Monday, April 05, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/3

There's only so many ways I can say the same old thing every week, so this time it's the speed version: these are the books that showed up in my mailbox last week. I haven't read them. But here's what I do know about them now:

Gene Luen Yang's new short graphic novel Prime Baby has the supremely satisfying (because it's true) line on the back cover: "As seen in the funny pages of The New York Times Magazine." (Admittedly, the Funny Pages seem to have disappeared after Prime Baby stopped, and the Times still doesn't have anything like a real comics section, but even a baby step is a step.) Prime Baby was the last of the graphic novels serialized there, though this one -- each episode a single strip of three or four panels -- looked much more like a traditional newspaper strip that its comics-page predecessors. First Second Books is publishing Prime Baby this month, at the ridiculously low price of $6.95. At that level, how can you not buy the new graphic novel by the author of American Born Chinese, I ask you?

Bitter Seeds is the first novel from Ian Tregillis, a physicist at Los Alamos who has also written for George R.R. Martin's Wild Cards superhero alternate-history series. From the first credential, you might expect an equation-filled wonkfest full of Orion drives, beautiful scientists' daughters who need to have the plot explained to them, and can-do spirit. Luckily, Bitter Seeds looks to draw much more heavily on Tregillis's other experience: it's the first novel in an expected series, a historical fantasy novel set during WWII. But this WWII has demon-summoning warlocks defending Britain from technologically-created Nazi superman. The concept is brilliantly exciting, and the writing looks strong as well. Bitter Seeds has quotes from Martin (which one might expect) and from Cory Doctorow (who writes a lot, but doesn't blurb very much at all -- let alone saying that a book "has a white-knuckle plot, beautiful descriptions, and complex characters). I also note that it's edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, whose taste I haven't managed to find fault with yet. It's coming from Tor in hardcover this month, and I expect a lot of people will be talking about it as one of the debut books of the year. (And I'm trying to figure out how quickly I can get to it myself.)

Ian McDonald's Ares Express -- a novel about railroads set on Mars, and the sequel to McDonald's first novel Desolation Road -- was published in 2001 in the UK, but has taken until now to finally reach the US in a native edition. (Though I imagine a fair number of those UK books are scattered around in the libraries of McDonald's fans.) Pyr is bringing it out in trade paperback, to match their edition of Desolation Road from last year, on the 13th -- so, if I know book-distribution systems, it's on its way to stores across the country already, and might even be in a few of them already. McDonald is a smart, interesting writer whom I haven't read nearly enough of -- though every McDonald book I have read was well worth the time.

Douglas Clegg's new novel is Neverland, which is either horror or "dark suspense," depending on your preference, and it's coming from Vanguard Press as a trade paperback next week. A group of kids on a family vacation discover an old shack in the woods and take it as their clubhouse -- and, before long, discover they're not the first ones to use that shack. This looks to be supernatural horror -- the flap copy talks about the children worshipping "a creature of shadows...called 'Lucy'" -- rather than the more mundane kind, so those who like their stories of childhood to have intrusions of extra-dimensional entities will want to take a look at Neverland.

Pyr continues its quick-fire publication of Adrian Tchaikovsky's "Shadows of the Apt" epic fantasy series with a second book, Dragonfly Falling, coming a mere month after the first, Empire in Black and Gold. It's got another kick-ass Jon Sullivan cover, hitting a new high of photo-realism and having a woman who actually wears armor that protects her (reasonable people can differ on the usefulness of all the spiky bits, which I suspect might poke the wearer at unfortunate times). Dragonfly Falling will be in stores a week from tomorrow, and it looks like the third book, Blood of the Mantis, will be coming quickly as well -- so epic fantasy fans will want to dive right in here.

Also from Pyr this month is George Mann's novel Ghosts of Manhattan, a steampunk superhero story set in 1920's New York. It's expected to turn into a series, for all of your steampunk-lovers out there.

And last for this week is a blast from the past: Yoshihiro Tatsumi's Black Blizzard, a thriller that was his first published graphic novel back in 1956. Tatsumi, of course, is the author of a magnificent sequence of shorter realistic stories -- some of them collected in English as The Push Man and Other Stories, Abandon the Old in Tokyo, and Good-Bye -- from the late '60s and early '70s, as well as the massive comics autobiography A Drifting Life. Drawn & Quarterly are taking an interesting path in bringing Tatsumi to North American audiences: instead of continuing the Push Man sequence with more collections of shorter work, they jumped to the later Drifting Life, and then all the way back to this book. Presumably, they're trying to show the bredth of his work as quickly as possible, and -- given the incredible strength of the Tatsumi books we've seen so far (my reviews of them can be read elsewhere) -- I have to applaud the effort. Black Blizzard will be available this month.
Listening to: The Teenagers - Starlett Johansson
via FoxyTunes

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