Monday, May 25, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/23

This was a good week, leaving me with an interestingly varied -- and not too tall -- stack of books to write about this week. To explain, once again: these books all came in the mail, from their publishers, for me to review. But time is limited, so I know I won't manage to review all of them. And thus I note all these books as they come in, with some brief thoughts, every Monday morning.

First is the new novel by Kage Baker, The Empress of Mars, which is an expansion of her novella of the same name and a sidebar to her "Company" series. (There weren't any immortal time-traveling cyborgs in the novella, since they all stayed on Earth.) Baker is a writer who at her best can effortlessly blend wit and adventure, so I'm looking forward to this one. (Though I still haven't read her novel from last year, The House of the Stag; Baker isn't a particularly rigorous SF writer but I do like best her stories with a SFnal patina rather than a fantasy one. I expect I'll get to this one before Stag, though I do want to read Stag eventually.) Tor published Empress in hardcover on the 19th of this very month.

Switching gears entirely, I also have here Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales, Volume 1: Sanctuary, a manga-sized and -styled volume (reading left to right, though) written by Melissa Marr with art by Xian Nu Studio. Marr has written three contemporary fantasy novels -- for young-adult readers, I believe -- about fairies in the modern world, and Wicked Lovely is the first of them. The books look to be from the gritty side of faerie -- like Holly Black's Tithe and sequels -- though I suspect there's a dose of romance-novel in them, to judge from the yearning look Female Figure is giving Male Figure on the cover of this one. This volume is a Tokyopop/HarperCollins co-publication, one of a number that I've noticed lately, and came out at the beginning of this month.

Also from the manga world is the first volume of Yokai Doctor by Yuki Sato, beginning a series about a doctor for yokai -- spirits or demons. This one was published by Del Rey Manga on the 19th, and it's rated for 16+, which means, I imagine, a lot of panty shots.

Publishing in June from DAW is Faery Moon, the third contemporary fantasy in the "Tess Noncoire" series by P.R. Frost. Now, I haven't read any of these, and what I can vaguely remember about what I knew about the first book (Hounding The Moon) are not only hearsay but not positive, so I'll just assume I'm misremembering. These are stories about both convention fandom and real faeries -- and look to be serious rather than silly -- which means they probably wouldn't be too my tastes. But if you really like one or both of those things, try it and let us know your take.

The seventeenth book in the"Graphic Classics" series, all edited by Tom Pomplun and published by his Eureka Productions, is Science Fiction Classics, coming in June. This is the first volume of the series to be printed in full color -- and it's gorgeous color -- and it contains adaptations of Wells's The War of the Worlds and shorter works by Jules Verne, Stanley G. Weinbaum, Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Dunsany, and E.M. Forster. (All safely out of copyright, I note -- but that's the point of the series to begin with.) And the comics creators involved here include Pomplun himself, Roger Langridge, Ellen L. Lindner, and Johnny Ryan (!).

Personal Effects: Dark Art is a "multi-platform transmedia experience" by J.C Hutchins (previously author of a "podcast trilogy") and Jordan Weisman (a designer of alternative reality games -- wait, aren't all games an "alternative reality?") and only looks like one of those creaky, old-fashioned words-on-paper novels. There is a book in here -- with pictures, too, so the consumer doesn't have to be shocked by a trackless expanse of words -- but also a sheaf of other documents (IDs, photos, official documents, and so forth) and references to websites and voicemail messages. So it's a high-tech thriller version of Griffin & Sabine, I suppose. St. Martin's Press is publishing this collection of media objects on June 11th -- many of them are free if you can find them, but the physical object of the book and documents is the central element of whatever-you-call-this-kind-of-thing. (Oh, and there's a quote from a TV producer on the front cover, saying that this is the future of storytelling -- which kinda sucks for him as well as for novelists if it's actually true.)

Next is a collection of manwha (Korean comics) stories by Byun Byung-Jun, called Mijeong. Byung-Jun also is the creator of the graphic novel Run, Bong-Gu, Run!, which I haven't read. Mijeong has a heavily textured art style that doesn't look much like the Asian comics we mostly see over here, and looks to fall more on the literary than the popular side of comics. NBM ComicsLit will release it in July.

And last for this week is a Seth-o-rama from Drawn & Quarterly -- two books of classic comics for kids that he designed, and then a new collection of the Seth strip that recently ran in The New York Times Magazine.

Melvin Monster is a volume in D&Q's ongoing "John Stanley Library" -- which aims to reprint a lot (most? all?) of the work of Stanley, a comedic writer/artist active in comics from the '40s through the '60s. This book reprints the first three issues of the 1965 Melvin Monster comic-book series, about a monster kid. I think that Stanley both wrote and drew the stories here; the biography in the end of this book mentions only Stanley's writing, but no other artist is credited. (The book also has that faux-old-timey look that I loathe in classic comics reprints; the page appears age-browned, as if the reader were actually looking at the old comics issues.) The front matter is very heavily designed -- it's attractive, but it doesn't mesh all that well with the pseudo-naif presentation of the comics stories, or the old-fashioned juvenile virtues of those stories themselves. Melvin Monster was published in April.

Taking a closer look, I'm now not sure Seth had anything to do with Moomin Book Four: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip. On the other hand, it's from D&Q, so it's certainly possible. I know Jansson's Moomin empire is deep and vast, encompassing comic strips, novels, and probably tea-towels, biscuit tins, long underwear, and decorative ropework, but I've never encountered any of it before. This is the fourth (probably of five) volumes reprinting the comic strip, which the Scandinavian Jansson ran in a London newspaper for most of the 1950s, concurrently with her ten novels for children about the same characters. It was published earlier this month.

Last and largest is the book by Seth -- George Sprott (1894-1975), which was also published in May. It's an expanded version of the story from the NYT Magazine -- a quick glance through found a lot of new pages -- but the focus looks to be the same: a series of snapshots from the life of a (fictional) minor Canadian TV personality from mid-century.

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