Monday, October 26, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/24

Disclaimer: these "Reviewing the Mail" posts go up early every Monday morning and list the books I saw in the mail the week before. I have read exactly none of these books, though I hope to read at least some of them. This post contains whatever I already know about these books through rumor, innuendo, common knowledge, and whatever marketing materials were included.

First this time out is Elizabeth Bear's novel By the Mountain Bound, a prequel to last year's All the Windwracked Stars. (I still haven't read Stars, though it is on the giant stacks of books to be reviewed. And am I the only one whose urge to read a book decreases noticeably when that books spawns a series before I manage to get to it? I know there are people who prefer stories that don't end, but, at this point in my reading life, I'm much more likely to read a book than to commit to a series.) This series, as I understand, is fantasy, and inspired by Norse legends, with Stars set after what sounds like Ragnarok. Tor will publish By the Mountain Bound tomorrow in hardcover.

Cory Doctorow's new novel Makers will also be published in hardcover by Tor -- this one on November 2nd. But Makers has also been serialized for free online at, so the dead-tree edition is not the only way you can read this story. I've read plenty of Doctorow's nonfiction (especially the online agitprop essays), but only one novel -- last year's Little Brother. But Doctorow is clearly one of the most important and inventive writers working in SF today, so I should read this.

Eoin Colfer has written a sixth book for Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide" series, because Adams's widow asked him nicely, and because the publishers offered him a sizable stack of cash. (Whether or not the readers were consulted, or would have wanted this, is a separate issue.) And so And Another Thing... exists; it was published by Hyperion on October 12th. I should reserve any further comment until I actually read the thing, and so I will.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's Great American Comics series returns for the fourth year with a 2009 edition. The series editors are still Jessica Abel and Matt Madden -- they took over last year from founding editor Anne Elizabeth Moore -- and the guest editor for this year is Charles Burns. This heavy book -- it's on nice glossy paper, and has the heft to stun small animals if thrown with vigor -- was published on October 8th, though HMH oddly neglected to include any flap copy to explain the book to potential buyers. (There's a long-running struggle between designers and marketers within publishing -- one wants to make beautiful objects, and the other wants to sell as many widgets as possible, and their two aims do not always coincide. To my eye, those empty flaps are a case where the designer won a major battle with the marketer.)

I know CLAMP is a famous manga collective, and that their series xxxHolic is well known and respected...but the title always makes me think it's about a porn addiction. (And, not having read it, I'm not to clear on what kind of story it really is. So I've never been put straight in a way that sticks.) Anyway, I have here something called The Official xxxHOLiC Guide, which is the kind of thing a publishing company schedules in an attempt to keep a successful property going after its actual end. It's being published by Del Rey, and it will be in stores tomorrow.

There's a small press from Philadelphia called PS Books -- not to be confused with the small SFnal PS Publishing from the UK -- that mostly publishes a small magazine called Philadelphia Stories. (They've also published at least one novel -- Christine Weiser's rock 'n' roll story Broad Street -- because I've seen that, even if I haven't gotten to read it yet.) And they've just published a second anthology of the best work from that magazine, under the utterly appropriate title The Best of Philadelphia Stories, Vol. 2. It's available now from better booksellers, in trade paperback.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's new novel Diving into the Wreck is based on her acclaimed novella of the same name (and its sequel, "Room of Lost Souls"). It's a medium-future SF novel about salvaging and exploring ancient derelict spaceships -- which sounds right up my alley, since that's the next best thing to an enigmatic alien artifact -- which Pyr is publishing in trade paperback in November.

Kodansha Comics -- the American arm of the similarly-named largest publisher in Japan -- debuted with a bang on October 13th wit the publication of new collections of two of its best-known and most iconic properties. (At least to Americans; I have to assume that Kodansha hasn't stayed the biggest publisher in Japan by being known best there for stories two decades old.)

First is Akira, Vol. 1, the beginning of the Katsuhiro Otomo series that manages to be post post- and pre-apocalyptic. (Not to mention mid-apocalyptic, near the end.) I think of Akira as being something like the Japanese Watchmen -- it's not as formally complicated and knotty, but it both epitomizes and transcends the standards of its genre, and certainly was massively influential over here. (And probably in Japan as well, though there have been three or four entire generations of new manga-ka since Akira debuted.)

And the other one is Masamune Shirow's The Ghost in the Shell, which -- as far as I can remember -- mostly didn't take the definite article in its previous American incarnations. This book is also one of the major holes in my reading; I've never gotten to it, but it's nice to get another chance.
Listening to: Heartless Bastards - Searching For The Ghost
via FoxyTunes

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