Monday, March 15, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 3/13

Regular readers of this feature -- both of you -- will remember that the last two weeks were notably light on mail, allowing Yr. Humble Correspondent to keep nearly even with the flood. [1] This week sees that trend reverse, with a good fourteen books arriving in the last seven days. I don't complain either way -- it would be incredibly churlish to do so -- but once again my attention is called to the gap between what we want to do (read everything, in this case) and what we're actually physically capable of doing (which is much less).

Before I list those fourteen books, let me quickly reiterate what this post is: I haven't read any of these books yet, though I have watched them stack up next to my desk as the week has gone on, and poked through some of them a bit. So the following post should not be taken as any kind of a serious review; I'm just noting that I've seen these books, and calling out whatever features of them seem most interesting (for good or bad; I try to focus on the positive, but I'm ill-equipped to do so) to me at the moment.

First up is the new Carrie Vaughn novel, Kitty Goes to War, the eighth book in one of the best urban fantasy series out there. (And that leads me to realize that I've gotten behind -- I haven't read Kitty Raises Hell and I don't even have a copy of Kitty's House of Horrors.) Anyway, this is an excellent series, much more strongly grounded in the real world (including that pesky rule-of-law thing that fantasy series usually like to romp all over) than most, and it's shown no signs of munchkinization, either. Kitty Goes To War will be published in mass-market -- I also can't believe that this series is still published in original mass! this is a steal! -- by Grand Central Publishing, the house that makes the trains run on time, this July.

On the Odd Hours is a graphic novel by Eric Liberge, published by NBM in a co-publishing arrangement with the Louvre Museum. (Yes, that Louvre.) It's the third book from that publishing arrangement, after Nicolas De Crecy's Glacial Period and Museum Vaults by Marc-Antoine Mathieu, though the three books are otherwise completely separate. (I reviewed Museum Vaults a couple of years ago, and briefly discussed the series then.) Like the other two books, Odd Hours is set in the Louvre, and is about art as much as it is a work of art in its own right. NBM will publish it in April as a paperback with (of course) French flaps.

William Peter Blatty is one of those working writers -- he's published about a dozen novels and scripts about as many screenplays over the past fifty years -- whose name is remembered primarily for one work. In Blatty's case, that's The Exorcist: he wrote the novel in 1971 and the screenplay for the subsequent movie. And since then, he's mostly worked in similar areas, with stories of Catholic priests and demons, together or separately. His new novel is Dimiter, which does not obviously contain any demons, but is a religious thriller (and so might have a Catholic priest lurking in it somewhere), set in Albania and Jerusalem in the 1970s. Blatty has been working on this book, on and off, since a 1974 research trip to Israel, but only recently woke up one day with the ending finally in his mind. Dimiter will be published by Forge tomorrow, so all you long-suffering Blatty fans can run right out immediately and get it.

Next I have a bunch of manga volumes, all of them from Tokyopop and all of them publishing in April:

The Japanese do like their niche series, which explains the appeal of Yoshitsugu Katagiri's Red Hot Chili Samurai, Vol. 1, whose first volume I have right here. I just have to quote the back cover copy here: "Samurai Kokaku Sento likes peppers. Scratch that -- he loves them. The only thing Kokaku likes better than eating a hot chili pepper is helping his father kick the butts of bad guys! With the help of his bespectacled friend Ento and cutie-pie girl of action Ran, Kokaku will take a bit out of crime -- but not before biting a spicy pepper first." For those of you scoring your Manga Bingo cards at home, that's Culinary, Samurai, a gimmie for Shonen, Goofy Sidekick, and Moe. Please see Mrs. Nakamura at the cage to claim your prizes.

I haven't yet read the first volume of Kou Matsuzuki's Happy Cafe -- though I can see it from where I'm sitting -- but the second one is already here. This is on the shojo side, with an ordinary girl working in a pastry shop with the requisite two exceptionally tall and thin cute boys (one dark-haired and one light, since that's the way they always come from the factory) and having hijinks that are rather more sweet than wacky ensue.

Speaking of two boys, from the Blu imprint (for yaoi, boy-boy love stories created by and for women), there's Love Knot by Lemon Ichijo, in which two old school friends meet again as adults and have huge relationship drama, plus a little tasteful sex.

I also have here Animal Academy, Vol. 4 by Moyamu Fujino, which is a youth-rated series about a school for shape-shifters. I haven't seen the earlier volumes, but this seems to be filled with a lot of very large-eyed children looking and talking intently at each other rather than fighting in their animal forms, so I'm going to guess that it's on the shojo side.

And here's another book where I haven't gotten to the first volume yet: Mikansei No. 1, Vol. 2 by Majiko! (The bang is part of the creator's name.) If I recall from the first book, this is the story of a teen girl from the future who wants to become a famous singer in our time -- and this book seems to focus on band drama. (I do wonder if including "No. 1" in the title of a series that will have multiple volumes is a good idea, but clearly the original Japanese publisher doesn't mind a little confusion.)

I also have Maid Sama! Vol. 4 by Hiro Fujiwara, the latest in the wacky series about a girl who's a tough student council president by day and a cute maid-cafe waitress by night. (This is a series for girls, so the psychosexual implications alone are fascinating.)

Tokyopop is also publishing a giant complete collection of Mizuho Kusanagi's Mugen Spiral, previously released as two separate volumes. I believe it's a romance between a modern female mystic and an ancient demon (resident in the body of a cat), but I'm reading heavily between the lines to get that, and I may be wildly misinterpreting.

The universe of .hack -- a comic I haven't read and have only the vaguest familiarity with -- continues to proliferate with .hack//4Koma, a collection of 4-panel joke strips with the characters from the main story. It will presumably be of most interest to fans of the series itself, though there is a tiny sliver of cartoony fan-service on the cover, for whatever bizarre reason.

Thus concludes the Tokyopop offerings for April. (Well, their offerings that I saw; it's quite likely that they're publishing other stuff, too.) And so I'll turn back to the SFF shelves, with three new mass-market paperbacks from DAW, the publishing house that sounds like a manga sound effect:

Gini Koch's debut novel will be a strong contender for the cutesiest title of April -- it's begins a SF series (with a very urban-fantasy-sounding premise) under the name Touched by an Alien. Speaking of cutesy, Koch's heroine is Katherine "Kitty" Katt. (Ahem.) She fights alien monsters to save all of mankind -- naturally. It will be published by DAW in mass market.

DAW's obligatory anthology of the month for April is Cthulhu's Reign, edited by noted Lovecraftian Darrell Schweitzer and featuring new stories by such fiendish luminaries as Jay Lake, Ian Watson, Gregory Frost, Brian Stableford, Laird Barron, Richard A. Lupoff and Schweitzer himself.

And last for this week is another mass-market from DAW, a reprint of John Marco's novel Starfinder, the first book in his "Skylords" series. It's set in a steampunky-sounding world, full of flying machines called dragonflies (and the dirigible on the cover, presumably), but the tag on the spine says "Fantasy," which I suppose will help to explain the spectacles-wearing dragonoid creature also on that cover.

[1] Given what's been going on today in my neighborhood -- see this eye-opening chart for the gory details of waterflow three blocks from my house -- perhaps I should not have used that word. But I believe every graveyard requires a jaunty whistle when one walks past it.
Listening to: Bess Rogers - Everything To Lose
via FoxyTunes

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