Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Mild Case of Amnesia

Over at ComicMix, I reviewed Peter Kuper's Stop Forgetting to Remember. Now, you might be saying to yourselves, "Hey! That book is two years old! Is this some kind of re-run?" but the answer is no. It's a brand-new review of a two-year old book, just because.

Movie Log: Waltz With Bashir

When Waltz With Bashir ended, The Wife said -- off-handedly, but with a slight edge -- "that was neither short nor funny." I pointed out that it was short, because it is, but I had to admit that there's nothing at all funny about it.

Ari Folman is an Israeli documentary filmmaker; like nearly all Israelis, he served in the Army when he was young, and Folman's service was as a combat soldier during the 1982 war with Lebanon. For about twenty years after, that didn't matter to him; he'd forgotten entirely about his war. But then -- in the semi-fictionalized timeline of this movie, in 2006 -- a conversation with a fellow ex-soldier started a series of dreams, or nightmares, or hallucinations, in which he and two other young soldiers rise naked out of the dark sea, walk into a Beirut shattered by shells and illuminated by slow-falling flares, getting dressed as they walk, and then run into a wave of wailing women.

So Folman decided to investigate his own war experiences -- to make a documentary about himself -- and he set off to interview various friends and comrades from that era. And, as he did so, his memories of the war came back -- but not the most important thing. He really wanted to know where he was during the Sabra and Shatila massacre (carried out by Lebanese Christian Phalangist forces under the winking eye of the Israeli army).

Waltz With Bashir is a sequence of talking head scenes, intercut with hallucinations and memories of the 1982 war -- but what makes it striking is how those scenes are presented. Folman animated the whole thing, in a crude web-style limited-animation mostly using Adobe, and gave it a palette that manages to be both washed-out (all grays and blacks) and high contrast (all yellows and blacks). In fact, the striking visuals almost manage to cover the fact that Waltz With Bashir has no real through-line and stops rather than ends, borrowing gravitas from old news footage -- shown as live action, unlike the rest of the movie -- before quietly stepping off-stage.

The title doesn't mean much, thematically -- it's from an interesting scene, near the end, but it doesn't refer to Folmer or his search...or the movie, or the massacre, or anything of real importance to the movie. It's the high point of someone else's life, I guess.

So Waltz With Bashir is an amazing-looking movie that doesn't quite live up to its visuals; Folmer never tells us what he learned about his possible complicity in the massacre, and perhaps he will never know. It's definitely worth seeing, but it tries to bury the fact that it doesn't answer its own question, which is bad form for any movie.

Listening to: State Shirt - Up Up Up Up Up
via FoxyTunes

Monday, June 29, 2009

All of the Awards I've Neglected to Mention

It's running into Awards Season, over on the ol' SFF Homestead, and I've been remiss in posting about them here. So I'll now round up all of the ones I can find, to have them in one convenient location, because I love my readers so much. (Or because it's getting near the end of a month, and I'm so obsessed with useless statistics that I'm trying to inflate my post count -- you guess which.)

John W. Campbell Memorial Award: (tie)
Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award: "The Ray Gun: A Love Story" by James Alan Gardner (Asimov's 2/08)

2009 Locus Awards:
David Gemmell Legend Award: Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (Gollancz)

2008 Bram Stoker Awards:
2009 Ditmar Awards:
Novel: Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin; Knopf)
(And I'll just link to the rest.)

Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award:
Singularity's Ring by Paul Melko (Tor)

And did I ever mention the Clarke Award? (Was I slacking as far back as April?) Oh, what the heck, let's throw it on the pile:

Arthur C. Clarke Award:
Song of Time by Ian R. MacLeod (PS Publishing)

Congratulations to all of the winners, and, to all of the runners-up: you were robbed, mate!
(All via Locus Online, where you would have gotten this news much, much sooner.)

Listening to: A Camp - Love Has Left the Room
via FoxyTunes

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/27

This is a listing, with some comments, of books that arrived in La Casa Hornswoggler last week, primarily those mailed to me for review. I know I won't manage to review everything, so I do these lists to give a little attention to all of the books. And, as always, I appreciate comments from anyone who knows more about any of these books than I do.

And I'll start this week with a novel I probably should have read by now, but haven't -- Emma Bull's Bone Dance. It was originally published in early 1991, which means it got into the Science Fiction Book Club just a month or two before I did, and so I never read it professionally. It's subtitled -- at least in this new trade paperback edition from Orb -- "A Fantasy for Technophiles," and it was one of the earliest works to mix the then-just-bubbling-up rush of urban/contemporary fantasy with a neo-cyberpunky near-future. As the back cover notes, it was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards, which is not peanuts. And this new edition will be officially available on July 7th.

On the other end of at least one spectrum from Bone Dance is my next book, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, a novelization of the upcoming movie by Max Allan Collins. (To clarify: the movie isn't by Collins -- the writing credits alone list five people -- but the novel is.) As I've said before, I really don't know who buys the novels of big summer movies these days, since it'll be on BitTorrent in two hours and home video in two months. But somebody must be buying them, because here's another one. It's a mass-market paperback from Del Rey, and should be available wherever movie tie-in books are sold right about now.

I've also seen the first four issues of a self-published comic called Broken Lines by Tom Pappalardo, which is partly in comics panels and partly in stretches of illustrated prose. I won't try to characterize it further until I actually read it; this looks weird and completely idiosyncratic. These four issues are all currently available; the website for the series is here.

And then I have a few manga from Yen Press, coming in July and August:
  • Cat Paradise, Vol. 1 (July), by Yuji Iwahara, about a girl who has just arrived at a fancy private school to learn that she and her talking cat will be battling a nasty cat-demon as part of a generations-old curse. (For those of you playing Manga Bingo at home, be sure to mark the "private highschool," "ancient curse," "talking cat," and "spunky heroine" boxes.)
  • Tena on S-String, Vol. 1 (August) by Sesuna Mikabe, which is less likely to help your bingo card: a young music teacher was hit by a car, and comes out of his coma able to hear music everywhere and see notes surrounding people. So he's then accosted by "a haughty young girl decked out in frilly Gothic Lolita clothing," who demands that he serve her -- though she will, eventually explain the whole seeing-music thing. And I just bet that they go on to help various people with the troubles in their lives, as expressed in their musical accompaniment, like some odd Rock Band/A-Team mash-up.
  • Dystopia: Love at Last Sight (August) is that most unusual of manga: a stand-alone single story. This one is from Judith Park, who I believe is an ethnically Korean creator who lives in Germany and does comics in the Japanese style. This one has an awfully doom-laden title for a teenage love story -- the main character is a seventeen-year-old girl whose best friend is in love with her older brother. I expect there will be drama, but I'm not sure how it will add up to "Dystopia."
  • Cirque Du Freak, Vol. 2 (July) continues the adaptation of the first novel in the young-adult series by "Darren Shan" (the name of the main character). As with the first volume -- which I reviewed -- the story is credited to Shan and the art is by Takahiro Arai. And the subtitle of this volume, "The Vampire's Assistant," might give you a clue as to what young Master Shan is up to in this series.
  • One Thousand and One Nights, Vol. 8 (August) by Han SeungHee and Jeon JinSeok is...a series I've never read, and don't know much about. It has a vaguely Arabian Night feel and some manner of baroque love triangle in it; I know that much.
And then there's Wicked City: Black Guard, the first in a ten-volume supernatural horror series by Hideyuki Kikuchi, source of a classic anime movie and of an American remake currently in pre-production. (Kikuchi is also the creator behind Vampire Hunter D.) From a quick glance through, it looks like there's a lot of sex and violence in it -- and violent sex, and sexy violence, plus supernatural transformations and probably the inevitably naughty tentacles -- for those of you who like such things. It's coming from Tor/Seven Seas as a trade paperback in October.

I also have a neat-looking picture book here (you know, for kids!) called Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem. It was sent to me because the author, Mac Barnett, has connections to the McSweeney's empire, and they'd heard of me when I reviewed Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends (an absolutely gorgeous book, by the way, one well worth owning even if it didn't have a bunch of thoughtful essays inside it). But I'm also happy to see Billy Twitters because the art is by Adam Rex, writer-illustrator of the poetic picture book Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich and the young-readers novel The True Meaning of Smekday. And this book? Well, let me quote the flap copy -- "A blue whale is longer than thirty dogs lined up nose to tail. It's tongue weighs as much as four hundred cats. Blue whalkes make terrible, horrible pets. Just ask Billy Twitters." It was published this month by Hyperion, and it looks like a lot of fun.

In March, I saw the first two books of Mark Chadbourn's "Age of Misrule" trilogy -- World's End and Darkest Hour -- and now I've just seen the third book, Always Forever. All three have really snazzy John Picacio covers, and they've been attracting fans of contemporary dark fantasy in the UK for the last decade, so why should this side of the Atlantic be immune to their appeal? Always Forever will be published in trade paperback by Pyr on July 7th.

And last for this week is a blad -- remember blads? they're pre-publication book-shaped pamphlets, eight or sixteen pages long, with sample pages from an upcoming book -- of The Book of Genesis, as adapted and illustrated by R. Crumb. The actual book will be published in October as a hardcover by W.W. Norton, and I imagine you'll all hear a lot more about it then. But, in the meantime, a few of us publishing insiders have the cover and ten random story pages to look at, so you must grovel before us.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Incoming Books: Comic Shop(s) Trip

I hadn't been to my usual comics shop in close to two months, so I decided to hit it on Friday -- but, first, I checked out their competition -- Jim Hanley's Universe, on 33rd Street across from the Empire State Building. (I think Hanley's might be a better store for me in a perfect world -- it's organized as aisles of shelves, with books and comics mostly in alphabetical order by title, instead of having The Wall of new comics and everything else being secondary -- but it took me a while to figure out how it was organized or to find anything. It's a store desperately crying out for some signage.)

I went to Hanley's because there were a number of things -- three of which are listed below -- that I'd neglected to pre-order at my usual shop (Midtown Comics) and which I never ever saw there. So I finally got tired of waiting, and bought them at Hanley's. As life must always be ironic, though, there were a couple of books that I saw at Hanley's -- notably The Fart Party, Vol. 2, second collection of Julia Wertz's very funny webcomics -- that I didn't buy there, because I decided to let Midtown have my business on those...and then they weren't there, either. (You just can't win.)

Anyway, I went to two comic book stores within an hour, buying a pile of stuff for my sons and these things for myself:

Scott Pilgrim Versus The World, the second in the series by Bryan Lee O'Malley -- I liked the first one, so I figure I might as well catch up with it.

The Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 by Charles Schulz, of course. How could I quit now? This is one of the ones I've been waiting to find at Midtown -- I've even asked about it once or twice, but I'd never actually seen it in person.

Little Nothings, Vol. 2: The Prisoner Syndrome by Lewis Trondheim. Again, I really liked the first volume of this series -- this collects diary comics by the French comics creator, originally published (in French) on the web and then collected (in France) and then eventually translated for us monoglots. Again, I never saw it at Midtown despite looking a couple of times.

I Killed Adolf Hitler by Jason -- after reading Low Moon in the New York Times Magazine and The Last Musketeer during Eisner deliberations, I thought it was about time I read some more Jason. And this is supposed to be his best book, so why not? I suspect I'm going to have trouble swallowing the background -- it's a world in which murder-for-hire is as common and legal as plumbing-for-hire, which strikes me as something that only really works in satire -- but I like Jason's deadpan wit, so I'll give him an advance on suspension of disbelief.

First Time written by Sibylline with art by various folks -- arty European comics about sex. I'm going to pretend that I'm a massive Dave McKean completest, and so I bought this for his story at the end of this book. Everyone else in the book seems to be identified only by first names, so either they want to distance themselves from this work or Euro-cartooning is utterly overrun by creators (like Jason, above) who have dispensed with the need for a surname. I wonder which it is?

Listening to: Rilo Kiley - Accidental Deth
via FoxyTunes