Monday, November 12, 2012

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/10

..will be delayed this week.

I got back from a week-long family vacation in sunny Cal-i-forn-i-a (possibly the subject of its own post, if I get around to it in time) late Sunday night, just in time to see that there are boxes, but not to open them.

So the current hope is that I will update this Monday evening to adequately describe the splendor and wonder that are in those boxes. Let's see if I get to it that quickly -- Monday is also the first day that I try to commute to work in Hoboken post-Sandy, which I expect will evoke a reaction such as the below.


Update, 11/18: Well, that took longer than expected, but here's what was waiting for me when I got back from vacation:

First up is a book I got through the auspices of Amazon's "Vine" program for reviewers, which is another attempt by that retail behemoth to take over and control every last aspect of book publishing and distributing that it can. (Not that I seem to mind that much, as far as it affects my actual behavior and not my online complaining.) Julian Barnes's new book is Through the Window, a collection of essays about writers and books, published as a trade paperback original from Vintage on October 30th (during that big storm you may have heard about). Barnes is an excellent, smart novelist -- I particularly liked his puckish A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters and recently reviewed here the short novel The Sense of an Ending -- and possibly an even better writer of nonfiction, with books like the lovely journalism collection Letters from London and the recent Nothing to Be Frightened Of. Sure, he's a "literary" writer, which we grubby genre types are supposed to despise, but he's a great, wonderful writer who has dabbled in non-realistic stuff several times, and I've been reading him with great pleasure for twenty years or so now.

I also have two paperbacks from the fine folks at DAW Books, both publishing in December:
  • Elemental Magic is an anthology of new stories set in Mercedes Lackey's "Elemental Masters" series (the retold fairy tales in more-or-less-modern day series, starting with The Serpent's Shadow), edited and with a new story by Lackey. Other contributors include the usual DAW crew: Rosemary Edghill, Diana L. Paxson, Elisabeth Waters, Jody Lynn Nye, Tanya Huff, and almost a dozen more.
  • Alien Vs. Alien is the sixth book in Gini Koch's series of contemporary SF novels (they look a lot like urban fantasy -- heroine with massive levels of spunk and a silly name, romantic tension turning into soap operatic series-length plots, long-running conflicts with powerful enemies -- in a SFnal setting), and, in this one, our heroine's husband goes missing and that's the least of her worries.
Everything else I have -- and it's quite a bit -- is from one big shipment from Yen Press, the manga/graphic novel sister of the SFnal imprint Orbit Books. All of 'em seem to be publishing in November. 

The novel Zoo -- by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, one of those hot-weather thrillers about ridiculous implausibilities causing mass death and devastation (in this case, that pretty much all animals in the world start attacking humans at every opportunity) -- has been turned into a graphic novel by Andy MacDonald. If you like to see lions and gorillas taking bites of out people's heads, this is the book for you.

The rest of the Yen Press box is made up of series books -- most, but not all, of them originally from Japan -- and so I'll organize them my usual way, from lowest volume number to highest, so you can see me getting more and more confused by accumulating backstory.

Mari Yamazaki's Thermae Romae, Vol. 1 is an attractive, large-sized hardcover with a plastic jacket that is both appealing to the eye and severs to cover the naughty bits of the statue on the front cover. Romae has one of those goofy premises that are so wonderful when they work right: harried Roman architect (and bath-house designer) Lucius accidentally gets sucked through the bottom of a bath and somehow finds himself in modern Tokyo, among the only other society in history as bath-obsessed as his own. I think, from poking through this book, that he goes back and forth between the two worlds (presumably through that magic plughole), so that Romae isn't just a fish-out-of-water comedy. Whatever it is, it looks very different, and worth a look.

Also a first volume, but somewhat more conventional, is Misun Kim's Aron's Absurd Armada, a silly, mostly 4-koma (with some longer, conventionally-formatted stories interspersed) series about ne'er-do-well pirates in a very vaguely 18th century Atlantic Ocean kind of world.

Officially a first volume is Umineko: When They Cry: Episode 1: Legend of the Golden Witch (by Ryukishi07 and Kei Natsumi), though it's actually somehow related to the Higurashi: When They Cry series. (Though, after checking the Internet a bit, I suspect the only real connection is that both "Cry" series are based on computer games in the same solve-the-murder genre from the same Japanese developer.) The rich Ushiromya family is gathering for their annual festivities on an isolated island, and an estranged young man, Battler -- Battler?!? -- is rejoining for the first time in several years. And, as Agatha Christie fans would expect, once the island is cut off from the world, the bodies start falling.

Soulless, Vol. 2 continues the adaptation of Gail Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" series (under the title of the first book in that series), with art by an entity credited as REM. Since the first book adapted the first novel (Soulless) in the series, my assumption -- though we all know what happens we one assumes -- is that this book, more-or-less-adapts book two, Changeless, into comics. See my review of the novel Soulless for more details, if such be necessary.

The third volume of Satoko Kiyuduki's Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro has finally come around -- I reviewed the first two volumes, back when I was reviewing regularly for ComicMix -- after a delay I have no idea what caused. But this quirky, and quietly dark series is back, and I'm happy to pick it back up -- it's not like anything else I've read.

Now we're getting into the realms of real confusion, with the sixth volume of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, a parody spinoff of the main Haruhi Suzumiya comic, which itself is a brand extension of the series of light novels by Nagaru Tanigawa. Supply lines are getting pretty long, and we're deep into otaku territory here. This book is written by Tanigawa, with art by Puyo.

Also this month is the seventh volume of Yumi Unita's Bunny Drop, which was originally about a confirmed bachelor raising a little girl, but turned into a romance story mid-way through, when the time jumped to make that little girl a teenager. As I understand it, there are parallel romances for both the girl and her grumpy, now-middle-aged guardian, but I'll admit that I haven't read the series at all.

Milan Matara's Omamori Himari is a family-of-demon-slayers story (incorporating the standard hot girl who is also a powerful spirit and defends the "regular guy" hero with all of the power and the very few clothes at her disposal) with added fanservice -- as seen by the M-rating on this ninth volume in front of me.

I read the first volume of Atsushi Ohkubo's Soul Eater and enjoyed it -- and enjoyed Soul Eater again when I wandered back in, several volumes later, though I was a bit more confused then -- but I haven't made a habit of reading it. However, my older son is now getting into this zippy, very shonen story of demon-hunters and their sentient, shape-shifting weapons, so I may have to read more of it to have another topic of conversation with him. (How horrible! Having to read comics to communicate with one's own offspring! I do have a nice life.) This month sees the eleventh volume, in which our heroes are attached by someone (or something) called Arachnophobia.

And last for this week is the twelfth volume of Yuhki Kamatani's Nabari No Ou, which I have to admit that I haven't read at all. I'm sure this has fighting in it, but I have no idea who is doing the fighting, or about what. So I'm afraid you'll need to find a more reliable guide if that cover looks intriguing.

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