Monday, October 08, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/6

Hey, kids! Books!

I get books in the mail because I review books on the Internet -- but, since I could never review everything I see, I also do these weekly posts, every Monday, to list what I've just seen and (I hope) describe them in such a way that people who will like them realize that and leap forward to clasp those books to their bosoms. But, to reiterate: I haven't actually read any of these books yet, and I might not manage to read any specific one of them. But that never stopped anyone else from pontificating about things they don't know, so here goes:

Leading off this week is The Hive, the middle volume of a graphic album trilogy from Charles Burns that began with X'ed Out (see my review). If you want to know how important a cartoonist Burns is, see his masterpiece Black Hole -- he's the best cartoonist we have now about the uneasy, everything's-changing side of adolescence, with its messy emphasis on the physical in all its horror and splendor. You probably don't want to read The Hive without finding X'ed Out first, but that's no hardship: both are short, with crisp, uneasy Burns art presented well on big pages -- the physical (and partially story) influence for this series is Tintin. The Hive is a hardcover from Pantheon, officially hitting stores tomorrow.

Vertical, the masters of publishing interesting manga, have sent me a stack of books this week, all of which I think are either publishing this month or came out recently:
  • There are two volumes of GTO: The Early Years, which reprint pre-Great Teacher Onizuka stories by Toru Fujisawa (the series as originally published back in 1995 in Japan, before it turned into the GTO series proper), Volumes 14 and 15, which complete that series and bring it up to the "official" beginning of GTO.
  • The Flowers of Evil, Volume 3 continues Shuzo Oshimi's creepy story of obsessed middle-schoolers and their unhealthy relationships
  • And The Drops of God: New World jumps forward hugely in Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto's story of wine and filial duty to leap into a segment of the story set in the US and featuring lots of US wines. (This seems to be a bid to grab a larger American audience, but it seems odd: are there that many Americans who only drink American wine and also would be interested in a Japanese story about wine? It strikes me that cultural monomaniacs would retain that reflexive anti-foreigner sense in other areas as well.)
Noted New Yorker cartoonist Victoria Roberts has turned to fiction with After the Fall, a heavily illustrated short novel about one very rich Upper East Side family who suddenly find their fortunes turn and have to live in Central Park. It looks to be more whimsical and fun than serious and dour, though -- in keeping with the rococo, faintly out-of-touch with reality air of Roberts's cartoons. After the Fall is a hardcover from Norton, coming November 12th.

Beth Revis's YA science-fiction trilogy "Across the Universe" -- which began in the novel of the same name -- concludes with Shades of Earth, coming from Razorbill in January. Our young protagonists, Amy and Elder, reach the target planet of their starship, to find new dangers and threats, as one usually does on far-flung alien worlds.

And last for this week is Bowl of Heaven by SF heavyweights Gregory Benford and Larry Niven [1], coming as a Tor hardcover next week. It's big-idea hard SF -- a crewed interstellar expedition discovers a half-Dyson Sphere, surrounding a star and heading to the same target star as the human ship. Of course our heroes go to investigate the gigantic ship, and of course they encounter complications -- so many that the last page of this book teases Shipstar, the next book in the series.

[1] I nearly called them "twin" heavyweights, but then remembered Benford is a non-metaphorical twin himself, and decided that would be confusing.

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