Monday, August 16, 2010

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 8/14

Another week of mail has passed, and a small stack of books has accumulated next to my computer -- which means it's time for me to tell you about those books once again. I usually say that I haven't read any of the books I've just received, but that's not true in this case -- there's a paperback reprint of a book I saw in hardcover. But, in general, the rule still holds: things that showed up on my doorstep three days ago have not had time to be actually read, so I'm relying on the book itself to tell me what it id, and who might like it.

First this week is that exception, Stitches by David Small. It's a memoir in graphic novel form, by a writer/artist best known before this for picture books for young readers. (And, by "best known," I mean that he's a Caldecott Award winner, which is the Oscar-equivalent in that end of publishing.) I reviewed Stitches last year for ComicMix, and liked its power, though I didn't think Small pulled all of his scenes and elements together into a single story. Norton is publishing Stitches -- which itself was a finalist for the National Book Award, a major honor for any book, let alone a graphic novel -- on September 13th.

An Artificial Night is the third book by Seannan McGuire in a contemporary fantasy series about the changeling October Daye -- whom I still think has excellent grounds for a suit for cruelty against whoever named her that -- who, this time out, is investigating the abductions of a series of fae and mortal children. (She thinks someone named Blind Michael is responsible, which may mean something to readers of the previous two books.) Artificial Night is a September mass-market paperback from DAW.

Also from DAW as a September mass market is Violette Malan's The Storm Witch, the fourth of the "Novels of Dhulyn and Parno," which was originally published in hardcover last year. The two series characters are mercenaries in what looks to be the usual medievaloid secondary world -- so this book probably counts as sword & sorcery, and on those grounds I approve of it highly.

Another reprint from DAW in September is Mickey Zucker Reichert's Flight of the Renshai. As I recall, the Renshai books were two trilogies -- from a decade or so ago -- and this book is a recent addition to that generally epic fantasy series.

The latest boom in publishing -- which is quite welcome, since the old conventional wisdom was that Americans wouldn't read a translated book, or one by an author with a "funny" name -- is of Scandinavian novels, led (of course) by the Stieg Larsson trilogy about a girl who did something-or-other. Another piece of that wave is John Ajvide Lindqvist, who is Swedish (like Larsson), and one of whose books was made into the acclaimed film Let The Right One In a couple of years ago. That movie is being remade by Hollywood -- as all successful cultural products must be, to prove that Americans are economically dominant and artistically bankrupt -- under the title Let Me In, so of course Lindqvist's novel is coming out under that title for the US audience. (It has been previously published as Let the Right One In in English translation; the Swedish title seems to directly translate to that -- says the guy who doesn't read Swedish.) What I have in my hands is about the most tasteful movie tie-in edition I've ever seen, with a calmly white cover on a chunky trade paperback. The story of the novel, presumably, is much like the two movies, with a pre-teen boy bullied horribly at school meeting a new friend in the girl who lives next door -- who is not at all what she seems to be. This edition of Let Me In is coming from St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books on the first of September.

I was briefly confused by the back-cover copy of The Third Bear -- which declares this to be the "much-anticipated first collection of critically-acclaimed author Jeff VanderMeer's surreal and absurdist short fiction" -- until I realized "surreal and absurdist" was meant as a specific descriptor for this volume rather than a general one for VanderMeer's work. (I was sure he'd had other collections before this.) Anyway: it's a new collection of short stories by VanderMeer, whose last novel, Finch, was the book most reviewers of China Mieville's The City & The City last year should have been writing about. (Mieville's book was good, don't get me wrong, but Finch did all of the important things City did twice over, backwards and more elegantly, and was more authentically noir, as well. See my reviews of both for proof, if you trust my judgment.) Third Bear is a trade paperback from Tachyon Publications, already available.

And last for this week is another Tachyon book, The Secret History of Fantasy, edited by the inimitable Peter S. Beagle. It's a new anthology of reprinted stories, primarily from the last generation or so -- there's a T.C. Boyle piece from 1977, and another trio from the '80s, but it's mostly from the last two decades. Beagle has assembled these nineeten stories as part of the ongoing genre/literary argument, as far as I can tell -- this is his argument that fantasy can be as good, as subtle, and as powerful as any other type of story. (And anyone reading this blog probably already agrees with that proposition.) Other authors with work here include folks from our side of the divide -- Jeffrey Ford, Stephen King, Michael Swanwick, Neil Gaiman, Octavia Butler -- and some better known to the literary types -- Yann Martel, Seven Millhauser, Aimee Bender, and our changeling Jonathan Lethem. Nearly four hundred pages of great stories chosen by Peter Beagle -- how can you go wrong?

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