Monday, April 21, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/19

The Mail Fairy [1] brought me more packages this week, which means I have something to write about here. I haven't read any of them yet, as usual. (This is because I'm stuck in the middle of a literary novel that's pleasant, but not as engaging as I'd hoped. And I know it's a literary novel because it's set in three time periods, and hardly anything is happening in any of them.) But I can still tell you some things about these books, even if I haven't read them yet. So here's what seems interesting about them:

Unwrapped Sky is the first novel by the Ditmar-winning Australian fantastist Rjurik Davidson, which nails its colors to the mast of the New Weird. (In case anyone else's thoughts run down the same channels mine did: no, he doesn't seem to have any connection to Avram. It's a common name.) Unwrapped Sky is a Tor hardcover, which hit stores on the 15th of April. It's set in the ancient city of Caeli-Amur, saved from external conquerors by minotaurs a century before and now ruled by three Houses. (I suspect the Houses are of minotaurs, and that the minotaurs are near neighbors, but the description doesn't make all of the details clear.) In any case, it's a city with an oligarchy, and of course revolutionaries are taking aim at that rulership, and Unwrapped Sky is a story of three people -- a revolutionary, a government functionary, and a philosopher-assassin -- in the middle of that struggle.

Vertical has at least a couple of manga volumes coming out this month, because I have two of them in front of me. First up is Wolfsmund, Vol. 4 by Mitsuhisa Kuji, continuing the tough, bloody retelling of the William Tell story. (I looked at the third volume for Day 44 of the current Book-A-Day run, if you're interested in more details.)

Also from Vertical is Shuzo Oshimi's Flowers of Evil, Vol. 9, continuing the story of a creepy love triangle among middle schoolers. (The Japanese standard is to set a lot of these stories in middle school, since that's less academically demanding than their cramtastic three-year high school -- and many of those manga are silently turned into high school settings for American consumption, especially if there's any sexual content. Or, at least, that's how I understand it.) I've been gathering these on a shelf to read in a clump -- though I'm missing #6 for some reason -- and I expect to read and review at least a few of them this year during Book-A-Day.

The Ultra Thin Man is neither about an alcoholic detective couple or a condom, despite what the title might make you expect. It's a SF novel by Patrick Swenson -- his first novel -- and it's a Tor hardcover coming on August 12. (Swenson runs the small press Fairwood, and the fact that he's not trying to publish this himself speaks well for his intelligence and grasp of how much any one person can do in publishing.) Ultra Thin Man is a thriller set in the 22nd century, set in an interstellar polity and focusing on two detectives who, of course, discover that their case has vastly deeper and more dangerous roots than they expected.

Seanan McGuire is one of the hardest-working writers in modern SFF -- under her own name and her Hugo-nominated pseudonym Mira Grant -- and she's back on May 6th with Sparrow Hill Road, the first book in a new series about the ghosts of America. This one is about Rose Marshall, the phantom hitchhiker, who's been fleeing the man who killed her sixty years ago, and who decides now is the time to stop running. I don't know if she's a series character -- I guess we'll have to find out.

Ellen Datlow is one of the top anthologists in the business, good for an original anthology or two each year, plus usually more carefully curated reprint anthologies -- she has a knack for finding/remembering/acquiring the right stories for her themes, and an equally good knack for picking themes specific enough to tie a book together without being so specific to make the stories all the same. She's back with Lovecraft's Monsters this month from Tachyon: it's a reprint anthology, with eighteen modern stories about Lovecraftian monsters, each one with a John Coulthart illustration to introduce it. The stories are almost all from the last two decades -- except "Black as the Pit, from Pole to Pole" by Wladrop & Utley, and two 1988 stories, from Thomas Ligotti and Kim Newman. The rest of the table of contents is a who's who of modern horror: Gaiman, Barron, Lansdale, Kiernan, Hodge.

Kristen Britain is back with the fifth book in her "Green Rider" series, Mirror Sight, a May 6th hardcover from DAW. It's been three years since the last book, but this one is nearly eight hundred pages long, which explains a lot of that. (This is also a series that's been running for sixteen years; Britain is a writer who's always had a few years between books.) I haven't read this series before, but it's secondary-world fantasy, and I think without a single overarching plot for the series and a thankful lack of the need to save the entire world every time out.

There's a new collection of Simpsons comics this month as well: Bart Simpson to the Rescue!, which collects issues 53-54 and 56-58 of Bart's solo title. (Issue 55 was an epic three-part story, "The Princess Principle," focusing on Lisa, which may be why it doesn't appear here. And, yes, Your Humble Correspondent does know everything, or at least everything a quick google can tell him.) Rescue! is from HarperDesign, and has work by John Costanza, Carol Lay, Peter Kuper, and other people you wouldn't expect. (Hey, everybody's got to eat, right?)

Melanie Rawn is definitively back, with the third book in three years of her current secondary-world series about a traveling theatrical troupe: Thornlost is a Tor hardcover, hitting stores April 29th. Glad to see that this is clicking for her, and I hope it's clicking for her fans as well: I haven't read this series yet, but I enjoyed her late-'90s aborted trilogy from DAW: The Ruins of Ambrai and The Mageborn Traitor.

And last for this week is Daryl Gregory's new novel Afterparty, set in a near-future world where designer drugs can rewire anyone's mind -- and ubiquitous data and fabrication technologies mean that practically anyone can create and use those drugs. In that world, the scientist who created Numinous -- a drug that gives its users the unshakable belief that they have communed directly with God -- breaks out of a psychiatric ward to try to fix the world she helped create. It's a Tor hardcover, coming April 22nd.

[1] I doubt the UPS guy would be happy to hear we call him that at our house, but he doesn't have to know, does he?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kristin Britain's Green Rider series does have an overarching plot for the series. (Something broke the wall built a thousand years ago to keep the Big Bad in and now it's out. The good guys need to stuff it back in and fix the wall.) However, books 1-3 each had a self-contained plot as well and the overarching plot didn't overwhelm the action in each individual book. Book 4 was a cliffhanger.

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