Saturday, May 31, 2008

All A-Twitter-y

So I signed up for Twitter a week or so ago, mostly out of geek-guilt. This is the new hot thing, right? (Or, more likely, the old hot thing by this point.) So I figured I should do something with it.

But the actual "doing something" has been harder to grasp; I haven't actually twittered yet, nor am I entirely sure what I should twitter. (Is it really just "OK, now I'm in a cab." "I paid the driver, and I'm in front of the building." Oh shit, it's raining." "My hair is horrible!" ? Just a random string of whatever the person is doing at the moment? Why would anyone who isn't fourteen care?)

Today, someone actually signed up to follow me on Twitter, which is faintly ominous. (Why do social networking sites lend themselves to terms that imply uncomfortable things? All this talk of "friends" and "following" and "sharing" makes the Internet sound like one big EST encounter group, circa 1975.)

And now I feel like I need to Twitter something, because now someone's following me.

Has anyone out there used Twitter, and actually found it useful. If so...for what?

Standing Up Against Stupidity

I went out with Thing 2 this morning and bought a dozen donuts at Dunkin Donuts. I doubt Michelle Malkin will notice -- she's very good at missing things that don't fit her extremely blinkered view of the world -- but perhaps Dunkin' Donuts will.

I'd like to encourage everyone out there who has a taste for something sweet this week to consider Dunkin' Donuts -- let's not let the idiots win.

(If you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, consider yourself lucky -- the short version is that Malkin has a certain number of column inches to fill each week and prefers not to have to think while doing so. She also considers any black and white piece of cloth worn above the shoulders to be a symbol of terrorism, so examine your clothing closely if you'll be anywhere she might see.)

Friday, May 30, 2008

It's Manga Friday Time!

And you all know what happens at Manga Friday time, don't you, kids?

That's right! I link to this week's installment, and tell you what I reviewed!

This week, you get Zombie-Loan Vol. 3, Black God Vol. 3, and Sundome Vol. 2.

Isn't that just swell!?

Now sit back and enjoy these messages from our sponsor!

B**ksp*n Exodus Update

Since I know I have some people who used to work for the same "entity" that I worked for -- and weren't those days of having to call it "the entity" fun? -- I thought I'd pass on some news I got the other day from another member of our diaspora.

My one-time fellow club blogger Brad Miner is participating in a blog called The Culture Project, and will be serving on its Advisory Board. His first post is a long piece about the environment of the upcoming Beijing Olympic games.

Welcome back to blogging, Brad!

Movie Log: The Hoax

Clifford Irving, in 1971, claimed to have been in touch with reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes, and to be acting the agent for Hughes's autobiography. There was just one problem: Irving had never even met Hughes. But that was less of a problem than it might seem: hardly anyone had seen or spoken to Hughes in more than a decade; the tycoon communicated by placing occasional rambling phone calls and sending scrawled notes. Even Hughes's lawyer and top lieutenant hadn't had any direct contact with him in many years.

So Irving lied, and faked Hughes's handwriting, and faked tape recordings of Hughes talking about his life, and sold The Autobiography of Howard Hughes to McGraw-Hill for a hefty sum. (He'd written novels for them before; he wasn't some guy just walking in the door.) Eventually, the whole thing fell apart --Hughes held a telephonic press conference with a group of journalists who would vouch that it was actually him, and Irving went to jail for a while. After he got out, he wrote a book about what he did, calling it The Hoax. (One will note that what Irving did was much more like a "scam" than a "hoax," but let's allow the man a bit of dignity.)

And, just last year, a major movie was made from the book, also entitled The Hoax, staring Richard Gere as Irving. The bones of the story are the same, but many of the details are quite different -- I've just been comparing the movie with Irving's wikipedia entry and this documentary summary -- mostly to turn it into a more standard bit of Hollywood product.

According to other sources, Irving was living in Ibiza, and doing well -- in the movie he's getting his couch repossessed in a leafy Westchester suburb.

The movie has Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) as Irving's long-time friend, researcher and confidante (one might say sidekick), but it looks like they were just previous acquaintances who met fortuitously in late 1970 and hatched the plot then.

Irving has several children, who are nowhere to be seen in the movie.

Irving jetted around the world during the "research" for the Hughes autobiography -- supposedly to meet Hughes for interviews, but, according to the second link above, actually to meet with Irving's (plural) mistresses. In the movie, he sits in what looks like a guest house and fakes Hughes's voice into a series of reel-to-reel tapes.

And so on and on -- the movie makes Irving into a lovable loser (the movie opens with his latest novel being canned by McGraw-Hill when a sub-rights sale falls through); Suskind into the usual unreliable fat, sweaty sidekick with second thoughts; and Irving's wife from a Swiss heiress co-conspirator into a long-suffering wife doing one last favor for the husband she still loves, despite everything.

The movie tells that story well, and is filled with solid performances -- particularly Stanley Tucci as McGraw-Hill chairman Shelton Fisher -- but I couldn't help wishing (after the fact, as I was looking things up for this post) that it had actually told the real story...instead of perpetrating what is basically a hoax of its own.

The Hoax is a decent movie about book publishing, though it's obviously slanted towards the glamorous side of that business, and is terribly outdated now. (And I wonder if there ever was a time when book publishing took up so much space in floors so high up in midtown Manhattan -- if so, it was before my era.)

Quote of the Week

"Olafur Eliasson, the Danish-Icelandic inventor and engineer of minimalist spectacle, is so much better than anyone else in today's ranks of crowd-pleasing installational artists that there should be a nice, clean, special word other than "art" for what he does, to set him apart. There won't be. 'Art' has become the promiscuous catchall for anything artificial that meets no practical need but which we like, or are presumed or supposed to life."
- Peter Schjeldahl, lede of "Uncluttered," p.82 of the 4/28/08 New Yorker

Kitty and the Silver Bullet by Carrie Vaughn

I wrote a chunk about this book in a rec.arts.sf.written thread soon after I finished reading it -- you can read my post here -- so let's see if I have anything else to say about it now.

Silver Bullet is the fourth in the contemporary fantasy series about Kitty Norville, werewolf and radio host, who was instrumental in making the existence of werewolves and vampires public two books ago (though not by her own choice). One of the most interesting things about this series is that Vaughn is willing to hew closer to the laws and mores of the real world than a lot of her fellow writers in that field. The supernatural folks are certainly glamorized in these books, but there's a lurking feeling that they're not beyond human law, and that the regular mechanisms of the civilized human world can deal with them if just given a chance.

This book opens with an example of that -- Kitty is visiting her friend Cormac in prison, where he's currently serving a sentence for manslaughter after one of those all-too-common fantasy-novel showdowns where the Evil Foe just has to be killed. Cormac did kill that Evil Foe...but he also got a manslaughter conviction out of it.

Many urban fantasies treat their supernatural creatures as aristocrats -- buying into the myth -- but Vaughn is one of the growing number who sees them as just another kind of organized criminal. She even has a police detective draw that parallel explicitly in this book. Kitty's main problem when the book opens is straight out of a crime novel -- she wants to go home to Denver, but that's the "turf" of the alpha werewolf whose pack she left. If she crosses her old gang boss, he'll have her killed -- being a werewolf is like being a made guy in the Mafia, and you have about as much chance of getting out.

So this is a gangwar book, in a sense -- Kitty is encouraged at the beginning of the book to join a coup against the established leaders in Denver, and events draw her in that direction as the book goes on. But she never completely loses her faith in the rule of law -- and I hope that stays true as the series goes on, despite the increasing number of woo-woo powers for the vamps -- and that police detective continues to play a major role.

I like to see an contemporary fantasy series where vampire gangs are a policing problem, not something that has to be left to "the supernatural community." And I hope that the Denver police keep getting better at dealing with vamps and weres: that they don't become a boogeyman problem -- left to the special elite Society of Protagonists -- but something that smart, properly trained and outfitted cops can handle.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

When Batman Met Grendel

They had a tea party!

Well, no, actually -- they had a big fight. Twice. Because it was the '90s, and it was comics.

Now those two stories -- good, but not anything spectacular -- have been collected as Batman Grendel, and I have reviewed it, in my snarky way, for ComicMix.

Shinjuku Shark by Arimasa Osawa

This is the first novel in a police procedural series -- apparently of nine books to date -- which has been massively popular in Japan. (Turned into live-action movies and manga, winner of several major popular literary prizes, massive sales -- that whole deal.) But it took from 1990 until 2007 to be translated into English.

It's been translated by Andrew Clare, and either given a very flat, matter-of-fact style, or maintained that style from the original Japanese. This is not even in the same hemisphere as a Chandler or even a McDonald; Osawa uses words like rough building blocks and cements them together into rough, solid sentences. Don't expect the prose to sing here; the dialogue in particular is flat. (Since that all may be deliberate, I won't count it as a criticism.)

Our hero is Detective Samejima, a lone wolf policeman in a society much, much harder on lone wolves than our own. Samejima was originally a "career" officer, but was too self-righteous and driven to go along and get along, so now he's got a dead-end posting in Crime Prevention in the crime-ridden Shinjuku pleasure district of Tokyo. He gets no support from his fellow officers or supervisors, and will never get another promotion.

But he still is obsessed with justice, and isn't willing to play by the usual rules, which is why the local yakuza call him the "Shinjuku Shark." (If the book were written with more attitude, that would probably become tiresome, but the staccato meat-and-potatoes prose keeps the cliches from being too obvious.)

The plot of this book involves a serial killer of policemen, and, in a very Japanese twist, the killer is using a hand-made gun (created by a man Samejima has put in prison twice and is stalking again), since obtaining regularly manufactured guns is just about impossible in Japan.

I didn't love Shinjuku Shark, and I'm not sure why it was so popular when it was originally published -- from my perspective, it's a decent, if a bit pedestrian, police procedural without as much local color or detail as I'd expected. But I'm not Japanese, and this isn't 1990, which may account for much of the difference. I do hope to read the second book once it's published here, since that's considered by many to be the best in the series. And Shinjuku Shark is a solid police procedural -- it might not be a great book, but it's a pretty good one.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

That's the Way to Do It!

I reviewed a book called How to Love today at ComicMix; it's an anthology of short comics stories from the Israeli collective Actus, all on the subject of love (as you might expect).

Movie Log: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I realized that I needed to start taking vacation days, since the year is close to half over -- and how did that happen? -- so I declared last Friday a personal holiday. Since the kids were in school, The Wife and I went off to the megalithic and slightly frightening Palisades Center to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and have lunch at Dave & Busters. (She'd called the place "Chuck E. Cheese for adults," which is quite true -- it has lots of games, many of them very vaguely skill-based, mediocre food, a full bar, and a room full of junk you can "buy" with the tickets you "win" on the overpriced games.)

Do you need me to tell you about Indy 4? I don't think so. I might be a guy who saw it at 10:35 AM on the day it opened, but I'm not the guy who did that because he's a huge fan -- I'm the guy who did that because we were out of the house, without the kids, so BY GOD we were going to see a movie for adults. (Well, more or less.)

If you're actually looking for a review of this review-proof movie, Locus has a decent one from a genre point of view, and Roger Ebert has an appreciative review in a less staccato style. But the vast majority of the country has either seen it or is never going to see it, so it's more message-board fodder than something to review.

Parts of it were purely enjoyable, like Harrison Ford and Karen Allen (whom we've seen far too little of for far too long); parts of it were a little too much, like the atom-bomb test, most of Shia LeBeouf's fake-Brando character, and the moments when the enemies wander away because that scene is over; and parts of it were just this side of hooey, like everything to do with the aliens. All in all, it worked, but Indiana Jones stories work best when the big supernatural thing is kept quiet until the big finale, not dragged out in reel two. (The title, also, is longer and more cumbersome than the other three movies.)

And I certainly hope we don't get a series of "Indy Jr." movies, with LeBeouf as a '60s swinging archaeologist. Some things just shouldn't be.

But, as a big summer movie, Crystal Skull delivers in the ways it needs to. I look forward to seeing it again, with my sons, when it hits video. (But they have to see Temple of Doom first -- maybe Last Crusade, if they want, but that one's not mandatory.)

Data, Endlessly Fascinating Data

I got my monthly e-mail from Amazon, to say that I made a little money as an "Associate," but not enough for them to actually give it to me. (Such is life, eh? I don't think anyone is getting rich off being an Amazon Associate, but I'd probably link there for context even if I wasn't getting a little bitty cut.)

Since data fascinates me, I took a closer look at the things that people have bought through Antick Musings since I signed up with Amazon about a year ago. (In case anyone is wondering, it doesn't tell me who bought what -- just what was purchased.)

There are forty-nine books, ranging from things I recommended (Extraordinary Circumstances by Cynthia Cooper) to things I suggested avoiding (The Contemporary Dictionary of Sexual Euphemisms) to books I haven't thought of in years (Ben and Me), and then some. You folks, collectively, have eclectic tastes, and I appreciate that in a readership.

Someone bought a Zune armband, several other people bought various bits of small electronics -- which included some really fancy, expensive printing paper, as well -- and one person bought Apple's OS 10.5.

There was only one Kindle e-book, despite the hype -- it was the Dann/Dozois Wizards anthology.

There were four bits of music sold -- one MP3 download of "Linus And Lucy" to a person of obviously impeccable taste, and three CDs, including The Very Best of Supertramp. There was one HeroScape game sold. And someone bought a 1959 movie called The Quest for King Solomon's Mines on VHS...but then sent it back.

Three "Dr. Who" episodes from 1984 -- the three parts of The Caves of Androzani -- were downloaded, presumably by the same person. Truly, you people like what you like, and there's no shifting you.

And the most unlikely item is the Tantus Flirt Dildo -- "dildo" here being a euphemism, actually. I do want to encourage more of that -- when you're shopping for brightly-colored sex toys or other deeply personal items, I want you to go to some blog you enjoy, click on the Amazon link, and add a blush to that blogger's reports next month. It doesn't have to be me, but surprise someone and make Amazon reports a little less boring than they have been previously.

Hippo Eats Dwarf by Alex Boese

Boese is the author of A Museum of Hoaxes, both in its original on-line form and the subsequent book. Hippo Eats Dwarf is a brand extension, in which Boese goes beyond deliberate hoaxes -- though there are plenty of those in Hippo as well -- to include confusions, misunderstandings, scams, and other things that are not as they seem.

I read it in bound galley form, even though it was published in April of 2006. (April 1st, unless I miss my guess) My unread piles are wide and deep, and contain multitudes. So if I get any facts wrong, I'm going to claim that's how it was in the galley.

The subtitle is "A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S.," and the book is divided into sixteen chapters, from Birth to Death. (With stops at Romance, eBay, Advertising, Politics, War, and Photography along the way.) Boese has a breezy, Internet-age style, with lots of call-out boxes and section breaks; Hippo Eats Dwarf reads as much like a magazine or a blog as a book -- it's very easy to pick it up, read two pages, and put it back down for a while.

There's a lot of Internet material here -- probably because the 'net has ushered in a golden age of hoaxes -- but Boese also thoroughly covers hoaxes and other deceptive tactics in other media and in every day life. Hippo Eats Dwarf functions as a decent listing of all of the things that people sometimes try to convince us, but that are not true.

I am not the expert on hoaxes that Boese is, but, as far as I can tell, he's quite solid; he doesn't claim any whoppers as fact but does bring up unlikely things that were actually true (or, in some cases, that became true because the idea was publicized).

If you have a friend, mother, or maiden aunt who is forever forwarding you emails about Microsoft's newest payment scheme, or hitting the ceiling about a bonsai kitten -- and you have reason to believe she might actually read a book and learn something -- this is the perfect gift. Hippo Eats Dwarf isn't one of the great works of Western Civilization, but it just might help to reduce the amount of stupidity and ignorance in the world, and that might be even more important.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Fixer by Joe Sacco

Sacco is possibly the world's only full-time investigative cartoonist; he's the author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorajde, both of which were book-length works in comics form, reporting about war zones.

The Fixer is not entirely unlike a sequel to Safe Area Gorajde; it's the story of a return visit to Sarajevo Sacco took in 2001, mixed in with Sacco's memories of the title character from his 1995 travels in the disintegrating Yugoslavia, and that character's tales of his own life, mostly during the civil war of the early '90s.

The Fixer is a man called Neven, who claims to have been a sniper in the Yugoslav People's Army during the '80s (though others mildly doubt that), and definitely was part of a loyalist militia during the early days of the civil war. By the time Sacco got to Sarajevo in 1995, Neven had been demobbed and was working for foreign journalists. That's what a "fixer" is -- a man who connects journalists with stories, for a price.

So The Fixer has some history of the war as it affected Sarajevo, and some of Neven's personal history, wrapped up in the frame story of Sacco trying to find Neven again in 2001, when the war -- and the need for fixers -- was long over. It's on a smaller scale than Sacco's other major stories, but it's a long mature Sacco work, which is a good thing. And the smaller scale also means that there are fewer appalling bits of war to deal with -- though, as always, there are some, so I warn those with overly rosy views of the world to stay away from Sacco.

Vampire Loves by Joann Sfar

For those who're wondering -- I got a comment on a ComicMix review after I hit two Sfar books in two days -- Sfar is pretty prolific, but US publishers have been catching up with his backlog over the past few years, and I've been catching up myself on the Sfar books published in English over the past few years.

So, in this case, Vampire Loves was published in France as four separate albums between 2001 and 2003, and translated by Alexis Siegel for a 2006 US publication by First Second.

I'm coming to realize that many of Sfar's books take place in a loose shared world -- this connects with The Professor's Daughter (as well as with several other graphic novels through the same characters) as well as Little Vampire. (The main character of Vampire Loves, Ferdinand, has a very close connection to Little Vampire, but I'll let other readers discover that from the book rather than from me.)

Ferdinand is a vampire of indeterminate age, living in Vilnius in an old castle and obsessing about problems with his love-life. (If his friends were a bit more caricatured and popped in on him more, this could be Vampire Seinfeld.) The four stories here are all pretty talky, with characters wandering around to chat with each other -- sometimes angrily, but usually as friends. As usual with Sfar's work, it's entertaining but a bit more leisurely and meandering than one would expect -- he's telling a story about characters, so he lets them wander around on their own to see what they'll do.

This is lighter and perhaps sillier than a book like The Rabbi's Cat 2, but it's probably a better introduction to Sfar for that reason.

Monday, May 26, 2008

In Which I Read Old Comic Strips and Pontificate

Today, my review of Charles M. Schulz's The Complete Peanuts 1967-1968 was posted at ComicMix.

Go read it...or don't.

Movie Log: You Kill Me

I am precisely the target audience for a romantic comedy about an alcoholic hitman from Buffalo -- well, maybe not the alcoholic part, but you know what I'm getting at -- so I rented You Kill Me almost as soon as I knew it existed. (The Wife and I saw a preview for it on some movie we saw a few weeks ago -- maybe I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With? -- and popped it onto the Netflix queue immediately.)

I don't think many people know this movie exists; I don't remember it hitting theaters at all, and it has crept out onto video with great stealth. And that's too bad, since it's a pretty good romantic comedy. (Though it would make a lousy thriller, and some people seem to think that's what it is.)

Frank (Ben Kingsley) is the designated hitman of the Polish mob in Buffalo -- the boss of this small gang is his uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall), and the main lieutenant is Roman's son Stef (Marcus Thomas). Frank is apparently the only one who can point a gun straight, because the Polish mob is utterly incapable of killing anyone when Frank tips over into alcoholism, as he has done sometime before the movie opens.

Frank is supposed to assassinate the head of the Buffalo Irish mob, Edward O'Leary (Dennis Farina, looking distinguished and mob-boss-like but not particularly Irish while leading a whole bunch of redheads) as he catches a train to New York to meet with a group of Chinese moneymen, but he falls asleep in his car after drinking too much. (Again, these are pretty low-rent gangs -- O'Leary is riding Amtrak to visit his bankers so he can expand his territory, like some Amway salesman.) So Stef and Roman grab Frank and tell him he's going to San Francisco to get into AA and clean up...or else.

(The "or else" threat is mildly threatening at the time, but, in retrospect, there's no chance that Roman could do anything but maybe take away Frank's pension from the snow-plow company; Frank is the guy who shoots people that need to be shot. This particular mob has taken the detailed division of labor a bit too far for its own good.)

So Frank gets to San Francisco, where he's met by Dave (Bill Pullman), his minder. Tom is a real estate agent -- so he has gotten Frank a nice place to live -- and an utter jerk, so he rubs in the "I'll tell Roman if you don't quite drinking" part of the deal. Frank refrains from killing Dave, picks up an AA sponsor named Tom (Luke Wilson), and settles into a job preparing bodies at a local funeral home.

At one of his first funerals he meets the sarcastic Laurel (Tea Leoni), the step-daughter of the deceased. They have chemistry, and start dating.

And then the plot you probably expect starts to kick in -- Frank feels the need to tell Tom about his old job, and Laurel about both the job and the alcoholism. And O'Leary's mob starts putting pressure on Roman back in Buffalo...and only Frank could possibly do what's necessary and put two bullets into O'Leary's skull.

You Kill Me is consistently funny, and I didn't find it as dark as many people did. (On the other hand, I consider most black comedies to be just comedies -- that's the kind of sense of humor I have.) To place this in context, it's funnier than The Matador (though less consistent as a movie), but not as funny as Grosse Pointe Blank. If you liked either of those movies, or just think that a black comedy about an alcoholic hitman would be fun, you should enjoy You Kill Me.

An Unlikely Comparison

As The Wife and I were in bed the other night, drifting off to sleep and talking about random things, we had a conversation that went something like this.

The Wife: Did you see that Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi are getting married?
G.B.H. Hornswoggler: You mean, now that gay marriage is legal in California?
TW: Yes.
(digression on the charms of Ms. DiRossi, with particular reference to the film Sirens, suppressed)
GBHH: So is Portia going to go straight afterwards, too?
TW: You mean like Anne Heche? Why would you think that? Just because Anne went back and forth doesn't mean it would happen again.
GBHH: I guess, but it seems like that's how it happens in Hollywood.
(and then somehow we got to this comparison, which only a mother would make)
TW: But if someone's never had a gay relationship, how would they know if they're really gay or not? Maybe they'd like it, but they don't know, since they never tried it.
GBHH: You mean that being gay is like eating vegetables? "How can you say you don't like it if you've never even tried it?"
TW: Right, yeah -- if you've never done it, you don't know if you like it or not.
GBHH: I guess that's fair, actually. Gay sex is the Brussels Sprouts of the adult world...

Seeing as this weekend was Wiscon, I thought that a strangely appropriate blog-topic right now. Though I guess I should also point out that I mostly don't like eating vegetables, even the ones I've never tried...

Update: I forgot the last part...

GBHH: I think I have to blog this.
TW: Don't mention me!
GBHH: What, I should say "so I was in bed with this woman whose name I can't divulge"? Would that be better?
TW: I guess not...

Reviewing the Mail (SFF Edition): Week of 5/24

This is the second of two posts listing the books for review or notice that arrived in my mail last week; this one focuses on SF and Fantasy.

Life has many joys, but one of the sweetest is when I hear about a book -- and I don't remember how or where it happened in this case, now -- and then that same book arrives in the mail a day or two later. This week, that happened with Superpowers, a new novel by David J. Schwartz that Vintage is publishing in the UK on June 3rd. (The US edition is from Three Rivers Press and is coming a week later, but it's the UK that sent me the book -- and that has the better cover -- so they get all my love today.) It's another one of the current mini-flood of superhero novels, like Soon I Will Be Invincible and From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain, and I hope to read it soon. The upcoming UK edition seems to be a smaller paperback format -- they don't have "mass-market" books over there, exactly -- while the US edition is a trade pb.

Batman: Gotham Knight is a more old-fashioned kind of superhero novel; it's the novelization of a movie of the same name (direct-to-DVD, I think), published in mass-market. Louise Simonson wrote it, which gives it more clout in my eyes than it might otherwise have had. (She's a long-time comics writer, and a good one.) Ace publishes this in June.

Also from Ace is Jes Battis's Night Child, the first in an urban fantasy series about "occult forensics investigator Tess Corday." It's also a June book.

CodeSpell is a near-future technomancy novel that could be called "urban fantasy," though it doesn't look like the same kind of UF as Night Child. (There aren't any young hotties with tattoos, tank tops or leather on the cover, for one thing.) It's the third in the series that started with WebMage, it's by Kelly McCullough, and it's yet another Ace June book.

We move back to the Buffy definition of urban fantasy for Phaedra Weldon's Spectre, the fourth "Zoe Martinique Investigation." (I admit that sometimes I have trouble telling the names of UF writers from the names of their characters; I was half-sure Phaedra Weldon was a tough-talking Wiccan priestess in Vancouver or something like that.) Zoe's particular supernatural ability is to travel astrally, and she lives in Atlanta (where she has a complicated relationship with a cop). This one is a trade paperback, but is still from Ace in June.

Nancy Kress's new novel is Dogs, a trade paperback from Tachyon in July. It sounds like a contemporary thriller on the border of SF -- the main character is an ex-FBI agent who gets caught up in the spread of a mutated flu that turns dogs viciously aggressive. (I hope she can sell the movie rights; it sounds like a natural.)

I was tempted to play one of those snarky Internet games with the title of The Invisible Ring -- you know, like adding "in bed" to everything? -- when I realized that it's by Anne Bishop, so it's probably already referring to something unmentionable. (And a quick look into the book proved that true -- it's her usual mix of femdom and fantasy.) This one is from Roc, in trade paperback, in June. (And, I noticed a bit later, it's actually a reprint of a mass-market original from 2000, so Bishop's fans must be clamoring for more durable editions of her books -- but I really don't want to know what they're doing to wear out their old copies.)

Daemons Are Forever is the second book in Simon R. Green's newest series -- I don't think it has a name yet; the first book was The Man With the Golden Torc, and it's contemporary fantasy with a bit of James Bond parody mixed in -- which Roc is publishing it in June in hardcover.

Then I've got something called Destroyermen: Into the Storm, by Taylor Anderson. It's an alternate-world SF novel, in which a WWII destroyer slips sideways into a world with two non-human races at war. This kind of book has been generally ceded to Baen by the rest of the SF publishing world for quite a while, so it's good to see someone else (Roc, in this case) jumping strongly into the subgenre by launching this series in hardcover.

And last this month is Alastair Reynolds's new space opera, The Prefect, which Ace is publishing in hardcover in June. I'm sure it's a great read, since all of Al's books are, but I'm chagrined to note that I now have three copies of this -- UK paperback, US galley, and now the US hardcover -- and that I still haven't read it. Soon, I hope. Soon.

Reviewing the Mail (Manga Edition): Week of 5/24

This week's "Reviewing the Mail" has been bisected, since my mail divided neatly into manga and SFF this week. This, for those who didn't read the label on the tin, is the manga half.

And first this week is something that isn't manga at all: it's the Japanese live-action movie Honey & Clover, which was based on a manga of the same name. It sounds like a coming-of-age story, with maybe a hint of romantic comedy; Viz calls it "the story of five students and their growth while attending art school facing the challenges of school, work, love while moving from adolescence into adulthood." It was released May 13th on DVD.

The rest of this week's manga selections are the product of one large package from Yen Press, the manga-publishing imprint of Hachette in the US. Starting with the things I actually know a little about, Zombie-Loan, Vol. 3 is on top, which continues the undead-teens-working-
for-a-repo-firm story that I reviewed in March. This third volume is publishing in June, and it's created by the manga collective that calls itself Peach-Pit.

Coming in May -- which means it's already out -- is Sundome, Vol. 2, the second part of a Mature-rated series about sexual frustration and teasing in high school. I enjoyed the first volume probably more than I should have -- it's quite broad, very politically incorrect, and about horny teenagers -- so I'm looking forward to this one. It's by Kazuto Okada.

Black God, Vol. 3 is by Dall-Young Lim and Sung-Woo Park, and it's coming in June. I reviewed volume two, so I vaguely understand the set-up -- it's yet another story about a jerky guy with a connection to a young woman who is gorgeous, has amazing powers, but also seems to know nothing about the world.

And now we move into things I'm unfamiliar with -- first of those is Freak, Vol. 3: Legend of the Nonblonds. It's by Yi DongEun and Yu Chung, and it reads left-to-right. Other than that, it seems to be some kind of futuristic/supernatural story with a lot of fighting in it. It's also coming in June.

Then there's Croquis Pop, Vol. 1, by KwangHyun Seo and JinHo Ko. It's about a young man who's an assistant to a manwha creator -- and also has to get rid of ghosts on the side. It's yet another June book.

Heavenly Executioner Chiwoo, Vol. 4 is by Park KangHo and Lee HaNa, was published in May, and it's yet another story about people yelling at each other and then fighting with special techniques.

One Thousand and One Nights, Vol. 4 is by Han SeungLee and Jeon JinSeok, also came out in May, and looks like a very emotional historical story. (Someone is called a "Sultan," so I think it's set in some part of the Arab world, even though the characters mostly wear Asian robes and have manga-boy hair.)

The last volume of Bring It On! is volume 5, which is what I have here. It's by Baek HyeKyung, and is a June publication. I think it's a romance of some kind, with lots and lots of intensely emotional scenes -- streaming tears, smouldering looks or sullen lips, and so on.

Kim MiKyung created something called 11th Cat Special, which was published in May. This is a collection of short stories, but it might also be related to an 11th Cat series (if there is such a thing).

Legend , Vol. 2 is by Kara and Woo SooJung, from May, and looks like a historical girls' comic with some romantic elements.

And last this week is Chocolat , Vol. 5, which I doubt has anything to do with the movie of the same name. It's by Shin JiSang and Geo, and will be published in June. Let me just quote the first line of the back-cover copy and leave it at that: "Kum-Ji may have started following Yo-I to get close to her favorite boy band, DDL, but it's E-Wan of Yo-I that she can't get out of her head!" Add a lightsaber or two, and that could almost be the cast of the Clone Wars...