Monday, November 09, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/7

Vacation can be more tiring than you expect -- particularly if it's a week in unexpectedly 90-degree sun, running around theme parks. So I may be somewhat more lackadaisical here than I normally am, and that's already a high bar.

But the show must go on: below are quick impressions of the books that arrived at my house over the last two weeks, based on a brief perusal, prior knowledge, and a towering urge to be seen as clever. If I make anything sound less than enticing, it's entirely my fault.

First up is the new novel from National Book Award winner Lisa Goldstein, one of the most interesting, and least-lauded, writers who makes a home in SFF. Weighing Shadows is out from Night Shade Books as of last week, in both trade paperback and the usual assemblages of electrons. This one is about a woman recruited from a quiet life repairing computers by a mysterious company that has developed workable time travel -- but, of course, it's never as simple as that, and mysterious companies are always trouble.

From Night Shade's corporate cousin Talos Press -- another imprint of the burgeoning Skyhorse Publishing empire -- comes Towers Fall, the final of the Towers Trilogy by Karina Sumner-Smith. It seems to be post-historic fantasy, set in a feudal future dominated by The City. This time around, our heroes' lower-class neighborhood -- called The Lower City, naturally -- is under attack by "The Central Spire, the City's greatest power" because of a magical entity beneath the Lower City. (It's not entirely clear is "The Central Spire" is a magical entity itself, or the city's ruling council, or a bunch of rich merchants, or what.) Towers Fall, which completes the story begun in Radiant and Defiant, will be available November 17th.

I also have a selection of new manga volumes from our friends at Yen Press. So the next clump are all from Yen, all either recently published or just about to be published, and organized by volume number -- so both you and I will become more and more confused as we go on.

I'll start with The Honor Student at Magic High School, Vol. 1, a manga by Yu Mori loosely based on a light novel series by Tsutomu Sato. (The novels focused on one character, and had the series title The Irregular at Magic High School, but the manga focuses on that guy's kid sister.)

Then there's Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun, Vol. 1 from Izumi Tsubaki. It's in the gag-a-page 4-koma format, which I find is usually more difficult to follow than regular page-by-page manga stories, since the background is assumed and cultural references unexplained. This one throws the reader in immediately -- the heroine is a high school girl who ends up as the art assistant to her dreamboat (and secretly manga-ka) classmate due to the usual misunderstandings, and that all happens by the fourth page. I don't know if I quite get this, but it's certainly full of energy.

This next book is officially a second volume, but it has a dozen or more books of backstory behind it, so it probably belongs further down this list. But here it is: Puella Magi Tart Magica: The Legend of "Jeanne d'Arc," Vol. 2. Story is by the Magica Quartet, as with all of these related stories about magical girls, and the art on this story ac is by Masugitsune and Kawazu-ku. And it does seem to be a retelling of the story of Jean d'Arc in the context of this series -- why, I couldn't tell you.

Then there's Akira Hiramoto's Prison School, Vol. 2. It's about a school that's also a prison -- as you would assume from the cover -- and seems to be focused on an escape attempt, which also makes sense.

Karneval, Vol. 3 comes from Touya Mikanagi, and is about a boy who runs away to join the circus. (As far as I can tell, that sentence is basically factually accurate, but utterly misleading. So I think I'll leave it there; I don't actually understand what this series is about -- and being misleading on purpose is better than doing so accidentally.)

And here's High School DxD, Vol. 7, a manga by Hiroji Mishima from the light novel series by Ichiei Ishibumi. (See my review of the first volume.) I'm hoping the character on the cover is not quite as young as she appears; I know manga covers love upskirt shots, but chibi + stuffed animal = squicky.

And then there's the series by Ikumi Katagiri (manga) and Ai Ninomiya (light novel originals), which asks the musical question Are You Alice?, Vol. 10. I am not Alice, so I haven't managed to read any of these. It's another oddball Japanese take on Alice in Wonderland -- I've seen a number of them, for cultural reasons I don't understand.

And then we come to BTOOOM!, Vol. 12, continuing Junya Inoue's series in which random people are forced to blow each other up with complicated munitions on an isolated island. (Yes, another descendant of Battle Royale, though these characters mostly didn't know each other before their fatal ordeal.) I reviewed the first volume of this one, if you want more context. (Though volume one context is probably not very relevant to volume twelve.)

Last of the manga is Yana Toboso's Black Butler, Vol. 21. I have to admit that I don't really understand this series at all -- it's a magical alternate 19th century, I think, but I don't quite know what the kid Earl of this series is trying to do, or the significance of his preternaturally deadly and assured butler.

Last of all this week is a novel from one of the great private-eye writers: Loren D. Estleman's new Amos Walker book, The Sundown Speech. (Long-time readers might recall that I read a clutch of Walker books for a reading project a few years back.) It's about a film director who's run off with the investment money of a couple who hire Walker to get it back -- and, of course, it's about murder before long. This one is from Forge, in a hardcover edition hitting stores this coming Tuesday (November 10). If you like private eye novels, and you haven't read Estleman, you're in for a real treat.

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