Monday, October 17, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/15

I'm writing this on Sunday evening, after a long day with my family during which I did not get to New York Comic Con with my sons, because the furshlugginer thing sold out a few days ago. (That's the world of comics for you: ruining absolutely everything with the pre-order, collector's-item, gold-rush mentality.) So I'm not going to write about the fun stuff I bought there, or anything else related to that big show in the Javitz center that I didn't manage to get to.

(Instead, The Wife and I took the boys to an indoor play area in the great land of East Hanover, where they waved plastic wands at scenery for a couple hours, drove go-karts, and did various other activities that they greatly enjoyed.)

That grumpery aside, I did get mail last week, and in that mail were some books. It was an interesting and odd collection this time, but, before I get into the details, I need to hit you with the weekly disclaimer. Remember, these things arrived on my doorstep just a few days ago, and I haven't read any of them yet. So what I can tell you about them will be  as accurate as possible, but will not be based on any personal experience with the text.

That said, I'll start with a book that sidesteps that problem neatly by not having any text: The Zombie Survival Guide Journal, which credits itself to Max Brooks. This is a bizarre affectation, since -- as I just said -- it doesn't have a single word inside it besides the copyright page; it's a blank book. It does feature spot art from (and recycles the cover of) the graphic novel The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks, which Brooks did write, but none of his words make it over here. The art -- credited in very, very small type on that copyright page -- is by Ibraim Roberson, and it, presumably, is the real selling point here. This Journal has what the publisher breathlessly calls a "3-D holographic cover that brings a mob of flesh-eating undead to life," but which the more prosaic of us would call simply a lenticular print. If you're in the market for a blank book with some zombie art in it, this one hit stores a couple of weeks ago, and was published by the fine folks at Potter Style, part of Clarkson Potter, somehow related to Three Rivers Press, part of the Crown Publishing Group, subsumed into the Random House Inc. hivemind, wholly owned by the Bertelsmann monolith.

Next I have three paperbacks from Berkley Sensation -- all November releases in mass-market, all romances -- which somewhat puzzle me, since I've never been much of a romance reader. (I don't disparage romances, as so many fantasy readers feel compelled to do -- perhaps in a desperate attempt to keep girl cooties from jumping onto them -- but they're not usually of great interest to me personally for my own reading.) Anyway, I'll be more at sea than usual writing about these, but I'll do what I can:
  • The Black Hawk is a historical, the fourth such from Joanna Bourne -- who's won one RITA award and been nominated for another for those three previous books, implying good things about her writing -- with the usual impressive slab of man on the cover. It's set in 1818, its heroine seems to be a slightly anachronistically active spy forced to throw herself into the care of her ex-lover (and possibly boss and/or compatriot) after an attempt on her life, and I note that Bourne's editor is my former colleague Wendy McCurdy, which doubly means that it has to be good. (Anyone I've ever worked with is by definition one of the best in the world.)
  • Heart of Darkness -- the first in a paranormal series by Lauren Dane -- is slightly closer to my usual reading area, since it's about witches in the modern world, and the kind of magick that has a "k" at the end. (I do wonder if the succeeding books will be named things like Typhoon, The Secret Agent, and Under Western Eyes.) It's another story driven by love, sex, and desire -- I did say that these were romance novels, didn't I? I probably shouldn't repeat myself so -- in which a high-ranking organization witch falls for the male "outlaw witch" who's been siphoning power from her font and finds trouble brewing with his nasty mother.
  • And the third Sensation book is another paranormal, Eileen Wilks's Death Magic, which I think is the eighth novel in her "Lupi" series, about a tough FBI agent and her werewolf fiance.
I've heard good things about Kou Yaginuma's manga series Twin Spica, but somehow I don't think the current volume (#10, coming the first of November from the fine folks at Vertical) is the place to start. It's about the first astronaut training class at the Tokyo Space School, in a near future where astronauts seem to be very young indeed. I hope to drop back to the first volume to read this series, and that's where I'd suggest you start as well.

Melanie Rawn starts up yet another series -- she's two books into a contemporary fantasy series for Tor that have had a rocky reception, plus of course the famously unfinished Exiles trilogy, sitting at two books and counting for nearly a decade and a half -- with the high fantasy novel Touchstone, also declared (by her web site) to be the beginning of a trilogy. Touchstone will be a Tor hardcover in February, and it's about a young man described as "part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard -- and all rebel," who flees his courtly responsibilities to be in the theater.

Tamora Pierce is one of the best writers out there at making real, tough, believable heroines in fantasy worlds -- some people might add "for young readers," but I'd stack her Tortall novels up against anyone ostensibly writing for adults as well -- and there was a time, back in my SFBC days, when I was all caught up on those Tortall novels. Not now, though -- I have in my hand the finale of her current trilogy, Mastiff, and that's made me realize that I still haven't read the first of the trilogy, Terrier. Mastiff is coming  October 25th from the Random House Children's Books folks, and if you haven't read Pierce before -- and you like stories about real women in adventurous fantasy world -- you've now got another chance.

I've also got Black Jack, Volume 16, the latest in the series reprinting one of Osamu Tezuka's -- remember him? the Japanese Godfather of manga? -- most popular series. I reviewed the first and second books, several years ago, for ComicMix, and the stories are all pretty similar -- all a lot of fun, and crazily entertaining, but it's an episodic series, so a reader can jump in anywhere. For instance, how about this new volume? It's hitting stores this month.

And last for this week is Bubbles & Gondola, an album-sized graphic novel by Renaud Dillies published by NBM this month. It looks lovely, in a George Herriman-esque style, and tells the story of a mouse author with writer's block, who finds inspiration in an unlikely form.


Glenn Hauman said...

Sigh. I wish you'd told me you needed a pass, I could have gotten you in...

Andrew Wheeler said...

Glenn: Thanks -- you did get me in before.

But I wasn't going to work this show; I'm just a suburban dad who didn't solidify his plans until Friday night -- and the tickets were all sold out by then. (And there would have been three of us.)

That's what really annoys me: it's unfortunately another manifestation of the comics pre-order mentality; you can't go to any comics event now at the last minute. You have to plan far in advance, and be already devoted.

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