Monday, March 28, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/26

I'm writing this on Easter morning with a bad head cold, so I'm doubly distracted -- frantic preparations for the afternoon festivities (Easter is, in this family, an opportunity to have a big family meal and pretty much nothing else) are going on over head, and my own state is substantially less than it should be. [1] So apologies if this seems even more slapdash and lousy than usual.

As usual, below is an annotated list of books that arrived on my doorstep over the past week, sent by the hardworking publicists of the US publishing industry who think my feeble blog is worth the effort. (This is the point where I should promise that I'll go back into high-content mode any minute now, but the cold is tamping down all of that optimism and energy.) So: these are books, and you may like them. I'll try to tell you things about them that would make you like them, though I haven't actually read any of these yet, and may not read any particular one of them ever.

I'll lead off with the new book by Harry Turtledove, who is really prolific and generates interesting ideas like other people have hot dinners. His new novel, The House of Daniel, is a historical fantasy (or maybe magical realism) -- set in a Depression saturated with magic but still economically broken. And one young roughneck out of Enid, Oklahoma stumbles his way onto a traveling minor-league baseball team, which just might be his ticket out of town right at the moment he most needs it. Fantasy baseball novels are a small but highly respected category, and I'm hoping Turtledove does as well here as my personal favorite, Michael Bishop's Brittle Innings. House of Daniel is a Tor hardcover, available April 19th.

Also from Tor is Marie Brennan's In the Labyrinth of Drakes, the fourth in the "Memoirs of Lady Trent" series about a alternate-Victorian naturalist and the very large draconic fauns that she investigates. (I keep thinking that I should read this series -- I like conceits like that -- but Brennan is putting them out too quickly for my current lassitude in reading SFF.) If you haven't picked up the series before, the first one is A Natural History of Dragons, and, if you have been better than me at keeping up, this one will be a new hardcover on April 5th.

Whitley Strieber was a major horror/thriller/SFF writer in the '70s and '80s (The Hunger, Wolfen), then took a detour into non-fiction when he started claiming his his stories about alien abduction we totally real and happened to him -- which caused a fair portion of the field to look at him askance -- but seems to have come out the other end of that phase into focusing on fiction again. His "Alien Hunters" series of books -- about one tough American battling the evil minds from space who want to conquer the world, naturally -- has turned into a TV series for Syfy, which is prominently displayed on the covers of the two related Strieber books I have here. The new hardcover is Alien Hunter: The White House, in which Striber's series hero must thwart a diabolical plot to control the mind of the President, as aliens generally want to do. That one is a hardcover from Tor, hitting April 5th.

And the first book in the series, now titled Hunters to match the TV series, is coming out in a tie-in paperback edition, telling the story of how that strong-thewed hero learned about the evil alien plot to pollute our precious bodily fluids and joined the super-secret police force that protects All of Humanity. This one came out in March, so you should be able to find it everywhere.

Now we come to the manga portion of this week's list, with two recently published paperbacks from Yen Press. First of those is Akame ga KILL!, Vol. 6, from Takahiro and Tetsuya Tashiro. It aparrently about girls in really short skirts fighting "Danger Beasts."

The other Yen manga this week is from Reki Kawahara and Koutarou Yamada: Sword Art Online: Phantom Bullet, Vol. 2. Following the earlier books, this is another "our hero investigates when things go very wrong in a VR MMORPG online game" -- and yet those games still exist, in a world where they routinely kill and maim people. Seems slightly unlikely.

Last up for this week is a cluster of light novels -- half the fat and calories as a regular novel, but all the fun! Reki Kawahara has the seventh book in the Sword Art Online saga (see immediately above), Mother's Rosary. This time, the players don't seem to be trapped in the game or under threat of death, which is nice for them -- but there is a mysterious player who beats all of our heroes, which they're not happy with.

Isauna Hasekua finishes up the Spice & Wolf series with a seventeenth volume explicitly titled Epilogue. (Has anyone ever named a novel that before? I bet there's some Oulipo guy or something like that, but I can't bring anything to mind.) This seems to be the story of some minor characters trying to find out to what happened to the series characters (a traveling merchant and his ex-fertility goddess/wolfgirl girlfriend), without promising that it will actually do so.

Black Bullet 3: The Destruction of the World by Fire is the cheery title of the new book by Shiden Kanzaki, set in  a world where most humans have been killed by "the monstrous Gastrea" and only a few stalwarts protect the last redoubt, Tokyo Area (naturally -- in a manga, if there are people anywhere in the world, it will be in Tokyo). This one is about yet another threat to the few people who are still alive, of course.

And last is a book that's first in its own series: The Irregular at Magic High School, Vol. 1, by Tsutomu Sato. (It also says it's "Enrollment Arc 1," which implies we may be in for a lot of books in this series, if just enrolling will take more than one volume.) A brother and sister enter the most prestigious magical high school in Japan, but while the kid sister is a braniac grind and lands in the top academic track, her older brother is not so focused and has more remedial course. Apparently, this is Really Bad, for no specified reason.

[1] My new office seems prone to a lot of germs; we've all gotten sick a lot this winter. I don't know if it's the building itself, or the fact that we're crammed in on top of each other like a beehive, but I'm ready to stop being sick all of the time now, please.

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