Monday, December 29, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/27

For a week with a major holiday in it, last week saw a surprising amount of books arrive in my mail. And, as always, I post on Monday mornings about what came in the week before, to cover books that I might not get to review. Here's what I saw last week:

To lead off this week, there's a new edition of Jo Walton's unique novel Tooth and Claw -- and you'll note that I don't call things "unique" all that often, but this really is. Tooth and Claw is very much like a Victorian novel, like a novel by Anthony Trollope, to be more precise, except that the complicated unwritten strictures of that society are here transformed into the actual physical requirements of the characters...who are all dragons. It's quite odd, and utterly satisfying -- Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award when it was originally published in hardcover in 2003, and almost immediately fell out of print. (Since the WFA, sadly, is not one of the awards that cause the recipient to immediately be the center of a shower of gold and accolades.) But it's back now, in a very classy trade paperback hitting stores January 6th -- so you have another chance to try one of the least likely novels you'll ever hear about.

From Aurora Publishing, I got one book each from their three main lines -- The Manzai Comics, Vol. 1 by Atsuko Asano and Hizuru Imai, from the flagship Aurora imprint. It's the story of a comedy duo in contemporary Japan -- from what I understand, the standard in Japan isn't a single standup comedian, but a Burns-and-Allen (or Abbot-and-Costello, or Laurel-and-Hardy, etc.) style duo act. It looks like our hero is the younger, smaller, less confident member of the duo, who just wants to be an "ordinary person" -- Japanese protagonists are obsessed with not standing out in any way from anyone, whatsoever -- but will, of course, be dragged against his will into the act. Manzai Comics is the first of what may end up being a long series, and it's in stores January 15th.

From Aurora's Deux imprint comes Take Me To Heaven by Nase Yamato, a yaoi tale of love between two highschool boys, driven together by the ghosts and spirits that torment one of them. Sounds...um, different. This will also be in stores January 15th.

And from Aurora's Luv Luv imprint, I saw Make More Love & Peace by Takane Yonetani, the sequel to Make Love & Peace (which I reviewed a few months ago for ComicMix). It's the further adventures exploits of college student Ayame and her police-detective boyfriend Koichi, with lots of sex and probably a fair bit of woman-in-danger. It will also be available January 15th.

The third book in Osamu Tezuka's manga series Black Jack is coming to American shelves on January 20th. It's the story of an outlaw doctor who charges outrageous fees but can cure anything, it's reportedly Tezuka's most popular series among Japanese adults, and I reviewed the first two books for ComicMix, if you want to know more.

The Vampire Agent, by Patricia Rosemoor & Marc Paoletti, is the second in a new contemporary fantasy series (after The Last Vampire) by a paranormal romance writer and an ex-pyrotechnician/advertising copywriter. It looks more military and gritty than most of the books in this subgenre, for those looking for more high-powered weaponry to face off against their vampires. And it's hitting bookstores tomorrow.

One of the more surprising packages arrived this week from the Philippines -- it contained several works of SFF and comics from that country, all in English, and all things I'd never heard of before. It might not be a small world, precisely, but it's getting easier and easier to find out about things from the other end of the world.

First up is The Kite of Stars and Other Stories by Dean Francis Alfar, published by an outfit called Anvil in a paperback second edition in 2008. It's his first collection, with sixteen stories originally appearing in Philippine venues that I don't recognize and in places like Strange Horizons. It doesn't seem to be immediately available in the USA, but it could be ordered directly from the publisher.

Also by Alfar is the novel Salamanca published in 2006 by Ateneo de Manila University Press, which I suspect could be labeled magic realist without offending too many sensibilities.

And then there's Philippine Speculative Fiction III, which was edited by Dean Francis Alfar & Nikki Alfar. This is copyright 2007, and was published by Kestrel IMC. It collects twenty-one stories by writers you've probably never heard of -- not that this is a bad thing -- stories of horror, fantasy, SF, and similar things from Philippine writers and parts even further away.

Still poking through the box from the Philippines -- this stuff is fascinating! -- I find the four issues of a comics series called Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan. It seems to be about a talking chicken, but it doesn't look silly -- the art is particularly precise and matter-of-fact.

Also in comics form are two collections of local supernatural detective stories (or do I mean urban fantasy?) -- Trese: Murder on Balete Drive and Trese: Unreported Murders. They're by Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo, and look dark and enticing. There's a blog dedicated to the series, but it doesn't look like the books are easy to buy on this side of the Pacific.

And last from the Philippine box is a graphic novel, Martial Law Babies by Arnold Arre. It's a big fat thing, nearly 300 pages, and looks to be the kind of book that's both a story about particular people and at the same time the story of a generation.

Back to books published on this continent, there's A World of Letters by Nicholas A. Basbanes, a history of the first hundred years of the Yale University Press (up to this year). And that's already the first thing I've learned from this book -- I wouldn't have thought that Yale UP was that young, since the university itself was founded in 1701. I've read a couple of Basbanes's books about books and collectors eagerly, and I do have an interest in how publishing houses operate, so this looks to be right up my alley. It was published in October -- by the Yale University Press, of course.

The best title I've seen in quite a while is The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, the new novel by Charlie Huston. Huston's the author of the Joe Pitt novels -- starting with Already Dead, tales of a very noirish vampire in contemporary vampire-gang-ridden Manhattan -- as well as other mysteries and, currently, the Moon Knight comics series. This is either a standalone or the first novel in a series -- it's quite possible that only time will tell which, too -- about a man who gets a job working as a death-scene cleaner. Web Goodhue is one of the guys who come in after the CSI team took their samples and ran back to their labs, after the insurance adjustors agreed to pay -- one of the guys who has to get two quarts of blood out of deep pile on an average working day. From what I've read of Huston's work, I'm pretty sure he's one of the very few writers who could pull that off. And the cover is bright yellow -- who can resist that? Mystical Arts is being published by Ballantine on January 13th.

And last for this week is the new Walter Jon Williams novel, This Is Not a Game. It's an extremely near-future SF novel set in the world of Alternate Reality Games -- the subtitle on the bound galley is "A Novel of Greed, Betrayal, and Social Networking." Williams is a fantastic writer who has never gotten the widespread success his books -- from Aristoi to Metropolitan to Days of Atonement -- deserved, so I hope this big book will finally put him over the top. It's coming from Orbit (US) in March as a hardcover, and I hope it will be one of the major books of 2009.

4 comments:

Kathleen Dante said...

Just wondering, how'd you get the Philippine stuff?

Michael said...

Ah, university presses ... here's some fun factoids:

From the Cornell site: "Cornell University Press was established in 1869, giving it the distinction of being the first university press to be established in the United States" but it had a "slight" hiatus "it was inactive for several decades between 1890 and 1930"

On the other tentacle, the Johns Hopkins University Press, founded 1878 is the oldest continuously running university press in the United States.

And I've been at JHUP since 1988.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Kathleen: Someone from the Philippines -- associated with one or more of these publishing companies, I believe -- e-mailed me and asked if he could send me some books. I said "sure," and so he did.

Bruce said...

The crime-scene-cleaner book sounds interesting.

Once, back before I retired from the Postal Service, I had a guy at one house ask me "Hey, do you know how to get blood stains out of a popcorn ceiling?"

It turned out his cousin, who'd lived at the house, had committed suicide by shotgun and left, to put it lightly, a bit of a mess.

The real question, though, is, why did this guy think a mailman might know how to get blood stains out of a popcorn ceiling?

Maybe he expected me to say, "Oh, sure, you betcha. The last time I slaughtered my co-workers, my supervisor was so annoyed he made me clean up the mess myself."

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