Monday, August 23, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/21

As you read these words -- and, as always, I'm assuming that you're reading them the very second I post them, as if you're waiting impatiently for the tiniest scrap of verbiage from the Hornswoggler; I assume this because it's harmless and makes me feel more important -- I'm on a plane, heading off to yet another opportunity for me to sell books to accountants. It's been a very busy summer, but this trip should be the last bit of business travel for me for quite a while -- six months or more, if I'm lucky.

But you don't care about any of that -- you're here because you'd like to know what came in my mail, and you're too shy or polite to do the hard work of staking out my house and steaming open the packages. (By the way, have I thanked you for not doing any of that lately? I do appreciate it.) And, in exchange for your polite forbearance, I do these Monday-morning posts about the previous week's mail. As usual, I haven't read any of these books yet, but I can tell you things about them, based on their flap copy, my years of experience in publishing, and random guesswork.

I mentioned Brandon Sanderson's new doorstop fantasy The Way of Kings, when I saw the bound galleys, but now the finished book has arrived, and it's immense. Over a thousand pages of the beginning of a new epic fantasy series from the guy handpicked by Robert Jordan's widow/editor to finish "The Wheel of Time" series -- all the indications are that, if you like epic fantasy even the tiniest bit, you'll enjoy this book. (Personally, I know both Sanderson's editor and agent as men with excellent taste, and I'd probably say "Yes, I'll definitely read this" if the sheer bulk and heft of it didn't frighten me.) Tor is publishing Way of Kings as a hardcover on August 31st, and Sanderson kicks off a twelve-city tour at midnight of the 30th in Provo, Utah.

Tor shows up again as the publisher of Haunted Legends, a new original anthology of ghost stories and similar legends, edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas. It has twenty stories from writers including Caitlin R. Kiernan, Catherynne M. Valente., Jeffrey Ford, Gary A. Braunbeck, Stephen Dedman, Kit Reed, Pat Cadigan, Ramsey Campbell, and Joe R. Lansdale, and it will be in stores on September 14th -- just, the cover letter says, in time for Halloween! (Well, they do want to give you time to read the book before the big day.)

Also from Tor, and also something I've seen once already, is David Wong's humorous horror novel John Dies at the End -- Tor published it in hardcover last year, and their trade paperback hits stores on September 14th.

Larry Niven's new collection, Stars and Gods, is a very miscellaneous affair: it leads off with excerpts from seven recent novels (mostly co-written with others); then has ten stories, plus some introductions, in just over a hundred pages; continues with some short nonfiction, two more co-written novel excerpts, a co-written nonfiction piece, and three collaborative stories; then finishes up with two more stories and a handful of further nonfiction. I have to say that I really don't see the point of including novel excerpts in a collection -- particularly recent novels that are still in print, by a living writer -- and I do have to wonder if there are that many Niven completists to make a book like this worthwhile. If you are such a Niven completist -- or, perhaps, if you haven't read any of his recent novels, and would like tasters of them -- then you'll want to grab Stars and Gods right now -- it was published last week, on August 17th.

Last for this week is the book I'm least qualified to critique: Joe Murray's Creating Animated Cartoons with Character. Murray is an accomplished animator -- creator of Rocco's Modern Life and Camp Lazlo -- as well as the author of several books for children, a former political cartoonist, Emmy Award-winner, and independent filmmaker. I am a guy who writes a blog and can't draw a straight line. But this book looks great -- it has some bits about Murray's life and pre-Rocco work, and some history-of-TV-animation material, but it's mostly focused on what goes into making an animated series for TV today, with an emphasis on practical information. There are storyboards with extensive notes, Q&As with other major creators (Steve Hillenburg, Craig McCracken, etc.), and a step-by-step structure organized around finding a workable idea, pitching it to a network, and moving forward from there. I don't know how many people out there are in a position to make use of all of the advice in this book immediately, but if you want to work in TV animation in any capacity, this book will be wonderful. Watson-Guptill published it as a trade paperback in August, so it should already be available everywhere.

1 comment:

sandial said...

Thanks for the plug, comrade! THE WAY OF KINGS is indeed a remarkable book [fair disclosure: I'm its editor] and worth the investment of your time. It reads remarkably quickly for a book of its length.

You don't mention them, but I hope you were suitably impressed by the wraparound Mike Whelan cover (a first for both Brandon and me) and the two sets of full-color endpapers. Beside their inherent value, they signal how important we think this book, and the epic it begins, are.

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