Monday, January 02, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/31

I expect many of you will not actually be reading this on Monday -- it's a holiday where I live, and I hope many other places as well -- but this post goes up every Monday as long as I have any say about it, and so here it is. As usual, these are the books that arrived in my mailbox over the past week -- sent by various publishers hoping for reviews, publicity, and (most importantly) lots of readers who will spend money on these book-shaped objects -- and I haven't read any of these since they arrived.

One might think the week between Christmas and New Year's would be a very quiet one for the book-mailing business, but the last week of the month tends to be the busiest, so there's a decent stack to talk about. And so I'll get right to it:

Michael Flynn's new SF novel, In the Lion's Mouth, continues the space opera series -- written in prose vaguely skaldic, and reminiscent of medieval chronicles -- of Up Jim River and The January Dancer. It's an odd concept for a SF series, though I wouldn't at all be surprised to know Poul Anderson did something similar at least once (at a longer stretch than "Uncleftish Beholding," I mean). I have to admit that I haven't read any of these books, but Flynn's late '90s near-future series starting with Firestar was excellent (though, I'm sure, entirely alternate history at this point) and his standalone The Wreck of the River of Stars is a magnificent SFnal tragedy -- so he's definitely got the chops to do this right, if anyone does. Lion's Mouth is a hardcover from Tor, coming January 17th.

And then I have the January-publishing titles from Yen Press -- a fine manga-manwha-and-some-similar-graphic-novelisitic publisher associated with the mighty Hachette empire through the fiefdom of Orbit. Since they're stacked up, I'll tackle them in order of volume number and physical size:

First is a book that seems to be called DRRR!!, but, on closer inspection, is actually Durarara!!, Vol. 1, and is credited to creator Ryohgo Narita, character design Suzuhito Yasudo, and art Akiyo Satorigi. Some quick googling tells me that this property was originally a series of light novels (nine so far, by Narita) but then expanded, as popular Japanese properties always do, into this manga, an anime series, and even a radio show. What I have in my hands is the first volume of the manga, which presents itself as a "bunch of wacky characters" story, set in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district -- and I think the main character is that staple of manga, the quiet boy from the provinces who came up to Tokyo to go to a well-known school and is thrown entirely out of his depth.

Highschool of the Dead, Vol. 5 is a later volume in the series -- for those doing their own googling, let me note that the anime uses the two-word style "High School" and the manga collapses that into the single word "Highschool" -- about, as far as I can tell, mostly nubile and pneumatic young women fleeing from (and/or being eaten by, I suppose) zombies. It's rated M for mature -- and, as I type this, I haven't broken the shrinkwrapping -- and was written by Daisuke Sato with art by Shouji Sato.

Pandora Hearts -- Jun Mochizuki's very loose retelling of Alice in Wonderland -- has reached its eighth volume, which means it's probably pretty different from the first volume, which I reviewed for ComicMix about two years ago. (And which I described then as "messy and loud and disheveled, like a sorority girl at 3 AM on a Friday," a phrase I'm still proud of.)

Pre-teen boys probably don't need to be introduced to Cirque du Freak -- a series of vampire novels about a boy named Darren Shan, and credited as written by that very same Darren Shan -- but the rest of us aren't as likely to have heard of the series. The novels have also been adapted into a manga series -- by Takahiro Arai -- and that series ends this month with its twelfth volume, Sons of Destiny, which is not-so-coincidentally the name of the twelfth and final novel in the series as well. (I reviewed the first volume back in early 2009, and gave some more details about the background then.)

The Zombie-Loan series, by the manga collective known as Peach-Pit, ends with a lucky thirteenth volume this month. (I reviewed books two, three, and four, and described the heroine then as "the mousy girl with glasses – you know her, you find her bland and slightly tedious, and she infests manga like dengue fever: something non-fatal and a bit obscure, but painful, lingering, and annoying." I clearly was in full Chandleresque odd-similes mode when I wrote for ComicMix, wasn't I?)

Black God, on the other hand -- a series by Dall-Young Lim and Sung-Woo Park, but done Japanese-style for Japanese publishers, despite the creators' Korean names -- is still roaring along with a fifteenth volume this month. (I reviewed volumes two, three, and four at exactly the same times as Zombie-Loan -- which makes me vaguely wonder how Black God managed to get two volumes ahead, if they're still publishing at the same time -- but will give you new links here, just because I'm feeling that servicey today.) The series seems to still be about a young jerk of a manga creator and the supernatural hottie he's permanently bonded to -- she saved his life by trading limbs with him -- and the overpowered supernatural battles they get into with other similar (but vastly more evil) folks.

Book Girl and the Corrupted Angel is the fourth book in a light novel series by Mizuki Nomura about a a book-eating goblin who is also the president of her school's literary club. (Consuming Japanese pop-cultural products goes much more smoothly once you accept that everything takes place in a highschool, and revolves around club activities.)

I'm slightly confused by the presence of 13th Boy, Vol. 1 by Sang Eun-Lee in my Yen package this month: it was originally published in 2009, and I reviewed it then. This seems to be exactly the same book I saw then, including -- to quote myself one more time, "[t]he title page of 13th Boy – actually a two-page spread – ... two boys with contrasting hair colors, three-foot necks, pointy little chins, tousled windblown hair, and eyes the size of truck tires staring out at the reader like four Twilight Zones of soulfulness." It's not a new edition, but it might be a reissue or new printing -- though the copyright page doesn't indicate that. Whatever reason, 13th Boy is heading back into stores for a second chance, so, if you like manwha stories about love triangles among teenagers with gigantic eyes, this is precisely the book you need.

That's the end of Yen for January, but there still some books to mention. For example, Greg Bear has written a second novel in a trilogy set in the world of the Halo videogames, Halo: Primordium. (The first was Cryptum, and the trilogy is known as the "Forerunner Saga" -- with, I deeply hope, a wink in the direction of a certain Miss Alice Mary Norton -- for those of you taking notes for your own shopping expeditions. I haven't played any of the Halo games or read any of the Halo books, so you're on your own with this one. It's officially published tomorrow, on January 3d.

And last this week is Sisterhood of Dune, the eleventh Dune novel by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson -- which means that Herbert fils and Anderson have now written more than twice as many Dune novels in a dozen years as Dune creator Frank Herbert managed in twenty years. This particular book -- coming from Tor as a hardcover, and officially published tomorrow -- follows up their "Legends of Dune" trilogy, about the Butlerian Jihad, by beginning a new trilogy about the origins of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood and, presumably, many of the other important institutions of the Dune-iverse.

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