Monday, October 13, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/11

Another week has passed, which means it's time for me to let you know what came in the mail. I do this mostly out of guilt -- I know I won't be able to review all of the books I get (even with the best of intentions, and even though I want to read most of them), and I want to acknowledge them and help them (in some tiny way) find their audience.

So here's what made the mailman curse me this week:

Jack McDevitt -- a great guy, by the way, and a fun writer in a somewhat old-fashioned style that I've always been fond of -- has two major series. Back in my days at the SFBC, my boss Ellen Asher and I somehow, without ever talking about it explicitly, divided those two series between us, so we could both get some of Jack's books to read. I got the "Priscilla Hutchins" books, like Deepsix and Chindi. Ellen got the "Alex Benedict" novels, like Polaris and Seeker. The Devil's Eye is the new Alex Benedict novel, which means it's the fourth in a McDevitt series that I've never read. So it goes on the pile -- the much-too-large, groaning pile -- in hopes that I'll find time for it "soon." It's being published by Ace in hardcover in November.

Kris Longknife: Intrepid is the sixth in a military SF series by Mike Shepherd, and about the only coherent thing I have to say about this one -- I haven't read any of the books in this series -- is that Kris is looking awfully blue on the cover. This one is an Ace paperback, also in November.

Steven L. Kent has written three previous novels with "Clone" in their titles for Ace, and my incredibly highly tuned publishing senses are tingling that this is some kind of series. The Clone Elite will then be the fourth in the series, from Ace in November as well. This one also looks pretty military, and I do have to wonder if the recent (not all that good) Star Wars movies formed any part of the inspiration for Mr. Kent's tales of an all-clone military.

The third installment of The Best American Comics 2008 has come around -- this one is edited by Lynda Barry. Interestingly, the series editor has changed -- after the first two years under Anne Elizabeth Moore (who, I recall, was somewhat divisive in the hot-house field of indy comics, though I don't remember why), the series is now shepherded by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. How curious. (I reviewed last year's installment for ComicMix, by the way.) Best American Comics 2008 was published last week in hardcover by Houghton Mifflin, who do a whole lot of books every year whose titles start with "Best American."

A both more and less inclusive "best of" is the Paul Gravett-edited The Mammoth Book of Best Crime Comics, which includes work from the 1930s through the mid-90s -- but only, of course, stories of murders, swindles, and other kinds of crimes. It's a big fat book that practically oozes noir onto my hands as I hold it, so I'm looking forward to poking through it. It was published by Running Press in August.

Michael Flynn is an interesting, thoughtful craftsman of a writer who hasn't gotten a lot of attention in the decade or so of his career. (I particularly liked his multiple-viewpoint space tragedy The Wreck of The River of Stars.) Since hope springs eternal, there's always the chance that his new novel, The January Dancer, will be the one that breaks him out to a wider audience. This one is a space opera, apparently following the travels and travails of an "ancient pre-human artifact of great power," and that sounds like fun. (On another subject entirely, I'm disappointed to see that Flynn -- one of the few SF writers to live in my end of New Jersey, or in the state at all -- has moved off to Easton, Pennsylvania.) Tor published The January Dancer in hardcover this month.

My manga pickings were slim this week -- not that I'm complaining, since I had twelve things on that pile already with just two books coming in. First of them was CMX's Two Flowers for the Dragon, Vol. 3 by Nari Kusakawa, continuing a series where I reviewed the last volume. Two Flowers is just your standard medieval two-guys-competing-for-the-same-weredragon-girl story; you know, the kind you've seen a thousand times already. CMS is publishing it in December.

The other manga I saw was Mao-chan, Vol. 1, which has a story by Ken (Negima!, Love Hina) Akamatsu and art by Ran. My first thought was that it's the story of an adorable little Chinese dictator (Mao-chan, right?), but that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, it's about a group of elementary-school girls who battle incredibly cute (but evil) alien invaders. Once again, I have to admit that I don't expect to ever understand Japan. This volume of Mao-Chan is twice the size of the usual manga book -- about four hundred pages -- and is coming from Del Rey on October 28th.

I haven't read Jim Davis's Garfield strip carefully in years -- though I think it's in my paper, so I probably do look at it every day. But my two sons are currently huge Garfield fans -- the younger one has even been getting me to track down some of the collections through inter-library loan. (He seems to be picking them by the quality of their title puns, which sounds about right.) So they were even more happy to see Garfield: 30 Years of Laughs & Lasagna than I was. (I'm happy to see any free book, honestly -- particularly one that I can review.) Look for me to review this one quickly -- so I can pass it along to the boys as soon as possible. This book has an official publication date of October 28th -- despite the fact that Garfield debuted June 19, 1970, which makes it a severely belated birthday greeting. (Well, it is hard to figure out what to get for a fat cat who's rolling in the dough as well.) It's from Ballantine, which I think has been the Garfield publisher for all of those thirty years.

Coming on the same day, and also from Ballantine, is an odder Garfield collection, and one which implies Jim Davis isn't the humorless marketing machine some people on the Internet seem to think he is -- Garfield Minus Garfield, a collection of Dan Walsh's subtractive webcomic, with a foreword by Walsh and "A Word" (it's in the middle, so it can't be a foreword) and a number of similar strips by Davis. (I wrote about the book deal when it happened.) Garfield Minus Garfield is a brilliant bit of recontextualization -- intriguing High Art as well as a really funny twist on a strip many of us look down on. (Though I also think Garfield has its Ernie Bushmiller moments -- Davis is aiming for a similar kind of broad humor, and hits that sometimes.)

I mentioned Brandon Sanderson's The Hero of Ages -- and the fact that I still haven't read anything by Sanderson, despite the fact that his editor is my old colleague Moshe Feder and that my former boss Ellen Asher loved his books -- when I saw the bound galley a few months back, so now I'll just say that it's turned into a real hardcover book, coming October 14th from Tor. It's the third book of "Mistborn," and all indications are that it's the end of the series.

From Tor's corporate sibling St. Martin's Press is a book I didn't even know was coming -- I'm much less plugged in to what everyone is publishing now that I'm not following them all obsessively for the SFBC -- a big nonfictional guide to the work of Neil Gaiman called Prince of Stories. It's by Hank Wagner, Christopher Golden, and Stephen R. Bissette, and covers Gaiman's entire career, offering thumbnail sketches of the plots of all of his comics and novels (short stories, screenplays, illustrated tea-cozies, nightmares, etc.), along with interviews with his collaborators, background details, and what I can only describe as "other stuff." I tend to think that Gaiman fans probably already know most of what's in this book, but Prince of Stories does stick it all into one place for ease of reference. It's being published October 30th.


Natalie said...

Considering how Hero of Ages ends, I'm not sure Sanderson could write another book--it's pretty definitive. It's an absolutely fantastic series, though, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

I was decidedly meh about both the Shepard and Flynn titles. I wanted to like the Flynn more than I did because the premise was awfully nifty.

Anonymous said...

I finished McDevitt's Cauldron last week and have been wondering if it's the last of the Hutch series. It includes references to all the other Hutch books and has a little "what they're doing now" bit at the back.

Flynn's actually been writing for about 25 years. He was a regular on the OMNI forum on AOL back in the mid-nineties, and he was always taken aback that I liked the protagonist of the Firestar series and he meant her to be bad.

I'll have to get the book about Gaiman as a present for a friend. She's a real fangirl.

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