Monday, May 02, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/30

It's a long list this week, so that's my official reason for keeping the introductory stuff short this week. (I have a different excuse every week -- collect them all!) As usual, these are books sent by publicists to people like me hoping for review coverage that will lead to sales and happiness for everyone. And don't we all like happiness?

(Oh -- also, I haven't read any of this stuff. So what I say is partially informed opinion and partly raw supposition.)

This week, I'm breaking the list into three sections: heavy novels, light novels, and manga. (Heavy novels is my own retronym; I'm not wed to it but it's amusing me right now.) There are three of the former, three of the middler, and a dozen of the latter, so let me dive right in:

Heavy Novels

I'm leading off with Lavie Tidhar's Central Station because I keep thinking I need to start reading his books. He's won the World Fantasy Award, the British SF award, and he's got one of the great names in modern literature. This one is his fourth novel, either a fix-up of some of his "Central Station" stories or a brand-new story set in the same world -- I don't know yet myself, since (as I noted) I haven't actually read any Tidhar yet. But this is about some people at the base of what seems to be a beanstalk in near future Tel Aviv, and is available right now as a trade paperback from Tachyon.

Ageless is a SF novel by Paul Inman -- his first novel, I think -- from the folks at Inkshares. (Officially available on May 5th, possibly already shipping as we speak.)  It's about a woman who ages so slowly that she's effectively immortal -- but I think this is more thriller-y than philosophical, since the back cover references both her Nazi captors and an obsessed CIA agent.

Ada Palmer's first novel is Too Like the Lightning, a semi-utopian story of the 25th century coming in hardcover from Tor on May 10th. It seems destined to push a lot of buttons -- this world has complex taboos around public speech and gender distinctions that are particularly timely in these Years of Puppies. It's the first of a series, and the cover letter explicitly refers to it as "political."

Light Novels

Baccano!, Vol. 1: The Rolling Bootlegs comes from Ryohgo Narita, via Yen Press, and is some sort of crime story set in 1930 New York. (The main character is one Firo Prochainezo, which may clue us in to how historically accurate this book can be expected to be.)

I have two books titled Strike the Blood, Vol. 3 to mention today, which may confuse some of us (including me). The first one, right here, is subtitled The Amphisbaena, and is a novel by Gakunto Mikumo. I don't know exactly what it's about, but it has vampires protecting people from monsters, which is pretty awesome if you ask me. (It's also from Yen -- actually, take it as read that everything from this point on comes from Yen and is available any second now.)

Speaking of confusing titles, may I present Another: Episode S/O? This is by both Yukito Ayatsuji -- the short novel Another, Episode S -- and by Hiro (or maybe hiRo) Kiyohara, who gives us a manga prequel titled Another O. As far as I can tell, this is related to the main Another novel and manga somehow, and is about two girls -- one dead, one not -- who solve some sort of supernatural mystery while on vacation. (While the live girl is on vacation, I mean -- I don't believe ghosts get vacation time.


Aldnoah Zero, Vol. 3 is one of those stories about giant mecha, and I believe it comes from some other media first (anime maybe?).  It's credited to Olympus Knights (original story) and Pinakes (art). And there's some kind of battle going on between people names Inaho and Femieanne, interrupted by a Martian Sky Carrier.

Anne Happy, Vol. 1 begins a series -- that's what "1" means, after all -- from Cotoji. It's about the class of unlucky girls at Tennomifune Academy, which I suppose means lots of wacky hijinks will ensue, along with the usual standard highschool plots.

Corpse Party: Blood Covered, Vol. 1 is brought to us by Makoto Kedouin and Toshimi Shinomiya, and it's a different kind of highschool story. This particular school was built on the haunted site of a former school -- not quite as spooky as a cursed burial ground, I guess, but it'll do -- and the ghost of a dead teacher supposedly can do horrible things if you're in the school during a blackout. A group of current I need to connect the dots? Check the title again.

Dimension W, Vol. 2 is from Yuji Iwahara, and has a psychedelically awesome cover. The back-cover copy is confusing, but this seems to be about competing art thieves -- one of whom is named Loser, so why don't you kill him? -- and there's at least one android thrown into the mix. Your guess is probably better than mine here.

Inu X Boku SS, Vol. 11 continues the story of the Tokyo rooming house for the secretly supernatural scions of Japan's top families, and more particularly their tormented love relationships (and, I wouldn't be surprised at all, plots to conquer the world as well). It's from Cocoa Fujiwara, as always, and slightly more details are available in my old review of the first two volumes. This is also the last volume, so if you're the kind of person who waits for something to be done before you start it: dig in.

I've come to the conclusion that the skimpy outfit on the girl on the cover of Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?, Vol. 5 is deliberately ragged around the edges, though I couldn't guess why. However, I'm quite impressed at how it befuddles censors by precisely matching the contours of her navel and yet acting as if she doesn't even have nipples. Anyway, this is about a guy in a D&Dish dungeon, partially trying to get fame and fortune and partially, as the title implies, macking on all of the hot adventurer chicks there. It's by Kunieda, adapted from the original light novel by Fujino Omori.

School-Live!, Vol. 3 is the latest volume in the school story about ordinary girls (blah blah blah standard Japanese stereotype characters) in a zombie apocalypse. It's written by the being known as Norimitsu Kaihou [Nitroplus] and drawn by Sadoru Chiba.

Here's the one you were waiting for! Strike the Blood, Vol. 3 -- the manga version! This comes from the original story by Gakuto Mikumo, adapted by the manga-ka TATE. (Which sounds like the self-aware computer from a bad '70s movie -- maybe standing for Total Access Thinking Engine.) Anyway, lots more blood is struck here, for you blood-striking fans!

Ubel Blatt, Vol. 5 continues to be one of the most metal comics available from the land of the rising sun, with medieval societies, black death-swords, oceans of angst, and exceptionally pointy elf-ears. (I reviewed the first volume -- confusingly numbered 0, because that's even more metal -- a couple of years ago.) It's by Etorouji Shiono, with extra devil horns.

Look, I've explained this many times now.. Both Higurashi: When They Cry and Umineko: When They Cry were originally video games (of the point-and-click, follow-the-linear-plot, creepy-and-scary type), with each game being a variation on the same idea. Then each game was turned into a series of manga, because you don't want to leave that money on the table, do you? So now here's Umineko: When They Cry: Episode 6: Dawn of the Golden Witch, Vol. 1, for which you can blame Ryukishi07 (story) and Hiunase Momoyama (art).

Until Death Do Us Part, Vol. 12 is from Hiroshi Takashige and DOUBLE-S, and was originally about a blind swordsman and the precognitive girl he was protecting from the usual evil shadowy organization that wanted to exploit her. It may still be about that, actually, but it's been over 4000 pages, so things may have shifted.

And last is the sweet and cute Yotsuba&!, Vol. 13 from Kiyohiko Azuma. I have to admit that I don't really get this series -- about a cute green-haired girl who is totally wide-eyed about every single thing in the whole gol-durned world, so much so that some people think she's an alien and I think she reads a brain-damaged -- but a lot of other people do, and were looking forward to this long-awaited volume. If you're one of them: jump on it.

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