Monday, November 30, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/28

It's very likely you already know this, but I haven't read any of these books yet. They were sent to me because I review books (here, and, increasingly, other places), but there's a very good chance that I won't end up reading them all. So I do posts like this one to give books a little attention as they come in.

This was a short week due to the holiday, so the list of books is similarly short -- and I'll get right to them.

Out in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I would have a long plane flight back home with only John Kelly's The Great Mortality to keep me busy. Kelly's book is an excellent history of the Black Death, but I suspected I might not want to spent six or seven hours straight reading about buboes and mass death. So I went to a bookstore near my hotel, looking for something lighter. I eventually bought Josh Lieb's I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President, but I spent some time poking through the Jasper Fforde section, wondering if he'd had a new book since First Among Sequels (back in the summer of 2007, and one of the last books I read for the club before I was given my liberty).

I didn't see anything new by Fforde then, but there is a new Fforde book in the offing -- Shades of Grey, which I am holding in my hands right now and which Viking will have rolled out to bookstores by December 29th. Shades of Grey isn't related to either of Fforde's two previous series -- the Nursery Crime books or Thursday Next's adventures -- but is set in an equally Ffordean world, one where the world is ruled by the Colortocracy and one's position is determined by the colors one can see. Like his other books, it sounds weird but not too weird -- a kind of non-genre fantasy that appeals both to people who insist they never read fantasy (though they do read Stephenie Meyer, and liked the Harry Potter books, and Stephen King when he's not too gory, and and and) and those of us able to call a spade a spade.

I am cynical and jaded on the subject of epic fantasy, so I'm probably not to be trusted on Alexey Pehov's Shadow Prowler, the first novel to be translated into English by a major contemporary Russian genre writer. The back cover contains these words, more or less in this order: the Nameless One, the Desolate Lands, the great city of Avendoom, Shadow Harold (master thief), a magic Horn, the Kingdom of Siala, elfin princess Miralissa. As with the Goldberg Variations, it's not the notes that matter, but the feeling and virtuosity that a writer can bring to the material. I'm willing to accept the postulate that Pehov is a Glenn Gould of epic fantasy, pending further investigation, and so I hope you will also look forward to this book being published by Tor in hardcover this coming February.

And those two were the only books that arrived in the mail last week. I also saw a catalog -- from Fantagraphics, covering the Spring and Summer of 2010 -- and one comic book:

The first issue of The Talisman is actually the second issue; it followed a zero-numbered issue that came out a month or so ago. (Yes, we all agree that zero-numbered issues are really dumb, but comics publishers, having discovered the concept, can't seem to wean themselves from it.) The comic adapts the novel of the same name by Stephen King and Peter Straub; the adaptation is scripted by Robin Furth, drawn by Tony Shasteen, and published by Del Rey. (This is a rare example of a traditional bookstore publisher jumping into the modern comics direct market, and I'm surprised that hasn't gotten more attention from the usual comic-shops-are-God apologists.) There's no date on the cover, but I'd presume that this became available in November, and probably would have had "December" on the cover if it had ever been intended to hit newsstands, which of course it wasn't.

And that's what I saw last week; I expect that this coming week -- with a cohort of publicists fortified by turkey, stuffing and pie returning to their offices today to confront masses of books that need to be sent out -- will be busier for my mailbox. Either way, there will be another "Reviewing the Mail" post at this same time next week to sort through whatever does arrive.

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