Monday, April 11, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/9

As always, here's the listing of what arrived in my mailbox for review last week. Also as always, I haven't read any of it yet -- in fact, these books have piled up next to my computer with only a slight glance so far, so whatever I'm going to tell you about them will be based on my prior knowledge and whatever I can gleam from the packaging. I will tell you one thing: I'll never stoop to retyping someone else's blurb copy...mostly because I see, and do, far too much of that at work already.

First is the book with the best title: Shigeru Mizuki's Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, a fictionalized memoir in comics form originally published in Japan in 1973 by one of the best-known and most acclaimed creators of manga. (And the fact that there are still major manga creators essentially unknown to English monoglots speaks to the immense depth and breadth of that universe in Japan -- it's like moviemaking; if making a movie was cheap and easy enough for nearly anyone to do it.) Onward is the story of a portion of the Japanese Imperial Army during the late years of WWII, centered on the dictate from the high command that their soldiers must die -- and die well -- if they can't win, and based closely on Mizuki's own wartime experiences. It's being published this month by Drawn & Quarterly, one of North America's greatest comics publisher and a house with a strong line in translated gekiga (manga stories for adults, more or less), from Yoshihiro Tatsumi to Susumu Katsumata.

DAW is publishing three mass-market books in May, and those are:
  • Night Mares in the Hamptons, second in a contemporary fantasy series by Celia Jerome, about a graphic novelist (Wilow Tate) who is one of the rare magical Visualizers, able to bring creatures from Faerie into the real world by drawing them. This time out, she needs to save her small Hamptons town from the havoc caused by three rampaging magical mares, with the help of a world-famous horse-whisperer (who, in best urban fantasy fashion, seems to be a hunky cowboy type).
  • Spellcast, a novel by Barbara Ashford that combines summer stock theater and fantasy -- in a way the back-cover copy is reticent about specifically describing -- in a small Vermont town.
  • Well of Sorrows, by Benjamin Tate, was originally published in hardcover last year, and is an epic-fantasy take on the colonization of America, with young Colin Harten coming to a new continent with his family to escape wars among the nobles of Andover, and finding what seem to be dwarves (dwarren) and elves (Alvitshai) there, along with his own inevitable magical destiny.
Always the Vampire is the third in a light-hearted paranormal romance series about vampire princess Francesca Marinelli (described as "Gidget-esque" in a description of the first book, La Vida Vampire) by Nancy Haddock. This time around, Francesca is preparing to be the maid of honor at her best friend's wedding when a magical construct called the Void (not the most original name, I suppose) puts the kibosh on her boyfriend (whose name is Saber, which is, I have to admit, pretty darn original), and she has to save everyone once again. It's a trade paperback from Berkley, coming May 3rd.

I was going to say that I used to know something about this next book, but then I unremembered it. But that would have been a really lousy joke, and dumb as well. So I won't. Peter Orullian's The Unremembered is the first novel -- and the first in a big epic fantasy series -- from a guy with a really striking author's photo and the usual odd resume (marketing for Xbox, touring internationally as a vocalist), and it's being published in hardcover from Tor tomorrow. Orullian has been blogging for Suvudu ahead of the publication of this book -- just the way that book marketers like me are always urging new authors to do, to get out and "get their names known" -- and also has an impressive website. My epic-fantasy taste buds are still regenerating from being burned out over sixteen years at the SFBC, but Unremembered looks like a solid, old-school-style epic, with a forgotten danger to the entire world held back by a crumbling magical barrier and a young man with a destiny he doesn't realize.

S.M. Stirling is in the middle of a straight-up urban fantasy trilogy -- not the first thing I ever would have expected from a usually much more SFnal writer -- with The Council of Shadows, the sequel to A Taint in the Blood. I didn't read the first one, but our hero is Adrian Breze, once of the nicer members of the secret race of Shadowspawn (shapeshifting predators who are probably somewhere in the werewolf sector of UF, not anything to do with Andrew Offutt's swords & sorcery hero), and this time out he's also battling a plot to destroy/conquer/enslave all of mankind. (Fantasy, as always, is full of megalomaniacs.) Council is coming from Roc in hardcover on May 3rd.

The Worst Thing is a thriller from Aaron Elkins -- author of the Edgar Award-winning Gideon Oliver series of mysteries, plus a number of other books -- about a man who was abducted as a small boy, and now, in mid-adulthood, spends his life designing hostage-negotiation programs. Since the book is named The Worst Thing, we can all guess what happens to him: he gets held hostage again, while on a business trip to Iceland, and has to survive his own reactions as well as his captors. Worst Thing is a Berkley Prime Crime hardcover, coming May 3rd.

And last this week is another manga -- which came shrink-wrapped, indicating that it's not at all for younger readers -- Lychee Light Club from Usamaru Furuya. (It's also based on a play by a group called Tokyo Grand Guignol, which may give you another indication of the contents.) It's another story about a club of Japanese students, but this Light Club -- a secret brotherhood that meets in an abandoned factory in their dark, dirty industrial town -- is building a robot fueled by lychee fruits to further their goals of never having to grow up or have contact with girls. Vertical will publish Lychee on April 26th.

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