Monday, May 03, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/1

When this post goes live, I will be somewhere in the air between New York and Florida, on my way to my employer's week-long Sales Conference, to spend a lot of time in meetings talking about the great accounting/tax/corporate finance books coming out this fall. Luckily for you, that's likely to be the most I'll tell you about those proceedings. I'll be back before next weekend, so "Reviewing the Mail" should see no interruption.

And, speaking of "Reviewing the Mail," just in case you're unfamiliar with this regular Monday-morning post, let me give you the ground rules: I get books in the mail. I write something about them here. I have not yet read them. Simple, right?

This week there were three single books and one larger package, so I'll deal with them in that order, starting with one of the odder things I've seen recently:

The Stuff of Legend: Book 1: The Dark reprints the first three issues of the "Stuff of Legend" comic-book series, written by Mike Raicht and Brian Smith, with art by Charles Paul Wilson III. And the elevator pitch for this series is something like "Toy Story meets Narnia" -- in 1944, the Boogeyman abducts a young boy into an otherworldly realm called The Dark, and his toys assemble to save him. The original comics series was published by Th3rd World Studios, but the book is coming from Villard as a trade paperback -- and it's scheduled to be in stores Wednesday, May 5th.

Charles Yu's first novel is How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe -- and that title signals some degree of metafiction, and Yu's credentials (Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award, National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Award for his collection Third Class Superhero) also suggests this is well toward the literary side. It also has the subtitle "A Novel," which I find amusing -- if the reader can't tell that something is a novel (given where it is in a bookstore, for example), that book has much larger problems that two little words will not solve. But that's a very common thing for literary publishers do do -- perhaps they have less faith in their reader's ability to discern categories than do the SFF publishers, who only very rarely will title something Novel: An Urban Fantasy. Yu's hero is a young man who fixes time machines for a living while he searches through time for his father, who invented the time machine. Pantheon will publish Live Safely as a hardcover in September.

The second book of George Mann's "Newbury & Hobbes" steampunk mystery series (after The Affinity Bridge) is The Osiris Ritual, coming from Tor in hardcover in August. It's very weird seeing steampunk -- which was always a fun vaguely disreputable corner of speculative fiction, populated by occasional oddball novels from writers like Tim Powers, James P. Blaylock, and K.W. Jeter -- blossom into a popular commercial genre suddenly. I have the sneaking suspicion that the popularity of steampunk is driven mostly by costuming, as well, which is also a weird path to fame. Still, clanking monstrosities and tight waistcoats do have a definite appeal, and anything that gets SF away from dreary unpleasant near-futures is a big positive in my book.

And then comes the big clump of books -- four of them, sent to me by Charles Tan, who is the unofficial ambassador of Philippine SFF and comics to the outside world.

First comes Neil Gaiman Presents the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards Prose Anthology, which appears to be assembled/compiled/edited by Jaime Daez, the Managing Director of Fully Booked (a major Philippine bookseller). This book collects the winners and runners-up of the first three years of a contest inspired by Neil Gaiman's visit to Manila (an epic signing there) in the summer of 2005 -- about 350 pages of award-caliber stories by writers you probably haven't heard of, like Michael A.R. Co, Ian Casocot, Joseph Frederic Nacino, and Christelle Rhodamae Mariano. It was published by Fully Booked in the Philippines, so finding a copy of it in the States may be an adventure -- but, if we didn't like adventures, why are we reading SFF stories?

The eagle-eyed among you are waiting for the other shoe to drop -- noting that the book above is from the "Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards" but is the "Prose Anthology" -- and that shoe is next: Neil Gaiman Presents The Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards Comics Anthology. It's a larger-format book than the Prose Anthology, with twenty-three winners and runners-up from the three years to date of the contest. And you're probably not familiar with the work of the winners here -- Clara Lala Gallardo and Maria Gallardo, Andrew Drilon, Genevieve Go -- and all of the other creators here. This one was also published by Fully Booked.

(Those two books have the same cover art, with the only real difference, looking at them, being that Comics is physically larger and has the word "Comics" rather than "Prose" on it. I found images for both of them, and the Comics one was lighter and clearer, so I used that one to illustrate the look of both books.)

Philippine Speculative Fiction 5 is the latest in the original anthology series, edited by Nikki Alfgar and Vincent Michael Simbulan, containing twenty-five new stories by Charles Tan, Isabel Yap, Dean Francis Alfar, Mia Tijam, and many more. It was published by Literature of the Fantastic.

But the most interesting Philippine object I saved for last -- I believe it's called Silent Comics 12, but those are the only words in English on it. (There aren't a whole lot of words on it in any language -- but all of the rest are in Tagalog/Filipino.) I believe, after intensive study, that all the comics here -- they're all clearly from one creator -- are by Manix Abrera. And they definitely are all silent. The cover has a gorgeous design, and the interior has a clean cartoony style that's also very appealing. Finding this book outside the Philippines -- it was published in October 2009 by Visprint -- might be even more difficult than the books above, but it looks really neat, and I can't wait to find time to actually read it. (Notwithstanding that I actually can't read the few words in it -- but comics, luckily for me, are a universal language.)
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Listening to: The Builders And The Butchers - In The Branches
via FoxyTunes

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