Monday, June 09, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/7

Welcome back. Every Monday, I list the books that arrived the previous week here, and try to tease out what might be special or appealing about each of them. I'm not always successful: even though every book will be someone's favorite, I'm opinionated and grumpy enough that some books come off better than others. For that, I apologize -- particular if you happen to be the author of something I'm not as positive about.

All of these books were sent by the hardworking publicists of their respective publishing organizations, and this week is typical in that I didn't request any of these books specifically. So they're all new books, all broadly of genre interest, all things I haven't read right this moment. But here's what I can tell you about them:

Every successful work spawns at least a small sub-genre, and really popular ones can build vast commercial empires. (Ask Laurell Hamilton what she thinks about the vampire-shagger novel, for example.) And Yu-Gi-Oh was hugely successful. So I'm really surprised that I haven't seen more books as clearly in its genre as the new Cardfight!! Vanguard, Vol. 1: another story of a shy middle-school teen who discovers a massively popular game of fantasy creatures battling via cards and turns out to be incredibly good at it. This manga is by Akira Itou -- who drew Yu-Gi-Oh R, and so is very familiar with this genre -- based on the actual card game. (So this one went in the opposite direction from Yu-Gi-Oh, which started as a comic and then turned into a game.) This is from Vertical and available now; it's probably time for a new series like this to grab a new generation of card-collecting kids, so I hope they find and love it.

Also from Vertical this month is From the New World, Vol. 4 by Yusuke Kishi and Toru Oikawa, continuing the adaptation of the popular Japanese dystopian YA novel (but I repeat myself) of the same name by Kishi. I reviewed the second volume as Day 43 of my current Book-A-Day run, though I see I was distracted by the unearthly clingy fabric on that particular cover. By this point in the story, our young heroes are in their mid-twenties -- which is a surprising detail to me, since YA books in North America usually take place during a shorter span of time and sniff at anyone over the drinking age.

And my last manga this week comes from Yen Press: Sword Art Online: Fairy Dance, Vol. 1 -- I'm not sure if the triple-digit volume number is a promise or a threat (or a design decision) -- which adapts another piece of Reki Kawahara's light-novel series about deadly virtual-reality games (are there any other kind?) in the near future. This seems to be the adaptation of the first half of the second novel. The manga credits Kawahara with the story and Tsubabsa Haduki with the art, which usually means that Haduki did all of the work of adapting the story as well (with probably a lot of kibitzing from his editors; manga editors are very hands-on). Our hero has escaped from the deadly VRMMORPG of the first book, but the girl he fell in love with there has not -- so I would be very surprised if he doesn't head back into that game, or perhaps a new game, by the middle of this volume.

You can tell how well-known a classic of world literature is by whether its title gets re-used by others -- titles can't be copyrighted, so only the famous ones are avoided. You're unlikely to see new books named Moby-Dick or Hamlet or Pride and Prejudice, for example. But poor Giuseppe di Lampedusa is clearly not at that level, since I have in front of me a very different book called The Leopard: the first volume in an epic fantasy series by K.V. Johansen. Johansen's first fantasy for adults was Blackdog, but this book seems to be unrelated: it's the story of an immortal assassin trying to escape the curse that keeps him alive, and taking on a mission for a goddess in hopes that will do the trick. It's a Pyr trade paperback, officially hitting stores June 10th.

And then Anthony Ryan's Tower Lord is the second book in the epic fantasy series called "Raven's Shadow," following Blood Song. This is the kind of epic fantasy that follows a single character -- in this case, Vaelin, trained as a deadly warrior by a secretive order and survivor of a horribly useless war in the first book -- which may be a breath of fresh air to those tired of following viewpoints that change like cards shuffling. Tower Lord is an Ace hardcover, available on the first of July.

And last for this week is Earth Awakens, the third book in the series by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston about the first time the Buggers invaded Earth, before Ender Wiggin was born. (Though I gather the whole "call-the-aliens-Buggers" thing is buried and everyone's trying to pretend it never happened.) So evil aliens are invading and attempting to terraform our green hills, and only a plucky band of viewpoint characters scattered across the Earth and Luna (it's a SF novel; of course the moon is called Luna) can stop them. Earth Awakens is a Tor hardcover, available June 10th.

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