Monday, August 31, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/29

To reiterate what I say every week: I love getting books to review in the mail, but I feel guilty about it as well, since I know I'll never manage to read all of the books I see, let alone write anything coherent about them afterward. So, to make sure I can give everything at least a little attention, I do weekly round-up posts of the books that have just arrived at La Casa Hornswoggler.

I haven't read any of these yet -- with one notable exception this week -- but there are things I can glean from the packaging and my knowledge of the field, so I'll tell you what I do know, or guess, in hopes that it will help lead people to books they will enjoy.

This week I have a lucky thirteen books to mention, starting with the second book in a fantasy series by our most recent Campbell winner: David Anthony Durham's The Other Lands. I didn't read the first book (Acacia), though several people whose opinion I respect liked it a lot have praised it highly. (I haven't started any new epic fantasy series since I left the old job, though -- I may have burned out on the subgenre for a few years.) Other Lands will be published in hardcover by Doubleday on September 15th.

To switch gears immediately, the next book on the pile -- this week, I didn't reorganize it, for once, so I'm just running through things in the reverse order that they came in the mail -- is a manga volume from Del Rey, by Hosana Tanaka, called Ninja Girls, Vol. 1. It's the usual lost-heir stuff -- common to both Westerners and Easterners -- with the typical manga fillips that this lost heir can be told by the small horn in the middle of his head, and that a group of "beautiful ninja girls" are going to try to restore him to the throne. I can say nothing against a book called Ninja Girls; this hit stores August 11th.

Also from Del Rey manga, but published last week, is Wataru Mizukami's Four-Eyed Prince, Vol. 1. It's a highschool love story, in which the heroine has just declared her love for an older boy at school, and had him reject her...and then goes to live with her long-estranged mother, and learned that the dreamy boy is actually her older brother. (Well, half-brother. No, wait! He's actually the son of mom's first ex-husband, so he's no blood relation at all! Whew!) Manga love to traffic in near-incestual relationships, for reasons I won't try to characterize, and this is yet another one of those. I also note from the back cover that the heroine has seaweed-green hair, which matches her eyes.

Red Snow is another translation of Japanese comics, but it comes from the other end of that tradition -- it's a collection of short stories by Susumu Katsumata, who was part of the gekiga movement for realist and adult themes and has published extensively in the seminal avant-garde magazine Garo. Red Snow collects stories of rural Japan, based on Katamata's childhood, and it won the Japanese Cartoonists Association Grand Prize in 2006. Drawn & Quarterly will publish Red Snow in September in hardcover.

And then there's Dawnthief, another book in James Barclay's heroic fantasy series "Chronicles of the Raven." (That Raven being, as I never tire of quoting, "six men and an elf," which sounds more and more like a World of Warcraft-themed porno the more I think about it.) It was originally published in the UK in 1999, but it's only making its way across the Atlantic now, with this spiffy trade paperback from Pyr, which will be in stores September 15th.

My eternal suspicion that my mailman reads some of my mail -- fueled by the fact that I've occasionally gotten two issues of The New Yorker the same day, one of them a week late -- has been aroused again by the arrival of Kim Dong Hwa's The Color of Water, second in the graphic novel trilogy about the coming of age of a young Korean woman about a century ago. I blame my mailman, because I saw the third book, The Color of Heaven, about three weeks ago, and Water was publishing earlier (in September). So, if you happen to be reading this and are my mailman, know this: I'm watching you.) Also, see my review of the first book, The Color of Earth.

Those who get hissy-fits at "spoilers" shouldn't even look at the title of David Wong's John Dies at the End, a webserial-turned-small-published-book-turned-big-published-book (and in the process of turning into a movie, too) coming on October 2nd from Thomas Dunne Books. From what I've heard -- I haven't read any of the iterations of this story so far -- it's one of those comic horror stories that all the kids love these days. (I'm getting old enough now to say that ironically, right?)

I also got a box of books from a SFnal small press that I hadn't previously known about, Fantastic Books. (I believe this is the Fantastic Books that's run by Warren Lapine and is part of his Wilder Publications print-on-demand operation -- as described in this io9 article -- but the books don't mention Wilder, so I'll leave that as in informed guess.) The interiors of these books are nearly up to professional level -- they have real running heads, decent gutters, square bindings, and frontmatter that's 95% of the way there. There are some elements that could have used a bit of tweaking by a book designer -- such as the text of a book starting on a left-hand page, and sections generally starting higher on the page than would be preferable -- but the insides are cleanly readable, and only look POD to the careful eye. The covers are more obviously POD, though -- generally simple type on the front, and images that are pretty simple as well. The back covers are even more obviously unstyled, and the spines just have the title and author in large letters -- no indication of the publisher at all.

These Fantastic Books are all reprints of existing material, but are mostly new collections of stories, which is always good to see. Those books are:
  • Uncle Bones, collecting four novellas (originally published in 2009, 1982, 1980, and 1964) by Damien Broderick.
  • Human Voices, a collection of fourteen stories by James Gunn, originally published between 1972 and 2001 (mostly in the '70s and '80s). This is probably identical to the 2002 Five Star collection by the same name.
  • Judgment Day and Other Dreams, which collects fifteen stories by T. Jackson King, mostly from the early '90s.
  • and This Fortress World, James Gunn's first novel, originally published in 1955.
I saw Kate Elliott's Traitors' Gate -- finale of the Crossroads Trilogy -- back in May in bound-galley form, and don't really have anything new to say about it now. It's a Tor hardcover that published last week.

And last for this week is the paperback of Marisa Acocella Marchetto's Cancer Vixen, a graphic-novel memoir of her falling in love and getting breast cancer. I thought I'd done a full-fledged review of it, but I'd misremembered -- I just mentioned it briefly in this monthly round-up last February. Marchetto is a real character -- she portrays herself as very much the thin NYC fashionista, but with a wink -- and she tells her story with a cartoonist's eye for the telling details and for dialogue. This paperback edition will be published by Pantheon on September 29th.
Listening to: My Education - Sluts & Maniacs
via FoxyTunes

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