Monday, April 06, 2009

Reviewing The Mail: Week of 4/4

Every week, I get books in the mail, and I usually want to review nearly all of them...but I know that I won't manage to get to many of them, from past experience and the still-teetering stacks of books I can see from my chair right now. So, to make sure I can call attention to those books at least once, I do posts like this every Monday morning, listing with annotations everything that came in the mail the previous week, in hopes that readers will find out about something new.

And, sometimes, I even throw in a few books that I spent my own money on, as is the case this week -- I went to my usual comics shop on Friday, and picked up four graphic novels/trade paperbacks/squarebound comics/whatever we're calling them these days. Those will be mixed in the middle.

And I'll start with the least likely book I saw: Every Last Cuckoo by Kate Malloy, the new trade paperback edition of a debut novel aimed at reading groups and that, if it had any genre at all attached to it, it would be "women's fiction." It's about a seventy-five year old woman in rural Vermont, who, after the death of her husband, recreates the welcoming atmosphere of her childhood home by taking in various family members, friends, and others. (Back in the clubs, we called books like that "three generations of women" novels -- and they always had a big, appreciative audience, though I can't say I ever read any of them.) The trade paperback edition of Every Last Cuckoo will be coming from Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill on May 12th, and I bet more people than you expect will be reading it in your neighborhood.

More in my usual line is Jack Campbell's new novel, The Lost Fleet: Relentless, which is the fifth in a military SF series from Ace. (And Campbell also writes as John G. Hemry, for those of you who didn't know the connection.) That will hit stores on May 5th.

I finally gave in and bought Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life, first in the series by Bryan Lee O'Malley; it's ridiculously popular with comics-reading twentysomethings, and the fact that I'm getting to it five years after it was published just underscores how terribly old and feeble I'm getting.

I can't say I've ever wondered "What if Wolverine were a modern Canadian teen-ager, and his adventures were told in a manga style?" But someone must have -- since that's exactly the premise of Wolverine: Prodigal Son, Vol. 1, the first volume in a new series written by Anthony Johnson with art by Wilson Tortosa. (Even more interestingly, it's published by Del Rey rather than by Marvel.) This book officially hits stores on Tuesday, just ahead of a certain movie about yet another somewhat different version of l'il ol' "I'm the best at what I do, and what I do isn't pretty."

Another book I had to spend my own money on is the Julia (Fart Party) Wertz-edited comics anthology I Saw You...: Comics Inspired by Real-Life Missed Connections. (Which also, come to think of it, seems very twenty-something to me -- all that yearning and shyness and the desperate knowledge that "the one" is lurking out there somewhere, probably on the crosstown bus.) It's got dozens of stories -- most of which seem to be single-pagers from a quick glance through the book -- from what looks like practically everyone remotely associated with indy comics, from Peter Bagge to Sam Henderson to Jeffrey Brown to David Malki, all based on Craigslist "missed connection" ads (or similar posts and personal ads from other places). Three Rivers Press published it in February, and the presumably overworked publicist somehow neglected to send it to your humble blogging buddy.

I'm pretty sure I already have a copy of Frederik Pohl's Beyond the Blue Event Horizon around here somewhere -- and I first read it myself at least a couple of decades ago -- so my joy at seeing this nice new Orb edition is purely altruistic. It's the second book in the Heechee series, and, while it might not be quite as wonderful as the first book, Gateway, being not quite as good as a Hugo- and Nebula-winning masterpiece is still a damn good thing to be. The new edition of Beyond the Blue Event Horizon was published on April 2nd, and it's great to see it back in print.

Every time I think that every permutation on the historical mystery has been found, someone comes around and ups the ante. This time, it's Tony Hays with The Killing Way -- the series tag line is "An Arthurian Mystery." (Yes, that Arthur. No, he's not the detective.) It looks to be more Philip Marlowe than Brother Cadfael: all signs are that this is a reasonably authentic Dark Ages, without magic, and the hero is a one-armed ex-soldier named Malgwyn whom Arthur trusts to solve the case of a young woman murdered at Merlin's house. The Killing Way was published by Forge (the mystery/thriller/mainstream side of Tor Books) on March 31st in hardcover.

I still haven't read the last Jack of Fables trade paperback, but I still bought volume 5, Turning Pages (by the usual suspects -- Willingham and Sturges writing; Braun and Atkins on art). I hope to read the two together sometime soon, and write up something about them -- keep tuned for details. This one was just published by DC last month.

And last for this week is something I thought was a joke originally -- but I'm glad to see it's real: Showcase Presents: Ambush Bug by Keith Giffen, Robert Loren Fleming, and various others. (I'd have preferred to have this as two separate color trade paperbacks, but I'll take black-and-white in this case.) It collects all of the Ambush Bug stories, except for the currently-running mini-series. I loved these stories -- satirical looks at the superhero comics of the '80s (particularly DC, of course) -- at the time, and I hope very much that they hold up. This also was just published by DC.

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