Monday, February 14, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/12

Welcome to Monday once again; below are the books that arrived in my mailbox last week, which I'm now going to tell you a little about. I haven't read any of them yet, so I may well be wrong on certain nitpicky details, but I'll tell you what I can.

Leading off this time is Carolyn Turgeon's novel Mermaid -- subtitled "A Twist on the Classic Tale" -- coming from Broadway Books as a trade paperback on March 1st. That "classic" tale alluded to in the subtitle is, of course, Hans Christian Andersen's, but Turgeon's version looks to spend equal time, and sympathy, with the transformed mermaid herself and with her rival for the prince's attention. (And he's called a "wounded warrior" on the back cover, which is rather more contemporary and on-the-nose than I'd expect for a fairy-tale retelling.) This is Turgeon's third novel, after Rain Village and Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story -- so I suspect she's done the rewritten-fairy-tale thing at least once before.

To shift gears entirely, next is a translated graphic novel, Hagakure: The Code of the Samurai. Hagakure was originally a treatise about the life and purpose of a samurai -- told as a series of stories imparted by a wise older samurai to a young man -- dictated by the 17th century Japanese samurai-turned-Zen-priest Yamamoto Tsunetomo, and has had a long life, both in Japan and in various translations worldwide. This manga version is based on the recent William Scott Wilson translation of Hagakure, and has been adapted into comics form by Sean Michael Wilson (no direct relation to William Scott Wilson, amusingly enough) and illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada. (The creative team behind The Story of Lee, in fact, which I reviewed a couple of months ago.) Hagakure was published by Kodansha America -- the local offshoot of a major Japanese publishing house -- in January.

I saw a "blad" -- pre-publication pamphlet of sample pages -- for Doug Savage's cartoon book Savage Chickens a few months back, but now the book itself is in front of me. It looks like one of those great single-idea funny books -- like 1001 Uses for a Dead Cat or Truly Tasteless Jokes -- that I've always loved; it's a work-life-is-hell collection of single-page cartoons, in which all of the characters are chickens. (Though I thought that kind of book was semi-dead these days; they tend to rely on impulse purchases, so they're strongly affected by store traffic -- and traffic at the retail level has been way down.) However, Savage Chickens was a blog before it was a book, so I can hope that Savage has an audience that will seek this out. I want to see more books like this -- publishing can't be all serious, all the time -- so good luck to him. Savage Chickens, the book, is being published in trade paperback by Perigee at the beginning of March.

DAW Books publish three mass-market paperbacks a month, come hell or high water, and I respect the hell out of them for that kind of old-school gumption. One of those is almost always an anthology of brand-new stories on some kind of theme, packaged by Martin H. Greenberg's Tekno Books and featuring a dozen or so stories from a wide range of authors. The book in that slot this month -- this month being "March," since books need to have time to actually get to stores -- is After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar, which was edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray. It has fifteen new SFF bar stories -- about magical drinking establishments in all times and places -- from writers including S.C. Butler, Anton Strout, Juliet E. McKenna, Laura Anne Gilman, and Maria V. Snyder.

DAW's March list also contains a paperback reprint of the most recent Darkover novel, Hastur Lord, which was originally published in hardcover last year and is credited to the late Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross.

And last for this week -- and of DAW's paperback in March -- is Seanan McGuire's fourth "October Daye" novel, Late Eclipses. Since the first one, Rosemary and Rue, only came out in September of 2009, that's four full-length novels in barely a year and a half, which is really impressive. (So all of you fantasy fans who complain that your favorite writers are too slow should take a look at McGuire; she'll keep you busy for a while.) October Daye is McGuire's heroine, the requisite tough woman in a modern world filled with unexpected magic -- in this case, a half-fae changeling who works as a private eye and whose cases (and personal life) has more Faerie in it than she's comfortable or safe with. The series has been well-reviewed, but it's definitely piling up faster than I've been able to keep up with.

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