Monday, July 05, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/3

It's been another week of mail here at the secure Hornswoggler compound, which means it's time for me to tell you about it. As always, these are the books that came in the mail last week -- mostly without me even suspecting they were on the way -- and I haven't yet read any of them. But I can tell you some things about those books, from looking at them and thinking very, very hard, and so I shall:

Carrie Vaughn's "Kitty Norville" urban fantasy series -- one of the better entries in that subgenre, well-grounded in the real world and with more sense of consequence than any of the others I've read -- has jumped to Tor with the 8th book, Kitty Goes to War, just published in August. War is a mass-market paperback, like all of the previous books in the series, and I recommend this series highly for anyone who can tolerate reading a book with a tough chick and a peck of wolves on the cover.

And the reason Vaughn jumped to Tor is the next book in my stack, Discord's Apple, a contemporary fantasy set in a slightly alternate world that Tor is also publishing in July -- in hardcover, in this case. Vaughn and her previous publisher had a slight disagreement about the shape of her career -- they wanted her to focus on Kitty; she had other things she wanted to do as well -- and I'm glad to see that she landed at a publisher that wanted to see her write the same kind of books that she wanted to write. (And I hope they're both right that her audience will follow her to Discord's Apple, at least in sufficient numbers for that book to be successful.) Discord features a young woman who goes home to comfort her dying father, but discovers that he's the guardian of a magical storeroom containing various mythical and legendary artifacts.

Ursula K. Le Guin's novella The Word for World is Forest has been republished as a slim trade paperback by Tor, in a classy cover that buries the words "science fiction" at the bottom of the back. Word was originally published in Harlan Ellison's 1972 anthology Again, Dangerous Visions (which was not itself groundbreaking, but was a quick return to continue bounding the same soil Ellison had broken three years earlier with the first Dangerous Visions anthology) and won the Hugo Award in its category that year. (And a quick glance at the first few pages showed me that Word is still just as subtle and nuanced as it ever was, though the passing years have luckily brought ever higher-powered instruments to detect those qualities.)

Pyr continues its flood of Mark Chadbourn books with The Hounds of Avalon, the third volume of the "Dark Age" trilogy, coming to stores with an official publication date of tomorrow. (And that means that both this trilogy and its predecessor -- the "Dark Age" books -- were published in the US within a 14-month span, which I certainly hope will make very happy the people who complain about slow publication schedules.) This is a series set after a magical apocalypse has transformed our world back into something more legendary, and this particular book has a new ragnarok threatening, which I trust Chadbourn's characters will avert. (That's the job of the viewpoint characters in fantasy-apocalypse novels; if they can't manage to fulfill the basic requirements of their positions, they deserve to be relegated to Mills & Boon.)

Graham Hancock usually writes nonfiction books with titles like Fingerprints of the Gods, The Sign and the Seal, and The Message of the Sphinx -- ones that generally feature a view of history, archaeology, and the past that have more elements of conspiracy theory and unlikely coincidences than most of us would be comfortable with -- which have found the usual large audience worldwide. (Obligatory reference to Von Daniken here.) But he's now written a novel -- a fantasy adventure entitled Entangled in which a modern woman is flung into the past to merge with her Stone Age counterpart, who is battling "an unrelentingly evil master magician named Sulpa." Of course, it's also the first book of a trilogy. Entangled will be published by The Disinformation Company [1] as a trade paperback in October. (Obligatory reference to Whitley Strieber here, who traveled a similar path in the opposite direction, going from The Wolfen to Communion.)



Richard Moore's very entertaining contemporary fantasy comics series Boneyard comes to an end -- or at least a temporary halt -- with Volume 7, probably because of the usual diminishing returns of a long-running series that isn't a darling of the comics-shop crowd. It's a shame, because Moore is a reliably entertaining cartoonist, equally adept at story and character, but we can always hope to see something else new and exciting from him. (Oh, and I should link to my ComicMix review of Vol. 6, while I'm at it.) NBM will publish this seventh, and probably concluding, volume in September -- so if there were any of you waiting for the series to end before starting to read it, your alarm has just rung.

And last for this week is another surprise: Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist. It's a large-format hardcover, coming in November from Norton, tracing the artistic growth (from earliest childhood) of the not-yet-30-year-old Sophie Crumb, daughter of noted underground cartoonists Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb. From a quick look through, there are short introductions by Robert and Aline, and then a lot of drawings (some comics pages, but mostly sketches and standalone drawings), all captioned but not otherwise put into context. It looks terribly premature to me -- Sophie Crumb is at the point in her career when she should be producing new works, not digging through her childhood archives -- but who am I to judge? Evolution of a Crazy Artist is edited by "S., A. & R. Crumb," and everyone will be able to judge how brilliant or misguided it is in November.

[1] I am incapable of making this up. Hancock's previous (nonfictional) books, though, were published by different, and generally larger, houses.

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