Monday, June 20, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 6/18

Remember how I said, last week, that I'd be updating that week's (empty) "Reviewing the Mail" post to update it, once I got back from my long trip?

Well, I lied.

Instead, here's two and a half weeks of mail, all in one place, for your delectation. As usual, these are books that arrived in my mailbox, at least somewhat unexpectedly, and which I haven't yet read. Reviews of some or all may yet follow, here or elsewhere -- well, reviews by me, I mean; I expect every single one of these books will be reviewed by someone, somewhere [1] -- but this post, despite its title, is not, precisely speaking, a review.

I guess I now have to read Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century: Volume I: Learning Curve: 1907-1948: The Authorized Biography, a book by William H. Patterson, Jr. that utterly shatters the record for the most colons in a single book title. It's the first of a projected two-volume biography of Heinlein -- whose name I hope you're familiar with, if you know anything at all about science fiction -- that was originally published in hardcover last year by Tor and which is currently a nominee for the Hugo Award as "Best Related Book." (And, since I'm trying to be a conscientious Hugo voter for once this year, I should read it for that reason.) The reviews have been mixed, and Patterson seems to be more of an autodidact and devoted Heinlein fan than a trained historian and biographer -- but it also seems that it's exactly those qualities that got him to do the book in the first place, and got him access to Heinlein's widow, literary agent, and many others. (I should also say that I know Patterson's editor, and had lunch with him last year -- yet another reason I really should read this book.) Learning Curve is being published in trade paperback by Tor -- official publication date is tomorrow, as it happens -- just in time for Hugo voters to take a look at it themselves.

Pyr -- the SF/Fantasy imprint of Prometheus Books, ably headed by Lou Anders -- continually reminds me of my failings, because they publish more books that I want to read than I have time to get to. They're particularly strong in fantasy that tends towards the sword & sorcery side -- a taste I know I share with Lou -- and it's killing me to see several series get going there that I really want to have time for. Case in point this week: Shadow's Lure is the second novel by Jon Sprunk for Pyr, continuing the adventures of assassin Caim, first introduced in Shadow's Son. The first book is sitting on my to-be-read shelves already -- along with books of similar appeal by James Enge and Pierre Fevel -- and now, with the publication of Shadow's Lure last week, I'm now two books behind. Life is just not fair. If you have time to read this series, try not to gloat too much where I can hear you, OK?

Sometime during my epic journey to three accounting conferences on two coasts, I also got the new mass-market paperbacks that long-running independent publisher DAW will be bringing out in July, which are:
  • The Snow Queen's Shadow, fourth in the loose sequence of fairy-tale-inspired novels by Jim C. Hines. (I think each book is a separate story, linked only by approach and style, but I could be wrong.) This one, as you might guess, is Hines's version of Snow White.
  • Diana Rowland begins what I expect will become a new series with My Life as a White Trash Zombie, which has a great Daniel Dos Santos cover with exactly as much attitude as that title needs. I'm not the world's biggest zombie fan, but, if the current craze leads to books like this, it can't be all bad.
  • And the third DAW paperback for July is the reprint of Tracy Hickman's Song of the Dragon, first in the new epic fantasy series "The Annals of Drakis." It's got evil, world-conquering elves; oppressed and nearly extinct humans; and a legendary hero who will arise to change all of that -- which is what an epic fantasy series should have.
When I think of the kinds of stories that comics are best at telling, one of the first things that comes to mind is "biographies of great physicists." And so I'm thrilled to see Feynman, a new graphic biography of the Nobel prize-winner, theorizer of Quantum Electrodynamics, and bongo player, written by ace science-comics writer Jim (Two-Fisted Science) Ottaviani and drawn by not-yet-as-well-known-to-me Leland Myrick. Feynman was one of the great characters of the 20th century, and there are piles of great stories about him -- many of them coming from Feynman's own books, like Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! -- so he's a great choice for a book like this. Feynman will be hitting stores in September -- just in time for fall projects -- from First Second.

Also in comics form is Black Jack, Vol. 14 by Osamu Tezuka, the latest installment of the series about an outlaw doctor and his grandly thrilling cases. (I reviewed volumes One and Two for ComicMix when they were published.) This one was published at the end of May, and it looks just as wonderfully over-the-top as all of the other Black Jack stories.

Steve Englehart had a long and productive career as a writer for comics -- including definitive versions of the Avengers, Batman, and JLA -- but has moved into more pure prose for the current phase of his career, with a series of thrillers about Max August, newly immortal nemesis of the sinister world-spanning cabal called The Necklace. The third book in that series is The Plain Man, which Tor will publish in hardcover tomorrow. (The series began in 1980's The Point Man and was relaunched last year with The Long Man.)

Did you know that Chicks Kick Butt? They most assuredly do, as editors Rachel Caine and Kerrie L. Hughes prove in an anthology of the same name, which collects thirteen -- spin that as either "unlucky" or "a baker's dozen, " as you prefer -- urban fantasy stories by and about women. The ones in the stories kick butt, as required by the title, and I bet more than a few of the authors would, as well, if you pushed them hard enough. The butt-kicking comes in a trade paperback from Tor.

Laurence Yep is a world-renowned, award-winning (two Newbery Honors) writer for younger readers who I'm surprised to realize that I've never read. His new book is City of Ice, the middle book in a trilogy that began with City of Fire and that takes place in a magically alternate world of 1941. Tor's Starscape imprint published City of Ice earlier this month.

And last this time out is a novel I was interested in from several directions: Bright's Passage, the first novel by the great singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. (I wrote about Ritter last year around this time, just before seeing him live for the first of two times that summer -- and just saying that is some kind of recommendation, too.) Ritter's songs have always been great stories, and carefully, intricately written in just the right words, so he's a songwriter who seems like he would be good at a novel. Bright's Passage itself is a historical, set in the aftermath of The Great War and following one veteran's journey with his newborn son. There's also what may be a fantasy element to it, in the angel that veteran thinks he has brought back from the war. Bright's Passage will be published in hardcover in July by The Dial Press, and I hope to review it before that month is over.

[1] Which, I have to tell you, is not necessarily the case for the books I deal with professionally every day. It can be difficult to find the right media ready to get excited about the fourth edition of Budgeting Basics and Beyond. (Which is, though, exactly the book you need for all of your corporate budgeting needs, and only the lamestream media are keeping you from knowing about it.)

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