Monday, December 26, 2011

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 12/24

I'm writing this the evening of Christmas day, after a hectic few days of last-minute shopping and basement renovations and holiday frivolity, and I'm happy to report that this is the first "Reviewing the Mail" post to emanate from my deeply traditional blogger's basement since late August and the flooding from hurricane Irene. I'm not entirely moved in down here -- I still have books stacked in heaps across three rooms upstairs, waiting for a trip tomorrow to buy new bookcases -- but it's definitely getting there.

However, even in the midst of turmoil and holiday fervor, the mail goes on. And so I have four books to tell you about this week, all of which reached my mailbox over the past few days, which may be just what you're looking for. I usually point out here that I haven't read any of these books yet, but my lead-off title this week is a reprint of one of the best fantasy books of this year (or the past decade, actually), so I'll instead just dive into...

Among Others by Jo Walton, a luminous, deeply felt and masterfully written story of growing up odd and SFnally oriented, combined with a deep but understated fantasy story of perception and possibility. I reviewed it back in the spring, when it was published in hardcover, and I said then "Among Others is a great fantasy novel, a great novel, a great love letter to the power of books and science fiction, and a great picture of a young person so many of us were like, in our own ways." If you read SF and fantasy -- if you've ever read SF and fantasy, or were ever a socially awkward teenager who preferred books to people -- Among Others will be like coming home. The trade paperback edition is coming out on January 3rd from Tor, and I can't recommend it more highly.

Faith Erin Hicks's graphic novel Friends with Boys is coming as a book from First Second in March of 2012 -- but First Second has also been serializing that graphic novel on line, for absolutely free. Hicks has previously created the graphic novels Zombies Calling (my review) and The War at Ellsmere (my short review is buried in the middle of this epic monthly roundup, since I read it during my Eisner-award-judging weekend), and was the artist on Brain Camp (my review), written by other hands. Friends is a teen-friendly story of one girl -- who has certain similarities with her creator -- dropped into a public high school after a childhood spent being homeschooled with her three rambunctious older brothers, and finding her way there. Like Hicks's other books, there's also an element of the supernatural. It looks like a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to reading it all at once -- I've been avoiding the webcomic version because I hate reading long comics stories a page at a time, and because I knew the book was coming.

Mike Resnick's new novel is the second in his "Weird West Tales," a steampunky series about Doc Holliday in the 1880s. Following up on The Buntline Special, this one is The Doctor and the Kid, which finds Doc trying to provide for this continued care in a TB clinic by doing a few quick bounty hunter jobs -- and the biggest bounty out there is for a hotshot named Billy the Kid. Pyr published Doctor and the Kid as a trade paperback earlier in December; you should be able to get it from anyone who sells books by this point.

And last this time around is the most recent Man Booker winner, Julian Barnes's short novel The Sense of an Ending, which was published in hardcover by Knopf in October. It's not the kind of thing people come to me for a review of, but Barnes is a fabulous writer -- and several of his books, such as A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, England, England, Staring at the Sun, and Flaubert's Parrot, either have fantastic elements or otherwise are the kind of books that readers of imaginative literature are likely to love. (I've reviewed both his book of stories The Lemon Table and his meditation on death Nothing To Be Frightened Of here.) So I hope to read this quickly, and then inflict my thoughts on you folks -- and I do recommend Barnes in general, for those of you who can stand fine writing arrayed in interesting ways.

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