Monday, November 17, 2008

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/15

Those of us who review books are cursed by our mail carriers: we're always getting packages, sometimes a giant pile in one day, and sometimes a constant trickle. I'm no different -- oh, I don't know for sure that my mailman hates me, but I certainly suspect it. And none of us ever get to review everything; there's just not enough hours in the day, or willpower to force us to look at some of the things we see.

But I always want to list and note books as I see them -- both because I'm an inveterate list-maker, and because every book has a reader -- so I post something like this every week. It's Monday morning, so here's what showed up on my doorstep last week:

I finally figured out how to get in touch with Fantagraphics -- I freely admit that webforms have been known to send me into an atavistic "Mongo smash!" mentality -- and they were kind enough to send me several things this week. (I expect some or all of them will be reviewed at ComicMix, as soon as I can get to them.) The one that made me let out a squeal of glee -- no, really; ask my wife, she'll back me up -- was Popeye Vol. 3: "Let's You and Him Fight!" by E.C. Segar, which Fantagraphics published in November as a very nice oversized hardcover. I read the first volume a few months back and thoroughly loved it, so I've been thinking that I should buy the second volume. Well, now I have to, because I have Vol. 3 waiting at the end of it. Don't wait for me to review the later volumes -- go back to see what I said about the first one, and, if that sounds at all interesting to you, go out and get it. Seriously -- E.C. Segar was a great cartoonist, and it's a damn shame how the corporate Popeye is a pale, emaciated shadow of his original creation.

Also from Fantagraphics, and only mildly less awesome (since it's a collection of a story I already have in at least one form) is the special tenth eleventh anniversary edition of Ghost World: the Special Edition. It's by Daniel Clowes, of course, and this new edition includes the original graphic novel, the screenplay for the 2001 movie based on it, a couple of pages of new Clowes comics, a rare strip created for the movie's soundtrack, and whatever other related stuff Clowes and Fantagraphics could find. The whole thing was published in hardcover in October.

The book I actually asked Fantagraphics about was Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button, which seems to be (so far, at least) the big graphic novel of 2008. (And, since I'm judging an award that includes various categories it might be eligible in, I thought I should check it out. Plus, you know, it's supposed to be really good.) It's some kind of huge family story, and it was originally published in trade paperback in June.

And also from Fantagraphics is the all-prose Man of Rock: A Biography of Joe Kubert by Bill Schelly, which they just brought out in trade paperback. I've only just looked at it for a couple of minutes, so I don't have any real opinion on it -- though I did wince a bit at a disclaimer on the copyright page that "Marvel" and "DC" are used throughout the book to describe the predecessor companies and administrations of the entities that currently bear those names. I'll withhold judgment until I read, since that may just be to simplify background details -- but, in general, when a narrative nonfiction book tells you up front "I'm not paying attention to these issues," it's not the best sign.

Moving on into a very different genre -- too-tightly defined fantasy anthologies -- we have Catopolis, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Janet Deaver-Pack. Catopolis contains "seventeen original tales about the "city of cats" that exists on the same plane with humans, yet is hidden from us." I think you and I both know the kind of people who are going to buy this book, right? So let's just snicker quietly and move on -- Catopolis will be published in the ever-popular mass-market format by DAW in the chilly month of December.

Also in mass market is Laura E. Reeve's Peacekeeper, the first in a new military SF series and -- I think -- the author's first novel. The heroine is an ex-war criminal (according to some people, at least) who gets dragged back into military affairs a decade later when her old compatriots start being assassinated by mysterious forces. Peacekeeper will be published by Roc in December.

I also have before me John Zakour's The Flaxen Femme Fatale, sixth in a series about the last private eye in a post-something world six decades in the future. (They don't seem to be entirely serious books, and I suspect there may be a Ron Goulart influence lurking in them.) The first three books in the series were co-written with Larry Ganem (who, long ago and when we both had other lives, used to sell books to me), but Larry's dropped out by this point. I also note that Zakour writes the daily single panel Working Daze (mostly I note this because I only recently realized it myself). Flaxen Femme Fatale is another mass-market paperback -- so much reading, so cheap! -- coming in December from DAW.

And I'm not done with the mass-markets yet! I also have Moving Targets and Other Tales of Valdemar edited by Mercedes Lackey, which contains...well, tales of Valdemar, and you should have figured that out by yourselves. I won't pick on Valdemar -- though it it easily pickable for a cynical bastard like me -- since I've read nearly all of the books and liked most of them quite a bit. Call 'em guilty pleasures, if you must -- but they were certainly pleasures. This one will have only a tincture of pure Lackey, and so probably won't be as potent, but you take what you can get. It's coming from DAW in December.

The fourth in E.E. Knight's "Age of Fire" series is Dragon Strike, which indeed does have a striking dragon on the cover. But I don't really have anything more than that to say about it. Roc is publishing this one in trade paperback in December.

I've been trying to push the boundaries of the books I cover here at Antick Musings, outward from the realms of SFF (where I've got a thousand contacts from my SFBCdays) and comics (which usually feeds my ComicMix reviews). So I'm always happy when publishers come to me with things outside those areas -- particular with books that look as fascinating as Mac Motandon's Jetpack Dreams. Montandon has traced the history of the jetpack -- mostly in fact, but apparently a bit in fiction as well -- to explain why we all don't have them already, and who does have them. I've been reading a lot of narrative nonfiction lately anyway, so it's great when books I might otherwise miss come aimed right at my head. (Figuratively.) Jetpack Dreams was published in October by Da Capo, and it looks deeply awesome.

Harry Turtledove writes novels nearly as quickly as most men eat hot dinners -- I don't know how he does it, but I've seen his large array of daughters, and I suspect the financial strain of putting them all through college and saving for their presumptive nuptials has something to do with it. And maybe Harry just really does write that fast, and enjoys it -- I haven't been able to read Turtledove as quickly as he can write Turtledove, but the recent books of his I've read (like Beyond the Gap) have been fun and thoroughly entertaining. Anyway, the Great Turtledove Machine has brought forth another novel, The United States of Atlantis. This is an alternate history -- you guess that, didn't you? -- set in a world where the eastern seaboard of North America is a separate mid-Atlantic continent, and the sequel to Opening Atlantis. Roc is publishing it in hardcover in December.

Watermind is the first hardcover by M.M. Buckner, who won the Philip K. Dick award for her previous novel, War Surf. (The PKD is a self-destructive award these days; it tends to bring enough attention to its recipients that they're no longer published in paperback, and so no longer eligible for the PKD. I think Dick would appreciate that touch.) It's a near-future SF novel about a self-organizing intelligence born out of the flushed nanotech, genetically-modified organisms, and what-not that landed in the Mississippi Delta. (No word as to whether everyone that knows fear burns at its touch, or if it's merely a muck-encrusted mockery of a man.) Watermind will be published by Tor in November, and I hope they sell a Heap of them.

I seem to have gotten a high enough profile that people seek my reviews out, at least some of the time. That's gratifying, especially when those projects are as unique and interesting as Jobnik!, Miriam Libicki autobiographical comic about her two-year stint in the Israeli army. (She grew up in the US and currently lives in Canada, so she's even more "one of us" than a born-and-bred Israeli would be.) Libicki's own press, Real Gone Girl, will publish Jobnik! in December as a trade paperback. It'll be available through Amazon and, via Diamond, though more discerning comics shops. (But probably not through other standard book-industry sources.)

And last this week are two books by Scott Morse -- whom I've heard of, and read some work in anthologies, but whose books I'm not familiar with yet -- the creator of Magic Pickle and Southpaw, as well as being an animator and filmmaker. They're Tiger!Tiger!Tiger! and Notes Over Yonder; the first an album-sized collection of semi-autobiographical stories and the latter a wordless story of jazz, cats, ukuleles and beach bums told wordlessly in full-page panels. Both are published by Morse's Red Window imprint and distributed by AdHouse Books. Notes shipped in October; Tiger! will ship in December.


Cheryl said...

Um, color me naive, but surely the whole point of the PKD is that the winners should get sufficient attention to move their careers up the ladder. Of course you may feel that being published in hardcover actually destroys people's careers, but I don't see how it destroys the award any more than the passage of time destroys the Campbell.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Cheryl: Perhaps I was too subtle. (Or perhaps I just didn't make sense.) I meant that the PKD tends to destroy itself, not the careers of the winners.

If every PKD winner then graduates to hardcover, every year the pool of strong writers eligible for the PKD diminishes by one. Apply the standard "if this goes on..." test, and voila! no one is eligible for the PKD anymore, it has to be suspended, all die, oh the embarrassment.

Cheryl said...

Only if no new writers are ever created. You might just as well argue that the Campbell is self-destructing because after two years there will be no one left to compete. Thus far it hasn't happened.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Cheryl: You are far too down-to-earth and realistic for me!

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