Monday, September 05, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Most of August

This post is either several hours late, one week late, or even two weeks late, depending on how you count. It contains the books that came in the week I was away (on business and at Worldcon), the week after that (that I could have been writing about last Sunday, when I was instead frantically trying to remove water from my basement at a very insufficient speed), and this past week as well.

Luckily, publishing is very sleepy in August -- plus I suspect my mail may have been slightly disrupted this past week by the giant piles of flood debris -- so the pile isn't as huge as it could be.

I haven't read any of these things -- I didn't manage to read anything this past week, possibly the very most annoying thing about this flood -- and I may never get to many of them. But here's what I can tell you about them from a quick glance, my innate boundless cynicism, and twenty years of experience in the salt mines of American publishing:

I'll start with My Shadow in the Distance, the fourth collection of Lewis Trondheim's "Little Nothings" diary comics (originally published, absolutely free, on Trondheim's website -- but they make somewhat less sense if, like me, you don't speak French). I've read and reviewed the first three volumes -- Trondheim is both a fine chronicler of the small moments of his interesting life and a talented watercolorist -- and I expect to like this one as well. NBM publishes it this month.

With Fate Conspire is the fourth and last book in Marie Brennan's Victorian fantasy "Onyx Court" series, published by Tor in hardcover last month. (Midnight Never Come is the first, and presumably the place for reasonable people to begin.) It's 1884, and the rapid industrialization of England has hit the secret faerie world hard -- particularly the Onyx Court, far below London, which is in danger of utter destruction by the rapidly encircling underground railroad lines. At the same time, a young human woman is looking for the boy who was stolen away from her by those same faeries, years before -- and she might have finally found them. This could probably be called "steampunk" by a particularly enthusiastic marketer, and, if you like Victorian stories with zeppelins in them, you'll probably like them with faeries instead.

Ellen Datlow's newest collection of original horror stories is called Blood and Other Cravings, and, as you might guess from the title, it's another batch of tales about vampires. (Though I should note that Datlow has been getting excellent stories about vampires out of interesting writers since a certain Mrs. Meyer was in diapers, so I doubt there's anything at all "trendy" here.) The seventeen stories in Blood include work from Elizabeth Bear, Melanie Tem, Lisa Tuttle, Barbara Roden, Kathe Koja, Carol Emshwiller, Margo Lanagan, and even a few male writers (like Richard Bowes and Laird Barron). Tor publishes it in hardcover on September 13.

For this next book, I think it's best that I stick to plain, unadorned facts. Angel is credited to Nicole "Coco" Marrow and Laura Hayden. Marrow is married to actor/rapper Ice-T and stars in the TV show Ice Loves Coco with him. She is also, it says here, an actress, model and fashion designer, as well as the author of a blog that gets over two million original hits a month. (It doesn't say anything about Hayden.) The story is about an amnesiac woman who is one of two survivors of a plane crash in the Hudson, who can hear the thoughts of the men near her, and who physically transforms to be the perfect woman when a man "gets close" to her. Tor will publish it in trade paperback September 13th.

Spellbound is Blake Charlton's second novel, the sequel to Spellwright, about a dyslexic magician in a world of verbal spell-casting, and it, too, will be available from Tor on September 13th. This time, it's ten years later, and series hero Nicodemus Weal has been joined by healer Francesca DeVega to continue his battle against the demon Typhon to stop the looming War of Disjunction.

Blackdog is a long fantasy novel set in a world infested by gods and goddesses, from K.V. Johansen, better known up to now for her fantasy series for teens and children. The main characters are a caravan guard -- who almost immediately is possessed by a shape-changing guardian spirit -- and a girl who is the currently-powerless avatar of a goddess. This one is published by Pyr, and will be available tomorrow.

Rudy Rucker is one of the original gonzo wildmen of SF, responsible for bizarre novels like White Light, The Sex Sphere, and Master of Space and Time -- always closely rooted in real mathematical theory, of course, as any good SF novel should be -- as well as founding the one-man literary movement Transrealism and generally being a quirky, utterly individual personality. So of course he had to write an autobiography eventually, and Nested Scrolls is that autobiography. Tor is publishing Nested Scrolls as a hardcover in December.

I have to admit that I'm not that plugged into the adventures of James Barclay's Raven -- a mercenary group once described as four men and an elf, though I'm pretty sure the group changes regularly due to attrition and recruitment -- but I do have here Ravensoul, the fourth book in "Legends of the Raven," the series that followed the original "Chronicles of the Raven" trilogy. This one seems to be the last novel, in which the Raven -- older, wiser, several of them no longer dead -- battle against an even nastier interdimensional enemy than anything they'd seen before. Pyr published this one at the beginning of August.

Margaret Atwood has denied committing science fiction several times in her long career -- most notably concerning her most famous novel in our parts, The Handmaid's Tale, which she repeatedly denied was SF even though it's a novel set in an extrapolated future -- but her relationship to the amorphous blob of stories called "science fiction" has clearly shifted and changed over the years, and that relationship has never been as clear or distinct as some have pretended it was. Last year, she gave three Ellman Lectures at Emory University on the subject of her relationship with science fiction, speculative fiction, the fantastic, and related parts, and now those lectures have been collected -- along with a number of other essays, lectures, reviews, and other writings -- as the book In Other Worlds. I still suspect Atwood of being one of those writers with very idiosyncratic and self-serving definitions of common literary terms, but I definitely want to see what she has to say on the subject. In Other Worlds will be published by Doubleday in October.

Zahra's Paradise is a graphic novel from First Second, a slightly fictionalized -- to protect real people, and to unify similar elements in many stories -- account of the Iranian elections of 2009 and life in that country today, by two Iranian activists, writers, and artists who use the pseudonyms Amir and Khalil for this book. It publishes this month.

While sitting here, I've just read The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, a picture book (aimed at ages 4-8) written by Michael Chabon, with art by Jake Parker. It's about a superhero and his secret identity, and it's a sweet little thing for the right audience -- sadly, my own sons are much too old for a book like this now. HarperCollins's Balzer + Bray imprint publishes this book tomorrow.

And last for this week is a "new" Osamu Tezuka grapic novel, from his prime period in the late '60s and early '70s. (We've previously seen the books MW, Ayako, Ode to Kirihito, and Apollo's Song from that era.) The Book of Human Insects is the story of beautiful young Toshiko Tomura, who moves effortlessly from one field to another, getting more and more famous, doing whatever she needs to in pursuit of her goals. Vertical -- the boutique publisher of books from Japan that's been responsible for nearly all of the excellent Tezuka books for adults over the past decade -- will publish Human Insects on September 20th.

No comments:

Post a Comment