Monday, February 13, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/11

There's only so many ways a man can call attention to the return of Monday, and I often feel like I've hit my limit. But, as long as we don't die -- and I think we'd all consider that the preferred outcome -- Mondays will accumulate, and return every seven days, whether we're ready for them or not.

One of the good things about Mondays is that they bring my "Reviewing the Mail" posts. Well, it's good for me, in that I have a usually-substantial post. And I hope it's good for you, since you find out about books you might want to seek our (or avoid, though I hope the former is more common). This, as you've probably guessed by now -- my readers are tremendously good at reading headlines and understanding them, which you don't necessarily share with the wider Internet audience -- is another one of those posts.

This week I have seven books to blather at you about. As of this very moment, I haven't read any of them, but I can tell you some things -- most of them almost certainly true -- about those books based on my keen powers of observation and a deep knowledge of other books that I will pretend is relevant in this situation. Everything this week came by itself, so those of you who are allergic to bullet points can relax.

Osamu Dazai's classic novel of self-obsession and damage, No Longer Human -- it looks to be the Sorrows of Young Werther of interwar Japan -- was adapted into a three-part manga series by Usamaru Furuya, and the third part is being published by Vertical at the end of February. I haven't read the first two volumes, but now, perhaps, I could run through the whole thing together, which would presumably be preferable.

Sometimes books can be more complicated than they at first appear to be. Take Higurashi When They Cry: Atonement Arc, Vol. 3, with story by Ryukishi07 and art by Karin Suzuragi. Would you be surprised to know that this is actually the penultimate volume of an eighteen-book storyline? I doubt Yen Press -- which publishes this book this month -- actually trying to hide that, but it's difficult to figure out which arc of Higurashi to start with. (And don't get me started on trying to work out exactly when it is they cry! Or who "they" are, come to think of it.) For those interested in finding the beginning of this story, I covered it when I looked at the early issues of Yen Plus magazine back in 2008, and I believe the first grouping is the "Abducted by Demons Arc."

I got a copy of Catherynne M. Valente's most recent novel Deathless last year -- by the way, I have to keep admitting that I'm desperately ill-read in Valente, despite my best intentions; I've only read her wonderful YA novel The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making so far -- and didn't manage to get to it. But now Deathless is in a more compact (and cheaper!) trade paperback form, giving me -- and many of you, I'm sure -- another chance to read this Russian-inflected fantasy novel retelling the story of Koschei the Deathless against Russia's very eventful twentieth century history.

And then back to the realm of words-and-pictures together with the graphic novel The Advance Team, written by Will Pfeifer with art by German Torres, coming from Tor in March. It's just your average everyday story: a twentysomething pizza delivery guy stumbles onto a vast alien conspiracy and has to turn celebrity stalker, killing his childhood idols one by one. Pfeifer's been writing comics for about a decade now, and has gotten a solid reputation as one of the better hand on the superhero ranch, so it will be interesting to see what he's done here when given free rein.

I believe Thief's Covenant -- the first in a projected medievalesque fantasy series about Widdershins, an orphan turned rich girl turned again into a top-rank thief -- is meant as a Young Adult book, given its price point ($16.95, nowhere on the actual book for mysterious reasons), the young age of its protagonist, and its length (shy of 300 pages). Author Ari Marmell has toiled in the content mines of D&D and World of Darkness -- forging novels as well as game material -- and has written an independent fantasy duology as well. This one officially hits stores tomorrow.

C.J. Cherryh's "Foreigner" series -- about the single ambassador from a small crash-landed human settlement on a far alien world, populated with tall humanoids with very different emotions and social structures -- continues with Intruder, the thirteenth novel. This is possibly a decent starting point -- Cherryh has written the series, at least as far as I've read in it, as semi-independent trilogies -- but dropping back to Foreigner itself is probably the best bet. This time out, Bren Cameron (that ambassador) is in even more trouble than ever before, once again torn between battling factions and trying to find a solution that will satisfy everyone and keep him alive. Intruder is coming from DAW in hardcover on March 6th.

And last for this week is one more graphic novel: an adaptation of Jonathan Kellerman's fourth "Alex Delaware" novel, Silent Partner. (I have no idea why they didn't begin with the beginning of the series, When the Bough Breaks.) The adaptation is by Ande Parks, and the art from Michael Gaydos. The Delaware books -- psychological thrillers set in LA with a forensic psychologist hero -- have been massive bestsellers for over twenty years, so you may have heard of them. The graphic novel of Silent Partner will be published by Villard on February 28th.

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