Monday, September 17, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/15

It's Monday once again, so I'll regale you with details of the stuff that arrived on my doorstep last week. (Yes, it's a man's life reviewing books on the Internet.) As usual, I haven't read any of these books yet -- in fact, what I've done with them, up to this second, is opened their packages and placed them gently onto a pile on my desk -- so what I have to tell you has the slight chance of being somewhat inaccurate. But I'll do my best to avoid that, and to tell you whatever are the most wonderful/interesting/compelling things about each of these books, since your favorite book is not necessarily the same as mine.

But, just in case your favorite book is the same as mine: I'll start with that. Chris Ware's most recent massive comics project (after Rusty Brown and Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth and the various other things he's bundled into ACME Novelty Library over the years) has been Building Stories: a series of separate stories about the residents of one apartment building, appearing in different publications over the past decade. But now Building Stories has completed construction: it will be published, as a single artifact, by Pantheon on October 2nd. But Building Stories is not a book: it's a box containing 14 different comics objects (two hardcover books, one softcover, several pamphlets of radically different sizes -- including a couple at broadsheet size -- and a fold-out printed in what looks like a board-game format). It's a fascinating experiment in narrative, and many people will try to convince you over the next few months that it's not "comics" or a "graphic novel" because of that. But it is comics -- a massive, proliferating, expansive exploration of many of the ways comics can tell stories -- and so you must deny anyone who says that: this is comics, it's just really good comics.

It's also time for the monthly mass-market paperbacks from DAW, and the three that will be hitting shelves and wire racks near you in October are:
  • Changes, a Valdemar novel by Mercedes Lackey, and the third in her "Collegium Chronicles" sub-series -- I see from the card page that there will be at least one more, Redoubt, so this is not the end of a trilogy.
  • The Ninth Circle, fifth in the Military SF adventures of the redoubtable ship U.S.S. Merrimack by R.M. Meluch.
  • And Sand Witches in the Hamptons, fifth in Celia Jerome's urban fantasy series about a comics-artist-turned-magician named Willow Tate, which is, as the astute reader may have realized, set in New York City's playgrounds of the rich, the Hamptons.
Clay and Susan Griffith's alternate-historical vampire epic Vampire Empire hits its third book with The Kingmakers, which was published by Pyr on September 3rd. (This is the series where the vampires have conquered the temperate regions of the world, and regular humans -- who, from the covers of the books, all look to be pretty pale themselves -- are fighting back from the hot tropical regions.)

Swedish horror writer John Ajvide Lindqvist is still best known for Let the Right One In, his novel about a boy's unsettling friendship with an ancient vampire who looks like a girl his age (partially because that novel was made into movies both in Sweden and the US), but he's written a number of other novels (I saw his Harbor in a trade paperback edition just a couple of weeks ago). And his 2010 novel Lilla Stjarna has been translated into English as Little Star, publishing from Thomas Dunne Books on October 2nd. This one is about a baby girl, found in the Swedish woods in the early '90s, and the teenager she becomes fifteen years later, when she enters a TV singing contest. And it is a horror novel.

Steven Erikson has not let the end of his main "Malazan Book of the Fallen" series slow him down -- barely a year after the end of that series with The Crippled God, he's back with the first book in a new trilogy in the same world. Forge of Darkness, the first book in the Kharkanas Trilogy, is set in the deep past of the original series, in the warren of Kurald Galain, apparently at a time when the Tiste people had not yet been split into three. It's a Tor hardcover, available September 18th.

And last for this week is the newest book from Tom Pomplun's Graphic Classics line, Halloween Classics, which has 140 pages of comics based on classic tales of monsters and mayhem from writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Washington Irving. Creators involved include Matt Howarth, Rod Lott, Simon Gane, Jeffrey Johannes, Nick Miller, Antonella Caputo, and Pomplun himself. It'll be in comics shops and other retailers any day now -- in plenty of time for the holiday -- and, like the others in the series, it can be a great way to introduce reluctant prose readers (possibly including yourself) to the work of great writers while still being very entertaining at the same time.

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