Monday, November 03, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/1, Part One: Not Yen

And this is the second half of this week's list of books received in the mail -- everything published by companies that aren't called "Yen Press."

(Quicker-than-quick recap of the point of this exercise: I review, so books come in the mail. But I can't review them all. Oh, the sadness! So I mention them all as they come in.)

I have to lead off with Laurell Hamilton's new elf-sex book, just to get that cover up top. If I were Boing Boing -- and we all know that I am not -- I would right now be comparing that cover image to a well-known, but not well-liked, image known on the Internet by a six-letter name. Luckily, since I'm not Boing Boing, I won't be doing that.

The book in question is called Swallowing Darkness by Laurell K. Hamilton and it will be published by Ballantine in hardcover on November 4th. I've made enough fun of it -- now and when I saw the galley a few weeks ago -- so I'll leave it at that.

Coming from Vertical on November 18th is Black Jack, Volume 2 by Osamu Tezuka, the second of what's planned to be a seventeen-volume series reprinting nearly all -- excluding only a few controversial stories that aren't included in the standard Japanese series -- of Tezuka's most popular series with adults. (I reviewed the first volume recently for ComicMix.)

I saw a bound galley of Grady Klein's The Lost Colony, Book Three: Last Rights a few months ago, but still haven't read it -- partially because I haven't read the first two books, partially because the to-read stack of comics (excluding manga, which has its own pile) is nearly as tall as I am. Now that it's a real book -- it was published by First Second in October -- maybe I'll be able to find time for it.

I've read a number of graphic novels by Lewis Trondheim this year -- he's one of the stars of the French scene, and a number of publishers here are translating at top speed to get caught up on his stuff -- but I haven't before seen the work of Appollo (which the back flap of the book I'm about to name tells me is the thin pseudonym of Olivier Appollodorus). They worked together on Bourbon Island 1730 -- co-writing, with art by Trondheim -- a historical graphic novel with pirates, ornithology, and Trondheim's signature duck-headed people. First Second published this in October as well, but this is the first that I knew about it.

I saw Gus & His Gang (by Chris Blain) in bound galleys, and reviewed it for ComicMix a few weeks ago), so I'll just direct you to my review for further details. It's now available, yet another October book from First Second. (They have quickly become one of the most dependable graphic novel publishers around -- nearly everything they publish is wonderful, and all of it is interesting.)

Next is a tie-in I probably won't read for a game I'll probably never play: Gears of War: Aspho Fields. The novel is by Karen Traviss, who's very good at this kind of thing. (So if you do play Gears of War, you'll probably want this: Traviss is one of the better tie-in writers out there now.) It was published by Del Rey in trade paperback on October 28th.

Another book I saw in galleys but haven't managed to read yet -- though I still do intend to read it -- is Alan's War by Emmanuel Guibert, a graphic novel based on the WWII experiences of an American GI Guibert knew well. It's another book from the suddenly ubiquitous First Second, and will be published in November.

Gene Wolfe's new novel is An Evil Guest, which I'm greatly looking forward to reading. However, looking at it as a marketer, it's confusing me a little. It has a stylish, enticing cover, and some great quotes on the back -- about this particular book, by strong names, starting off with Neil Gaiman -- which generally means that the publisher (Tor, in this case) thinks they have something special and want to call more attention to it. (Special, in this case, would mean even by the standards of Gene Wolfe, and that's saying something.) But the flap copy is a bit dull and meandering -- starting off "An Evil Guest is a stand-alone supernatural horror novel in the Lovecraftian tradition with a 1930s noir atmosphere," like a particularly bland Library Journal review. I'm sure all the writers out there know the rule "Show, don't tell" -- but the editors, marketers and copywriters need to remember it as well. An Evil Guest was published in hardcover on September 23.

Also from Tor is the first book in a new contemporary fantasy series: Thirteen Orphans by Jane Lindskold. This one has its basis in Chinese lore -- there were thirteen exiles from the Lands Born from Smoke and Sacrifice, one each for the Cat and all of the signs of the Chinese Zodiac, and their powers were passed down through the generations. But now, in the modern day, many have forgotten their powers -- right when a new attack from their great enemies looms. (I'm sure we've all seen something similar at least a dozen times, but it's all in the execution, as always.) Thirteen Orphans will be published on November 11 in hardcover.

I also made my monthly trip to the comic-book shop this week, spending some of my own money on comics and related stuff. I'll be reviewing a lot of them, here or at ComicMix, so I might as well list them as well:

The second of Gilbert Hernandez's stories from inside the world of his "Palomar" stories -- they're supposedly graphic novel adaptations of low-budget movies one of the characters appeared in -- is Speak of the Devil, just published by Fantagraphics. (The first was Chance in Hell, which I reviewed for ComicMix.) These stories are a weird experiment, but "Beto" often gets very experimental, and it's usually exciting, even when it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Sealed in plastic, so that the tidal wave of existential despair can be contained, at least briefly, there's Chris Ware's new annual hardcover issue, #19, of ACME Novelty Library. Drawn & Quarterly distributes it, and the razor-blade and rat-poison industries thank them for it.

Also sealed in plastic -- though, I hope, for a different reason -- is Jonatham Ames's debut graphic novel, The Alcoholic. Ames is a novelist (I read his novel Wake Up, Sir!, which is also about an alcoholic writer not unlike Ames himself), and he's joined on this book by Dean Haspiel, who handles the art chores. (I love that phrase, with its connotations of kids cleaning their rooms or farm hands feeding chickens.) The Alcoholic is about an alcoholic writer named Jonathan A., though -- since this is being billed as a graphic novel rather than a graphic memoir -- it's apparently somewhat less directly autobiographical than it appears. DC Comics has just published The Alcoholic for your delectation.

The new collection of the best current SF comic (and one of the few good ones, ever) is Ex Machina, Vol. 7: Ex Cathedra, by the usual team of Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris. It's also published by DC.

And the first miniseries about a key member of Hellboy's B.P.R.D. team -- part of the ever-burgeoning Hellboy empire, growing like kudzu over the new-comics shelves -- has been collected as Abe Sapien: The Drowning. It's by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and Jason Shawn Alexander, and was just published by Dark Horse.

And last for this week is Powers Vol. 10: Cosmic (or "Cosimic," as the spine says) by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. I'm almost caught up with this series -- the twelfth volume will be published in December or so -- even though I enjoyed the "cops in a world with superheros" angle of the early issues better than the "cops get caught up in sidebar stories to what would be a major crossover if this was a real superhero universe" hoo-ha that it's gotten into recently. But I've come this far, so I might as well catch up; I am still enjoying most of this. Powers is published by Marvel/Icon, and this one came out just about exactly a year before I got it, in October of 2007.

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