Monday, June 17, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Weeks of 6/8 and 6/15

I never managed to update last week's post -- possibly because I went straight from 14-hour days at a conference Sun-Tue to a travel-plus-long-conference-calls Wednesday, a work-at-home Thursday that I hoped would be more recuperation but turned into lots of work, and then a weekend away with The Wife to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. So I'm now on the far side of all of that, looking at a regular week in the office coming up (I hope) and then another business trip starting on Saturday.

(The buried lede there is: don't expect a post on time next week, either.)

But, even with all my woe and travails -- which are really having some serious work to do, and a lot of Americans would still love to have a decent job with a similar workload -- I got mail over the past two weeks. And I want to tell you folks all about it.

The following books have been piling up for nearly two weeks now, but I still haven't read any of them. However, due to my amazing blogger powers, I can tell you some things about these books -- wondrous things, fascinating things, and mostly-true things -- without either cribbing from the marketing copy or breaking down and reading them all in the middle of this post (because the first is cheating and the second would take at least twenty hours).

So: first up is the new anthology (of reprint stories) Hauntings, edited by Ellen Datlow and published by Tachyon in trade paperback in May. (I think I may have seen this before, but, if so, I'm seeing it again.) Included are two dozen stories -- as old as Pat Cadigan's "Eenie, Meenie, Ipsateeenie" from 1983 and as new as Kelly Link's "Two Houses" from 2012, and including stories by Gaiman, Straub, Willis, Kiernan, Blaylock, Hand, Shephard, and plenty of other people who really do have first names as well -- on the subject of ghosts, to delight or fright you.

I also have here a stack of fine manga volumes, all coming from Yen Press in June, including...

Puella Magi Kazumi Magica: The Innocent Malice, Vol. 1 -- I suspect this is a continuation/side story of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica series, and I will bet (just before I finish this sentence and go google to find out for sure) that it's a comics-only story set in the same world, unlike Madoka, which began as an anime series. {FX: googling} I seem to basically be right -- there's a huge Puella Magi empire now, but Kazumi was first (and first as an anime), and Madoka (about a different girl, who wakes up naked and amnesiac in a suitcase to find out that she's a magical girl and lives in an apartment with two friends while their parents work overseas -- oh, Japan, don't ever change!) was the first spin-off. It's credited to Magica Quartet (for the original story), Masashi Hiramatsu (story of this particular volume), and Takashi Tensugi (art). And I think Madoka's waist isn't meant to be so impossibly tiny on the cover, but you never can tell with Japan.

Spice and Wolf, Vol. 8 is also the latest emanation of a transmedia property -- originally a series of light novels and with notes at the end about how this volume moves into "episodes that weren't in the anime" -- and has the usual complicated credits: story by Isuna Hasekura, art by Keito Koume, character designs by Jyuu Ayakura. I reviewed the first volume a few years back, and it seems to still be the same sort of thing: a young merchant wanders around a vaguely medieval world, making deals with the help of a minor deity in the form of a cute girl with wolf's ears and pointed teeth.

Pandora Hearts -- by Jun Mochizuki as usual -- has reached its sixteenth volume, and the back cover copy is completely opaque to me, even though I did read and review the first book, way back when. These days, Oz and Leo have to battle each other for unspecified reasons -- though the back cover does insist that "He is no more," which I guess is a relief. (?)

Triage X, Vol. 3 has also arrived, from Shouji Sato. I think I still have the first two volumes of this violent story lying around, but I haven't read any of it yet -- this is the one about the women who are big-breasted nurses by day, and even bigger-breasted crime-fighters at night, right?

And here's the latest big fat volume in the ongoing Higurashi: When They Cry saga: Festival Accompanying Arc, Vol. 1, with story by Ryukishi07 and art by Karin Suzuragi. (Higurashi was originally a series of horror-tinged computer games -- the kind, I think, where the story runs on rails -- and each "arc" of the manga adapts one of those games.)

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the manga adaptation of the portable game in the middle of the odd Fantasy-RPG-with-Disney-characters series, which I shouldn't make fun of too much, since my sons love the games and manga almost equally. This one is by Shiro Amano, from the "original concept" by Tetsua Nomura.

Aron's Absurd Armada returns with a second volume -- I did a quick review of the first one not too long ago -- continuing MiSun Kim's silly 4-koma pirate tale, filled with absurd characters and situations and jokes that don't always make as much sense to Americans as they did in their original language.

And last from Yen in this batch is GA: Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Vol. 5, another 4-koma series (this time by Satoko Kiyuduki, who also did the interesting Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro), which I saw when it launched but haven't kept up with since.

Turning back to prose, Alex Bledsoe has a sequel to his 2011 novel The Hum and the Shiver in Wisp of a Thing, publishing as a Tor hardcover this Tuesday. It's a fantasy novel set in the modern world, influenced by Appalachian folklore (and, I suspect, Manly Wade Wellman's "Silver John" stories, which used that setting and folklore for several decades recently). Bledsoe's version of the folklore centers on a reclusive mountain society called the Tufa, but this story, like Wellman's, looks to be deeply intertwined with the folksongs and lore of those mountains.

Also from Tor on June 18th is Requiem, the fourth book in Ken Scholes's "Psalms  of Isaak" series. This is a big secondary-world fantasy, and -- since this is the penultimate book -- we're at the point where the characters are about as scattered as they can be, as their stories all begin to turn back towards each other for the big finish in the last book. (Notice how I'm really vague there? It's because I don't know any of the detail of Scholes's particular brand of epic fantasy, so I'm doing my best not to misrepresent it.)

Ivan Brunetti's new book, Aesthetics: A Memoir, was published by Yale University Press late last month, and they sent me a copy of it. (I know; I'm amazed as well.) It looks to be more of a collection of his illustration work, with explanations and background, than a formal autobiography. Also, it's an illustrated prose book -- lots and lots of illustrations, to be sure -- rather than a work of comics, as you might expect from Brunetti.

Speaking of things I didn't expect to get, I also have here a bunch of books for younger readers associated with the Man of Steel movie. (I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to have sticker books and early readers for a PG-13 movie, but the ways of American commerce are deep and complex.) So there's a junior novel called The Early Years (ages 8-12, by Frank Whitman); two "I Can Read!" level 2 books (ages 4-8, both written by Lucy Rosen with art by Andi Tong and Steven E. Gordon, respectively) named Superman's Superpowers and Friends and Foes; two 8x8 paperbacks (ages 4-8, written by John Sazaklis with art by Jeremy Roberts) named The Fate of Krypton and Superman Saves Smallville, and a sticker book adapted by Sazaklis. All were published in early May.

And last for this week (these weeks?) is a pre-publication sampler of Joe Sacco's new book, The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme, coming from Norton on November 4th. Actually, I shouldn't say "book" -- The Great War is a slipcased, wordless fold-out -- twenty-four panels and twenty-four feet long -- telling the story of the generals and soldiers on that horrible day when modern warfare began. What I have is some explanatory material and three of the panels; the final product will come in a slipcase, along with annotations by Sacco on the drawings and a 16-page booklet with an essay about the Battle of the Somme by Adam Hochschild

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