Monday, March 02, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/28

As I say every week, I like to list books that come in for review, so I at least get that chance to mention them and think about them. I always hope that I'll be able to read everything, but experience has shown that hope is not a reasonable one.

This week brought only a short stack of books, but they're strikingly varied. So let me dive right in:

Starting with manga, here's Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei: The Power of Negative Thinking, Vol. 1 by Koji Kumeta. It's a parody of all those "wonderful teacher" manga stories, with a main character who just wants to commit suicide and a class full of girls who, I gather, will eventually come to join him in a suicide pact. It looks very dark and funny, and I look forward to reading it; I love black comedy and I've seen very little of that from Japan so far. (This also has an extensive set of footnotes and annotations at the end, which is the other side -- the simplest, most frivolous manga are the easiest to translate for a publisher and understand as a Western reader, and the more specific and nuanced ones have the most cultural baggage to be explained.) Del Rey published this book on February 24th.

The Eternal Smile collects three comics collaborations between Gene Luen Yang (author of Eisner winner and National Book Award nominee American Born Chinese) and Derek Kirk Kim (author of Same Difference and Other Stories), at least one of which was originally published in 1999. "Duncan's Kingdom," the story of a plucky young knight seeking to save a princess, was a 2-issue miniseries from Image a decade ago, but the other two stories -- "Gran'pa Greenbax and the Eternal Smile," about a greedy rich frog vaguely reminiscent of Barks' Uncle Scrooge, and "Urgent Request," in which one mousy woman falls victim to a Nigerian email scam -- might be new, or might be old but not previous published. It's just not clear. But, even if parts of this book have been available before, it's still quite obscure, and both Yang and Kim have become more accomplished and well-known in the intervening years. (By the way, after a little Internet research I'm fairly sure that Yang wrote these three stories and Kim drew them -- for those who are interested in that kind of detail.) First Second will publish The Eternal Smile as a trade paperback in May.

Next is a fantasy novel published outside the genre: Carolyn Turgeon's Godmother, coming as a trade paperback from Three Rivers Press on March 10th. The godmother in question -- this novel's first-person narrator, Lil -- is the most famous literary godmother, who, in this retelling, screwed up by falling in love with Prince Charming herself, replacing Cinderella at the ball, and subsequently being exiled to the human world. But now she thinks she has an opportunity to get back to her own fairy world -- if only she can find the perfect match for a young woman named Veronica.

And then there's Kay Kenyon's City without End, third in her alternate-world fantasy trilogy "The Entire and the Rose," which Pyr published in hardcover on February 24th. It follows Bright of the Sky and A World Too Near, which I'm slightly embarrassed to admit I haven't read. (Anyone out there been following this series and willing to give it a plug?)

Then, way over by itself, is Joseph Patrick Larkin's Arcade of Cruelty, a collection of comics on various offensive and/or funny topics, plus some odder things. It's essentially self-published, but the production design is great, from the cover to the inside cover design to the typography and running heads -- it's on nice white, heavy paper, and it's a very impressive object, from the "New Selection from Joseph's Book Club" on the front to the category "Queer Studies/Occult" on the back. (And -- holy shit! -- that IBSN on the back is for real, too. I was half-expecting it to be part of the joke.) You might remember this book from the review by Bookgasm about five weeks ago; I certainly did. And I'm damn sure that I'm going to read this, and laugh inappropriately, and probably be offended by something as well. (It's that kind of book.) That might not happen for a month, since I'm in Eisner crunch mode for the month of March, but it will happen. If you don't want to wait for me to review it, you can buy Arcade of Cruelty right now from the publisher (aka author) Also-Ran, right now, through a Pay Pal link that you have to scroll down a lot to even find.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr.'s new novel Imager comes under a gorgeous Donato cover, and declares itself the first in yet another fantasy series, "the Imager Portfolio." (Modesitt has three other fantasy series from the same publisher -- Recluse, Spellsong, and Corean -- all of which I believe are open-ended.) From the flap copy, it looks like Imager is another one of those ever-popular "young person learns suddenly that he has vast magical powers, and must go away to the secret place for intensive training" stories. Tor will publish it in hardcover on March 17th.

And last for this week is a picture book labeled "Ages 4-8" called Farley Follows His Nose. It's by Lynn Johnson, creator of the newspaper strip For Better or For Worse, and Beth (Johnson) Cruikshank, who I think is Johnson's sister-in-law. It's about the dog from the strip, in his younger days -- it would have to be, wouldn't it? He's been dead in the strip for a decade or more -- who has a bath and then gets dirty. (It's Harry the Dirty Dog for a new generation, I guess -- though the story seems to be pretty different, and Johnson's art is gorgeously detailed.) The materials I have -- f&gs -- say that Farley Follows His Nose will be published by Bowen Press, an imprint of HarperCollins that is being shut down and its founder cast out into the street by the heartless and unfeeling suits of News Corporation. But the Harper website claims that it's a Katherine Tegen hardcover in April. (I've seen people taking credit for other's work before -- who hasn't, in publishing? -- but it's pretty rare that a book jumps from Name-of-One-Editor Imprint straight to Name-of-Another-Editor Imprint so quickly, without so much as a blush of shame.) Oh, and, since I haven't bragged in a while, this also came with an sealed envelope that says "A Special Gift from Farley and Lynn Johnson." Did you get a special gift from a cartoon dog this week? No? So there.


RobB said...

"The Entire and the Rose," which Pyr published in hardcover on February 24th. It follows Bright of the Sky[Photo] and A World Too Near[Photo], which I'm slightly embarrassed to admit I haven't read. (Anyone out there been following this series and willing to give it a plug?)

:raises hand:

I'll plug, these are terrific books blending science fantasy/planetary romance with some interesting SFnal concepts.

I reviewed both of them when they were published:
Bright of the Sky
A World Too Near

Anonymous said...

Farley died in April (the month), 1995, saving April (the kid).

I know people who still refer to April the kid as "The Farley Killer".

Unknown said...

Re:Modesitt's series-2 of the 3 are still open-The Soprano one is essentially finished-the most recent plotline was tied up and thewre hasn't been a new book in several years.

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