Monday, April 13, 2009

Reviewing The Mail: Week of 4/11

I do this every week, so I'll try to keep the preliminaries brief this time: I get a lot of books in the mail for review, and only manage to read a fraction of them. But I want to mention them all, so I do posts every Monday morning listing everything that came in the week before, with some notes about those books, depending on my time, knowledge, and inclination.

This week I have the usual stuff, and then a pretty big box of things all from one publisher that might take a bit of explaining -- but let me get through the main list first.

First is Edward Willett's third novel for DAW, Terra Insegura, which is also a sequel to his last novel, Marseguro. It's publishing in mass-market in May, and I don't know much more about it than that -- other than the back cover copy, which explains the plot of Marseguro (so I recommend not looking too closely if you intend to read the first book first) and sends most of what I think are the main characters on a path back to Earth, some of them unwittingly carrying a doomsday plague.

Also from DAW in mass-market in the merry month of May is Terribly Twisted Tales, an original anthology of "18 original stories that take familiar fairy tales and shift them around to give them an entirely new slant." Now, that sounds familiar...probably from Jay Ward's Fractured Fairy Tales, if not from Oscar Wilde or something even earlier. (But that's OK; there are no new ideas in the first place.) Among those taking part in this particular exercise are Dennis L. McKiernan, Michael A. Stackpole, Robert E. Vardeman, Jim C. Hines, and several writers who don't feel compelled to shove their middle initial in everywhere they can. (There's also someone credited as 'Ramsey "Tome Wyrm" Lundock,' who get the usual glare over the top of my glasses.)

If you were hoping DAW would give you a paperback with a bit more heft -- something that could startle a good-size cat if flung -- then you're in luck, since they put out Tad Williams's Shadowplay in April. It's solidly over seven hundred pages, it has a golden castle on the cover, and it's the second book in a trilogy -- I can state without fear of contradiction that we have an epic fantasy here. (Not that I didn't know that already.)

Pati Nagle's The Betrayal looks to be a first novel, from Del Rey on March 24th. (So it'll be in stores already, though the shelves may be getting depleted by this point.) The cover hovers somewhere in the triangular space defined by urban fantasy (one woman, looking tough), historical romance (depicted in sumptuous clothes and a sultry look), and high fantasy (that castle floating in the background, and the lack of a clinch or tramp stamp to throw it definitively into one of the other two categories). From the back-cover copy, this is a secondary world fantasy, set among elves (sorry, aelven) and focused on two young lovers with a legendary, unlikely gift -- indeed, the most typical of unlikely gifts -- mindspeech.

Marjane Satrapi's fourth graphic novel (if you count the two parts of Persepolis separately), Chicken with Plums, has just hit paperback, in an April edition from Pantheon that looks entirely different from the hardcover (which I reviewed back in late October of 2006).

Blood of Ambrose is another first novel, as far as I can tell, from James Enge. The set-up follows some well-marked paths, with some kind of complicated dynastic struggle involving a nasty older "Protector" and a young King. (But also an emperor who died a few centuries ago, and whose throne the King is somehow heir to -- and the Protector is the brother-in-law of the guy who's been dead for a few centuries, which either makes him or his wife really, really old.) It has quotes from Greg Keyes, Dave Freer, and Paul Cornell, for those who like arguments from authority, and a stylish cover, for those swayed by such things. It's published by Pyr, and hit bookstores on April 7th in trade paperback.

If you were both a Goth and in the market for an etiquette guide -- and let's just assume, for the moment, that you are both of those things -- you'd probably want a book just like Gothic Charm School, by a woman who can refer to herself as "The Lady of the Manners" with a straight face. (Her actual by-line is Jillian Venters.) It explains who Goths are, how one becomes a Goth, and how to be both filled with darkest ennui at the entire universe and polite. And Harper is publishing it in trade paperback on June 23rd.

Starfinder is the first book in a new series called "Skylords," by John Marco, who is responsible for two previous epic fantasy trilogies. This one looks to be an atypical fantasy, with steampunky ornithopter-like "dragonflies," whatever that vaguely dragon-looking thing on the cover is, at least one blimp, a city on top of a mountain, a legendary order of long-dead knights, and the requisite thirteen-year-old boy hero. It's billed as for teens and adults, and Starfinder will be published by DAW in hardcover on May 5th.

I try to keep up with webcomics, I really do. But, like everything else on the Internet, it's like drinking from a firehouse, and so I know I miss a lot of stuff -- probably more than I see, actually. One of the online strips I hadn't even heard of before is Goats, which is popular and strong enough to have turned into a book from Del Rey, Goats: Infinite Typewriters, which is only the first of three Goats books Del Rey will be doing. Infinite Typewriters is coming in July, with an introduction from "Tycho Brahe" (the webcomic one, not the one with the silver nose).

That's the end of the regular mail, and now we get to the Big Box. The Big Oni Box, actually. I think this was sent to me more as an Eisner judge -- though it was sent, and I received it, the week after I came back from the weekend of judging -- than as a reviewer, but I'll still cover as much of it as I can. From this point on, these are all things published by Oni Press in 2008.

The Apocalipstix, by Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart, is an original graphic novel for which the elevator pitch would be "Mad Max meets Josie and the Pussycats" -- it's about a three-girl band traveling through the post-apocalyptic landscape.

North World Book 1 is a webcomic by Lars Brown, and it's also now a book. It's got talking bears and guys with swords in it, so it's got to be good.

I also have here the first two volumes of Saltwater Taffy -- The Legend of Old Salty and A Climb up Mt. Barnabus -- both by Matthew Loux and both suitable for younger readers. They're about two brothers whose family dragged them away for a summer-long vacation in coastal Maine.

Jim Massey and Robbi Rodriguez are responsible for the series Maintenance, which has just hit a third volume, Fighting Occupants of Interstellar Craft. As far as I can tell, those guys on the cover are the custodians at TerroMax, Inc., which is probably some kind of evil corporation.

Speaking of later volumes in series, I also have here Wet Moon Volume 4: Drowned in Evil by Ross Campbell, who also did Water Baby for DC's Minx imprint last year, which I reviewed quickly a couple of weeks ago. There's no actual explanation of the book anywhere I can discern; I guess I'd have to read the book to know what it's about -- the characters do seem to be young and punky, for whatever that's worth.

I take every opportunity I can to mention that I knew Greg Rucka at college, because that's just the kind of obnoxious name-dropper I am. And so I'll use that as a lead-in to mention Oni's reprinting of Rucka's Queen & Country series (with various artists over the years) in their "Definitive Editions." Volumes Two and Three came out last year, and I'm looking at them right now -- they each reprint two or three of the storylines from the comic, and they're very attractive-looking books in their own right.

I also have a stack of honest-to-God pamphlet comics from Oni,which I'd nearly given up on myself. (My main comic boxes are now buried under other things in the basement, so if I had kept buying comics, I'd eventually have to dig out those boxes to integrate the new stuff -- and that was just too much to bear.)

There's a three-issue horror series called The Damned by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt. And the second and third issues of Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen, by various hands. And #s 14 through 22 of Wasteland by Antony Johnson and Joe Infurnari, which is either post-apocalyptic or horror or both.

I'm not sure if Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere counts as a comic or a graphic novel -- it's squarebound, but the size of a comic and only fifty-four pages long. Whatever it is, it's by Ted Naifeh, and I hear this Courtney person is quite popular among certain circles. (Possibly the same ones that need the etiquite book I mentioned above.)

And last from Oni is a book I want to spend some more time with, both because it looks great and because I've heard good things about it -- Local, by Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly, which collects a twelve-issue series about a peripatetic young woman.


Anonymous said...

I thought "Local" was wonderful. I read it in its original monthly comic incarnation.

Jeff P.

Bruce said...

Pati Nagle has written, as P.G. Nagle, a number of historical novels set in the Southwest during the Civil War.

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