguided SF review for The New York Times Book Review -- was also one of the best new short story writers of the '90s, with stories like "The Wedding Album," "We Were Out of Our Minds With Joy," and "Getting to Know You." Subterranean Press collected his stories into a nice, expensive hardcover last year, under the title Getting to Know You, but I know that was too rich for my blood, so it may have been rich for yours as well. Del Rey is remedying that situation now, with a trade paperback edition of Getting to Know You coming on December 30th. You might say that, if you've been reading the various "Best of the Year" collections, you've already seen most of all of these stories. That may be true, but you don't have them all together in one book, do you? And they're certainly worth it.

Margo Lanagan has been writing tough, uncompromising stories for young readers for many years; they've been collected in the massively acclaimed books Black Juice, White Time, and Red Spikes (which I had mixed feelings about; probably because I read it too quickly). And now -- possibly for the first time; certainly for the first time that I know about -- she's written a novel. Tender Morsels, like so many of Lanagan's stories, is about a young woman damaged by the world -- a teenager with a baby daughter and an abusive father, who has been given the gift to flee the harsh real world into an imagined heaven where nothing bad will ever happen. Of course she can't stay there forever, of there would be no story; Tender Morsels seems to be the story of the collision of those two worlds (or, more broadly, of the collision of dreams with reality). Knopf will publish it on October 14th, and I expect it will be one of the major YA novels of the year.

Ghost Radio is the first novel of Leopoldo Gout, of whom I hadn't heard before this. (And I'd definitely remember that name.) The biography in the book describes him as a producer, director, graphic novelist, writer, and composer -- I'm surprised a guy that busy found time to sit down and write a whole book. Ghost Radio is the story of a late-night Mexican call-in radio show about supernatural creatures, and how its host (Joaquin) deals with sudden fame and the dark secrets of his past. (Does anyone else think it sound an awful lot like the male, "mainstream" version of Kitty and the Midnight Hour?) Ghost Radio will be published by William Morrow on October 14th, in hardcover.

I saw a few comics collections this week, including another one of those packages from Aurora (the only company currently sending me yaoi, for good or ill). I don't have much to say about any of these, so let me just bullet them:
  • Kiss All The Boys, Vol. 3 by Shiuko Kano, from Aurora's Deux imprint for yaoi, finishes up the story, with lots and lots of cute boys having sex with each other, for the enjoyment of Japanese young women.
  • Mister Mistress, Vol. 2 is by Rize Shinba, but otherwise is much the same, only the seductive guy in this one is an incubus.
  • Oh, My God! Vol. 2 probably has less explicit sex -- it's rated for older teen rather than "mature," like the two books above -- but it's another yaoi story, this time by Natsuho Shino.
  • And Hitohira, Vol. 1 is a more normal manga story, by Idumi Kirihara, about a timid freshman girl who is forced to join the drama club.
  • Top Shelf Productions sent me their 2008 Seasonal Sampler -- and they'll throw it in for a penny if you buy books from their sale, as well.
  • And Afro Samurai, Vol. 1 -- a dark, bloody manga series by Takashi Okazaki that was the basis of the animated series, and which I recently reviewed for ComicMix -- has been published by Tor/Seven Seas.
Kage Baker's new novel, The House of the Stag -- which I also might have mentioned before -- has also just been published, by Tor in hardcover. It's set in the same world as her novel The Anvil of the World, which I quite liked. (And so this is yet another book I'd like to read -- onto the pile it goes.)

From a small regional press -- my region, to be precise: the NYC-Jersey-Philly corridor -- called PS Books comes a rock 'n roll novel called Broad Street by Christine Weiser. It looks semi-autobiographical, since it's by a female Philly rocker and about one, and Weiser is the copublisher of Philadelphia Stories magazine, of which PS Books is an offshoot (and Broad Street is their first publication). On the positive side, I love the cover, which is bright and eye-catching and shows exactly what the book is about. This one isn't too long, so I might find time to get to it soon.

Last this week is Jo Walton's Half a Crown, the third (and aparrently last) in the powerful alternate history series that includes Farthing and Ha'penny. This one jumps quite a bit forward in time; it's set in 1960. But it again follows two storylines, one in first person from the POV of a young woman and the other in tight third following former police detective Carmichael, now head of Britain's secret police, the Watch. Half a Crown will be published in October by Tor, and this one I have to make time for. (Of course, I can generally read two, possibly three novels in a week -- and I got six this week that I'd be interested in reading if I can get to them.)

1 comment:

Tim said...

Margo's written lots of novels for kids since the early '90s (more than a dozen titles, I think), but they were mostly just published in Australia.

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