Monday, April 23, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/21

This is my first "Reviewing the Mail" post to be composed in Blogger's hideous new template -- it's as Google-riffic as anything you can imagine, all understated white space and unobtrusive everything like a high-tech '70s Swedish kitchen -- which means I may forget to tag or schedule this, since those elements, like nearly everything else, are lurking quietly in a corner.

(If anything drives me to WordPress, it will be this. Well, the fact that scheduling posts hasn't worked for a week now also has a role.)

Anyway, this is my usual weekly post: below are a number of books (and one magazine) that arrived in my mailbox last week, with the hopes that I'd review them here. (Good luck, folks: I've got nineteen books stacked up on the printer that I still have to review, plus the shelves full of stuff I never manage to read as quickly as I'd like to.) I haven't yet read these books, but here's what I can tell you about them, even with that handicap:

I wanted to lead off with The Weird -- that gigantic (over 1000 pages!) compendium of the weird tale over the last century, because I love the idea of this book, because I have a lot of respect for its editors (Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, two of the best anthologists currently working), and because it's just such an impressive physical object. The Weird has 110 stories, from everyone (and I do mean everyone) from Algernon Blackwood to Laird Barron, hitting major names from the interlocking fields of horror, SF, and fantasy along the way. But it's not an anthology focusing on any of those areas -- it explicitly tries to define or anatomize the weird tale, which is not the same as any of those things, and I look forward to seeing what Ann & Jeff have put together here. The Weird comes from Tor, as either a trade paperback or hardcover -- or, possibly even more usefully for those who don't have a strong table to read at or massive wrists, in the usual electronic formats -- and is officially available on May 8th.

Next is something entirely different: Batman: Super-Villains Strike by Michael Teitelbaum, a "choose-your-fate adventure book" in which the reader takes the part of second-person narrator Batman to solve a series of bizarre crimes in Gotham City. It's officially for kids 7-10 years old, but I imagine a lot of older Batman fans (and a few younger ones) will also be interested. It's from Tor's Starscape imprint (for younger readers), and is published tomorrow: April 24th.

I have a stack of manga from the fine folks at Yen Press; these all officially hit stores this week:
  • Higurashi When They Cry: Atonement Arc, Vol. 4, the latest in a long-running series with a confusing numbering scheme (every arc starts back at #1, and the books don't make it clear which arcs gone before which other arcs) by Ryukishi07 and Karin Suzuragi. (I wrote a little bit about the beginning of this series back in 2008 during a look at Yen+ magazine for ComicMix.)
  • Black Butler IX by Yana Toboso, a series which is pretty popular but about which I know essentially nothing.
  • Black God, Vol. 16 by Dall-Young Lim and Sung-Woo Park; I reviewed the previous volume last month as part of my Confuse-o-Vision Week, and also reviewed three early volumes further back.
  • Highschool of the Dead, Vol. 6 by Daisuke Sato and Shouji Sato; I reviewed the fifth volume of this very fanservicey zombie-apocalypse thriller during Confuse-o-Vision Week.
  • Durarara!!, Vol. 2 by Ryohgo Narita, Suzuhito Yasuda, and Akiyo Satorigi; I wrote about the first volume in the aftermath of Confuse-o-Vision.
  • And last is the baroquely-titled The Betrayal Knows My Name, Vol. 3, which is by Hotaru Odagiri and features a gentleman with frighteningly large eyes on the cover. I don't really know what this one is about, but I suspect is has elements of both supernatural war (two factions battling for centuries) and Boys' Love (based mostly on the smouldering looks the characters are tossing at each other).
Bloody Chester is a graphic novel from this side of the Pacific, written by novelist and scriptwriter JT Perry, with art by noted minicomicker and storyboard artist Hilary Florido, making her big-publisher debut here. It's a western with horror elements, the story of one heavily put-upon young man and his last-chance job. It's coming from First Second.

Lance of Earth and Sky is the second book in the epic fantasy series "The Chaos Knight," by Erin Hoffman and published by Pyr. (The first book was Sword of Fire and Sea.)

And then Alexey Pehov's Shadow Blizzard is the trilogy-ending third book in his epic fantasy series, "The Chronicles of Siala." This one is coming from Tor, and officially hits stores tomorrow.

(I haven't read either of those authors, sadly, thus the terseness. Anyone out there have good things to say about either of them?)

Next is Sherrilyn Kenyon's Born of Silence, the fifth book in the "League" series. Kenyon used to be officially a paranormal romance writer, but I think she's now so big that she's essentially her own genre; newer writers try to write Sherrilyn Kenyon-style books. I'm not at all sure where this series is set -- the copy refers to the fate of "the entire universe" and growing up "on the back streets of hell," which could be metaphorical or completely literal. Born of Silence is a hardcover from Grand Central, hitting on May 1st.

I've actually already read this next book -- George O'Connor's Hades: Lord of the Dead, fourth in his series of graphic novels about the Olympian gods -- because I couldn't wait to get a copy myself. I also nominated last year's book -- Hera: The Goddess and her Glory -- for a Hugo this year, which may underline how good these books are. (They're officially for younger readers -- and my fourteen-year-old son just asked me when more are coming, so they definitely work for that audience -- but they have a depth of feeling, nuance of tone, and epic sweep that make them just as compelling for adult readers as well. This book has already hit the New York Times bestseller list, so a smart teen or tween of your acquaintance may be able to tell you more about it; it was recently published (in hardcover in paperback) by First Second.

And, lastly, I promised you a magazine as well, and that's Weird Tales #359, which is Ann VanderMeer's last issue as Editor-in-Chief. (And so the ending returns to the beginning, in a trick every third-rate writer loves.) I don't read short fiction much these days -- heck, I don't read as much long fiction as I'd like to -- but maybe, just maybe, this one will be an exception.

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