Monday, May 18, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/16

As I say every week, in one way or another: I get books in the mail, since I review those books. (Not as many as I hope to, not, too often, as quickly as I hope to.) But I won't manage to read and review everything, so I do these posts, every Monday morning, to note all of the books at least once and say whatever I can about them from a quick glance or prior knowledge.

Speaking of being behind in my reading, the first book reminds me that I still haven't read the author's last book. Alastair Reynolds's new novel is House of Suns, coming in hardcover from Ace in early June. But I still haven't managed to get to his previous novel The Prefect, which means Reynolds has now lapped me. (And he has the much harder job, too -- actually writing the novel, and not just reading it.) House of Suns is based on Reynolds's novella "Thousandth Night," which originally appeared in the anthology One Million A.D., edited by Gardner Dozois (and published by a certain book club generally known by its initials, with which I was then associated). And now I have two big Reynolds novels to read, so I'd better jump into one of them soon.

The most minimalist fantasy cover I've seen in a long while sits on top of thew new anthology Swordplay, edited by Denise Little for DAW Books and the Tekno Books/Marty Greenberg empire. Swordplay has seventeen original stories -- all pretty short, as you'd guess, since they all fit into a three-hundred-page mass-market paperback -- by writers like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, John Alvin Pitts, J. Steven York, Loren L. Coleman, Phaedra M. Weldon, and even a few poor souls who can be adequately covered by only two names. The stories are all about swords, though you smart folks will have realized that by now.

Publishing next week is Black Jack, Vol. 5, continuing Osamu Tezuka's long series -- the American publication will eventually number seventeen volumes -- about a renegade, unlicensed surgeon with a scarred face and near-supernatural abilities. It's a deeply melodramatic series that revels in its own outlandishness, and has some very definite pleasures -- I reviewed the first and second volumes for ComicMix last year.

I tend to think of Kate Elliott as still being in the middle of her immense "Crown of Stars" series -- probably because it was running for so long -- but it ended a few years back, and she's actually finishing up a new trilogy, as well. Traitors' Gate is the third and final book of "Crossroads," and it's coming from Tor in hardcover in August. (What I'm looking at right now are the bound galleys, or "advance uncorrected proofs" as they call themselves these days.) I haven't read this series, so I have no personal opinion on it, but I do know my old boss liked the first book (Spirit Gate), if that means anything.

A Grey Moon Over China is Thomas A. Day's first novel -- originally published by the small Black Heron Press in 2006 and being republished in hardcover by Tor this week. It's a dystopian SF novel about a mysterious "quantum-energy battery" whose discoverer uses it to blackmail the world into launching a hugely expensive space-colonization scheme. The plot does not sound overly plausible in flap-copy form, but the novel was critically acclaimed in its first publication (though all of the quotes are from non-genre media outlets like Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, and Entertainment Weekly), and it's never fair to blame a book for what other people say about it.

Undead and Unwelcome is the latest (eighth) book in MaryJanice Davidson's "Queen Betsy" series, about a young woman named Betsy who woke up dead one day and found herself queen of the vampires. It has a cover that I really hope the sales reps and target audience like, because I find it more than slightly garish (though it definitely is eye-catching; I'll grant it that). This series comes from the romance sensibility rather than the fantasy genre, so expectations need to be adjusted appropriately. I also thought it was funny, but this book is about Betsy dealing with an angry pack of werewolves after one of her best friends (also a werewolf) died from a bullet meant for Betsy -- and there's also something about her half sister (the daughter of the devil) causing trouble. So these books may have become more serious while I wasn't paying attention to them. Unwelcome is a June hardcover from Berkley Sensation.

Tanya Huff has a new contemporary fantasy novel, The Enchantment Emporium, coming from DAW in June. It doesn't look to be connected to any of her previous books, and this one doesn't claim to be the first in a series -- but plans have been known to change. A young woman from a magical family has to move to Calgary to run the titular magic shop and find out what happened to her "Gran" (who had the shop before her). The magical background here looks to be mostly folkloric -- leprechauns, the fey, that dragon shadow on the cover -- and not of the furry or bitey forms that are so popular these days.

I also got two things that aren't books in the mail this week, two pieces of ephemera (in the technical sense) that I wanted to mention:
  • First is A Reader's Introduction to Essex County, a booklet about Jeff Lemire's three-book comics series that includes some sample pages, lots of laudatory quotes, and the welcome good news that the trilogy will be republished as a single volume (both in hardcover and paperback) in August 2009. So those of you who haven't read Tales From The Farm, Ghost Stories, or The Country Nurse will have another chance.
  • And I also got a Fall/Winter catalog from Fantagraphics Books, one of the better comics publishers around. They've got All and Sundry, a book of shorter pieces from Paul Hornschemeier (the comics creator with the hardest name to spell); another volume of The Complete Peanuts for the 1973-1974 strips; a collection of Steve Ditko's early horror stories, Strange Suspense; the classic early European graphic novel You Are There, finally translated into English; a novel by Monte Schulz; a gigantic collection of Gahan Wilson's cartoons for Playboy; a new book of Robert Williams art; a new edition of Basil Wolverton's Culture Corner; new issues of Hotwire, Mome, The Comics Journal, and the ongoing reprintings of Krazy and Ignatz and Dennis the Menace; plus a couple of dozen other things. Start saving your pennies now.
There's a huge library by now of things titled "The Gathering Storm" -- Monty Python made a joke about that, in a different context, about forty years ago -- but there keep being more of them. (And I'm not even talking about Brandon Sanderson, this time.) The one in hand right now is a book with the following words, in this order, on its cover:
Based on the original novel in the New York Times
bestselling universe starring Harry Dresden
Jim Butcher
The Dresden Files
Storm Front
Vol. 1 The Gathering Storm
Adaptation by Mark Powers
Illustrated by Ardian Syaf
That changes to "Jim Butcher's" on the half-title and title pages, as if it was part of the title, but the copyright page drops back to The Dresden Files: Storm Front Volume One: The Gathering Storm, spelling out "Volume" but moving the colon I think should be between "Storm Front" and "Volume One" a few words later in the sequence. Anyway, this is a collection of a comic book series that adapts the beginning of the first book in the series of contemporary fantasy novels by Butcher. If you've read the book, now you can see it in pictures. If you haven't read the book, now you can read part of it without bothering with so many fiddly words. The Gathering Storm is the first of two volumes adapting Storm Front; it's publishing June 9th, with the second volume presumably to follow once the comics series finishes up the adaptation.

The third book is Simon Green's "Eddie Drood" series of contemporary supernatural fantasies is The Spy Who Haunted Me, a June hardcover from Roc. I also note from this book's flap copy that this series is set in the same world as his "Nightside" series, so fans of the one who haven't looked at these books may want to start.

And last for this week is Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays, which was originally self-published by editor Brendan Burford (comics editor at King Features Syndicate) in 2002 and is now being reissued by Villard next week. It has comics by creators such as Rina Piccolo, Nick Bertozzi, Nate Powell, Sarah Glidden, and Paul Karasik, all on non-fictional subjects.

1 comment:

The Brillig Blogger said...

a Nightside character makes a guest appearance in SPY WHO HAUNTED ME, but the books aren't set in the same world. Simon likes guest appearances.

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