Monday, January 31, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/29

Every week, I get mail. And every week, I write about the part of that mail comprised of books here, bright and early on a Monday morning for your delight or edification. I haven't read any of these books yet -- I used to be a really fast reader, before kids and life and the Internet slowed me down, I keep insisting -- but I can tell you Certain Things about them, most of which should actually be true. It's an odd mix this week, so let me dive right into it:

The book that immediately confused me this week was Danielle Trussoni's Angelology, because I first thought of those oversized, heavily-constructed non-fiction books for older kids on various interesting subjects (Dragonology, Wizardology, Vampireology, and so on). Trussoni's Angelology has nothing to do with those; it's a post-Da Vinci Code thriller filled with nuns, secret history, and "the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim." [1] The New York Times Book Review named it a Notable Book of last year, which I think is a sign that it's somewhat more plausible and better-written than Da Vinci Code, closer to "smart" on the grand thriller axis that ranges all the way to "stoopid." Penguin's spiffy trade paperback edition of Angelology, complete with a reading group guide, hits stores on February 22nd, so you may want to grab it quickly before you start hearing about it from your Aunt Matilda and that overly-friendly cashier down at the Wal-Mart.

Then there's the new anthology from Gordon Van Gelder [2], Welcome to the Greenhouse, which has sixteen new SF stories about climate change. It's coming from the new, progressively-minded publishing house OR Books on February 21st, also as a trade paperback, with a cover by Eric Drooker. It has stories from a great line-up of names -- Brian W. Aldiss, Matthew Hughes, Gregory Benford, Paul Di Filippo, Bruce Sterling, Alan Dean Foster, and more -- which gives me the faintest of hopes that it's more than just a litany of woe and despair about the inevitable crapsack world our children will inherit. SF used to be positive most of the time, so I'm hoping this book is actually a signpost back to that -- it costs nothing to hope.

The cover for Neve Maslakovic's Regarding Ducks and Universes -- at least on the bound galley I have in front of me -- has one very large, and quite happy, bath-tub duck in front of the partially visible planet Earth, as seen from space. The cover online -- as seen to your immediate right -- is notably different, adding an adorable urchin and a bridge (presumably not for sale). I have an aversion to urchins, so I'm going to continue under the assumption that the cover I have will be the real one. Ducks and Universes will be published on February 22nd by AmazonEncore, a newish publishing arm of the gigantic webstore of the similar name, which means it's vanishingly unlikely that you'll ever see this book for sale in a physical bookstore anywhere. Ducks and Universes is, I believe, an existential comedy about a young San Francisco writer living in a world that has a double: he lives in Universe A, but there's a Universe B, where things are slightly different, easily accessible via tollbooth. (But no more universes than that, a specific event in early 1986 split the two, and presumably they were identical up to that point.) Our hero travels to Universe B, first to make sure his alter hasn't already written the novel he wants to write, but then sticks around for reasons that eventually form the plot of this book.

The Desert of Souls is the first novel from Black Gate editor and writer Howard Andrew Jones, a historical fantasy set in eighth century Baghdad and featuring his popular characters Dabir and Asim. St. Martin's Press is publishing it this month in hardcover.

And last -- and furthest from the realms of books I could give you anything like an educated opinion on -- is Extreme Perspective! For Artists by David Chelsea, the follow-up to his well-received 1997 book Perspective! For Comic Book Artists. It's a book for artists, particularly for comics artists, done as a comic -- a full 170-page graphic novel about drawing, space, and perspective. As in the previous book, a version of Chelsea himself explains the mysteries of perspective to his compatriot "Mugg," through lots of detailed Chelsea drawings. I personally wish that Chelsea would do graphic novels for a non-art-student audience -- he's got a neat, precisely-detailed style, and his old book David Chelsea in Love was a lot of fun -- but I have to admit that this book and its predecessor are probably more useful than all of the more artsy graphic novels published in the thirteen-year span between them. If you want to draw better, this looks like a great resource. Watson-Guptill are publishing it in trade paperback -- including a DVD of perspective grids -- in February.

[1] No, not those Nephilim. Those are the ones out in the fields. These are house Nephilim, I suppose.

[2] Who, in his day job, runs The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

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