Monday, November 15, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/13

As always, this is the list of books that arrived on my doorstep recently -- in this case, since I was away on vacation for a while and last week's post was bookless, it's since the beginning of this month -- and I have to remind you all that I haven't read any of them, so I could be deeply wrong about anything I say below.

I hope I'm correct, of course, but I'm going from the books' packaging and marketing materials, plus whatever prior knowledge I can dredge out of memory on short notice. So, without further ado, here's what I've got piled up:

I'll start with Stan Lee's How to Draw Comics, a new book in Watson-Guptill's extensive and renowned series of art instruction books, has everything you need to know about the art of comics from a guy who's world famous, writing them. And in writing "Marvel Method," as well, in which the scripter doesn't provide panel breakdowns or otherwise give much art direction. Some may say, "But, Andy, don't you remember Lee's famous How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way?" And I'll reply, "You mean the one co-written by John Buscema, noted Marvel penciller? What of it?" Stan Lee knows many things -- how to make boundless energy and self-promotion into a career, to begin with -- but he would not be among the first five hundred people I'd go to for advice on how to draw comics. How to Draw features contributions from nearly fifty artists -- not including Lee, who contributes not a single pen or pencil line -- and "contributing writer" David Campiti, whom I suspect had a very, very large role in making this book actually happen. And it's being published this month.

Turning to the land of paperback fiction, I also have here Blood Prophecy, a novel by Stefan Petrucha and coming from Grand Central this month in mass-market. It's about a vampire in search of "an ancient artifact as old as creation itself," which he hopes will "restore his lost humanity. It's good to see vampires that aren't making the young girls swoon, once in a while, and I have a vague sense that I slightly knew Petrucha far back in my misspent youth, so I wish him well.

DAW Books is also publishing mass-markets in December: three of them. And, by an amazing twist of fate, I have all three right here --
  • Love and Rockets, an anthology of stories that sadly have nothing to do with the comic or the band (and even less so to the fictional band in the comic) but are instead romantic Space Opera stories. It's edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes, and its thirteen stories are by many of the usual suspects: Jody Lynn Nye, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Dean Wesley Smith, and even a few writers (like Jay Lake) who don't have triple-decker names.
  • Alien Tango, by Gini Koch, is the second novel in a series about -- and I have to say up front that this is a direct quote from the back cover -- "Alien Super-Being Exterminator Katherine 'Kitty' Katt," who works for Centaurion Division and could not possibly be mistaken for one of the Men in Black. I haven't read the first book (Touched by an Alien), but it looks like this is light adventure, fun rather than trying to be laugh-a-page funny.
  • And then there's a new anthology of Valdemar stories edited by Mercedes Lackey, Finding the Way, which has fifteen new originals from Judith Tarr, Tanya Huff, Fiona Patton, Brenda Cooper, Sarah A. Hoyt, and others.
Switching to books with words and pictures all mixed together, there's Ema Toyama's I Am Here!, a shojo manga story about a wallflower tween who suddenly blooms when "the most popular boy in the grade suddenly talks to her." It's being published on November 23rd by Del Rey Manga, and it's a big book -- around 400 pages, what seems to have been three separate Japanese volumes.

7 Billion Needles is a very different kind of manga series -- a loose adaptation of Hal Clement's classic SF novel Needle in modern Japan, by Nobuaki Tadano -- and its second volume is also coming out on November 23rd from Vertical. (I reviewed the first volume as Book-A-Day # 234, and liked it a lot.)

In yet a different direction is the new adaptation of Paulo Coelho's massive international bestseller The Alchemist (which I think of as -- without having read either of them -- this generation's The Prophet). The Alchemist is one of those philosophical, designed-to-change-your-life, stories-within-stories kind of books, about an Andalusian shepherd boy who travels to Egypt in search of a treasure and of course finds much more. The graphic novel adaptation was written by Derek Ruiz and illustrated by Daniel Sampere; it will be published by HarperOne in December.

And then there's a new entry in the ever-expanding "Dungeon" saga -- Dungeon: Monstres, Vol. 3: Heartbreaker, written as always by Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim, with art for one included story by Carlos Nine and for the other by Patrice Killoffer. Dungeon is one of the most intriguingly gnarly and purely entertaining comics series coming out these days, so I'll recommend this book -- publishing this month from NBM -- even before I read it.

And from NBM's officemates Papercutz -- a graphic novel imprint for young readers with a large line in licensed characters that kids already love -- come the relaunches of two classic and well-loved series in graphic novel form:
As you can see, a relaunch of tween-oriented series in 2010 requires supernatural creatures, but I think we all knew that already. The Hardy Boys was published this month, while Nancy Drew will follow in January.

Speaking of young readers, First Second is another publishing company that usually targets them, and they had a new graphic novel in October that I just saw. It's called Dawn Land, and it was adapted into comics (from Joseph Bruchac's novel of the same name) by Will Davis. Dawn Land (both versions) is the story of a journey by a young Native American man to save his tribe from the Stone Giants, ten thousand years ago.

Also from First Second in October is The Zabime Sisters, a graphic novel from the late French creator Aristophane, translated by Matt Madden. Three teenage sisters on the Caribbean isalnd of Guadeloupe face the first day of summer vacation -- and the thought of growing up -- in their own ways in Aristophane's starkly black-and-white art.

I mentioned Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist a few months back, when I saw it in bound galley form. But it's now a finished book, so I mention it again: the book was published by
Norton on November 15th, and it has a collection of Sophie Crumb's artwork -- from the age of two up to the present day, in her late twenties (though, from a quick glance, there's more "early" than "recent" here, chosen by herself and her famous cartoonist parents, R. Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb.

Wicked City: The Scarlet Clan is the third of a series of three novels by Hideyuki Kikuchi (creator of Vampire Hunter D), which were turned into the Wicked City animated movie many years ago but had never been translated into English until recently. But that third novel is now available -- just published as a small trade paperback by Tor/Seven Seas -- so people who prefer their sexy supernatural horror in written rather than animated-movie form don't have to settle for second best.

I've seen unhappy online rumblings about the political/racial implications of the "Vampire Empire" series by Clay and Susan Griffith -- possibly prematurely, since the first book, The Greyfriar, is just publishing from Pyr in November. See if you find anything possibly offensive in this: a wave of vampires overran "the northern regions of the world" in 1870, causing that era's Great Powers to race for the tropics, where vampires can't live, to build the inevitable all-white steampunk empire of the equator, which in 2020 has a heir in the snowy white Princess Adele. Adele -- in an unlikely turn for the heir of one of the world's great empires, even less so for a female one in a seemingly Victorian world -- is a master swordswoman and shot, off on adventures before the inevitable arranged marriage, when she falls in love with the inevitable mysterious protector called The Greyfriar.

Update: See comments for a note from the authors about the background, which is not as racially unbalanced as random people on the Internet thought it was. (And what ever is as unbalanced as random people on the Internet, anyway?)

If you're as old as I am -- or even older, if that's possible -- you may remember Dream Park, a 1981 novel by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes about an amusement park that allowed something like live-action D&D, with real-seeming monsters, dangers, scenery, and adventure. They followed up Dream Park with a sequel eight years later, and, after some time out of print, that sequel, The Barsoom Project, is back in print as a trade paperback from Tor.

The Wolf Age is James Enge's third book about the dangerous enchanter Morlock Ambrosius, who this time has come to the far northern werewolf city of Wuruyaaria, where trouble certainly will find him. It will be published tomorrow by Pyr.

Pearl North's The Boy from Ilysies is the sequel to Libyrinth and the middle book in a a science fiction trilogy for young readers. Tor published it in hardcover earlier this month.

The Search for Philip K. Dick is a memoir from Dick's third wife, Anne, originally written soon after Dick's death in the mid-80s, published at least once before (in the mid-90s), but now revised and expanded. It's published by Tachyon in trade paperback.

And last in the long list for this week is another book from Tachyon: SSteampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, a second canon-establishing anthology of the burgeoning subgenre, edited again by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer.


The Brillig Blogger said...

just looking at that Hardy Boys cover makes me want to track down whatever nephew has my old classic hardcovers and burn them in protest. Ick. Yuck. Ugh.

Clay and Susan Griffith said...

Regarding The Greyfriar, I am one of the co-authors, and I can tell you that, in fact, the "steampunk" societies are not all-white. They are quite mixed, racially and culturally. The northern exiles who fled the vampire attacks, while they had technological & military superiority, certainly don't have the populations to displace the indigenous populations of the tropics. Princess Adele is not "snowy white." She is, in fact, half Persian. It's possible that some reviewers, without having read the book, have interpreted the term "neo-Victorian" societies as meaning "colonial, white-dominated" societies. That is not true. The human states in our book are "neo-Victorian" in terms of technology and manners. To imply that they are "all white" is ludicrous and just shows an unfamiliarity with the book. We explore the human states a great deal more in the second book of the series, showing how African states developed without the pressure of European colonialism. We hope you check out the book and see for yourself.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Clay and Susan: Thanks for the correction, and my apologies for misrepresenting your book!

(And, once again, we see the power of the Internet: the quickest way to find out the truth about anything is to post a confused and misleading account of it anywhere online.)

Lou Anders said...

Andrew, you might correct the copy in the post itself, as not everyone reads the comments.

Lou Anders said...

"Her hands astonished him. Her skin was so much darker than his alabaster flesh..."

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