Monday, January 28, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/26

Welcome back once again to the longest-running not-actually-reviewing-books column in the New Jersey Highlands! As always, these are books that just arrived, so I've only glanced at them and not actually read them cover to cover. Their mere existence in my life is tribute to a legion of hardworking book-publishing publicists, whose job it is to make sure that people like you find out about books that they might like, so I hope some of that goes on today.

What I'm about to tell you is as correct as I know, but I could be wrong -- so assume that if any slight change would make a book absolutely perfect for you, then I must have bobbled that detail.

First up is The Eldritch Conspiracy -- the book that once again reminds me that spelling "Eldritch" without the T is not strictly speaking correct -- by the portmanteau author Cat Adams. ("Adams" is, not secretly at all, actually the writing team of C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp, who wrote the long "Sazi" series under their dual names before becoming "Cat Adams" as well.) This one is, I believe, the fifth book in the urban fantasy series about Celia Graves -- a part-Siren personal security consultant to the stars, recently turned half-undead by a vampire's bite, who seems to have the usual complicated personal and professional life required of a contemporary fantasy heroine -- in which she has to protect her cousin Princess Adriana, who will marry the King of Rusland if the assassins don't get her first. It's a trade paperback from Tor [1], officially arriving for sale tomorrow.

Also from Tor, but coming from their Starscape imprint for readers not as beaten down and jaded by experience, is the new novel by two-time Newbery honoree Lawrence Yep, City of Death. It's the grand finale of the City Trilogy, after City of Fire and City of Ice, and will be available in a week, on February 5th. It's an epic fantasy full of evil dragons that might be set in our world (references to the Silk Road) or maybe not (that road leads to the Kushan Empire). And I hope there's an in-story reason for the amazing length of that arrow on the cover -- seriously, it extends around the spine and still doesn't come to a head there, so I'm sure it must be a plot point.

It's been a long time since I saw an anthology that just starts its cover listing of contributors with Aesop, but Richard Klaw's The Apes of Wrath -- reprinting stories about conflicts and other SFF interactions between man and ape -- is just the book to do it. And it's not just an excuse to put "Rachel in Love" and "Red Shadows" into the same book, though they're both here, as they should be. The other seventeen stories come from names like Howard Waldrop, Joe R. Lansdale, Mary Robinette Kowal, Philip Jose Farmer, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, and, inevitably, Edgar Allan Poe (no points for guessing which story). This is a February trade paperback from the folks at Tachyon.

The Six-Gun Tarot is the first novel by R.S. Belcher -- though he did win the grand price in the recent Strange New Worlds contest -- and it's a hardcover from Tor, officially published last week. As the title implies, this is a weird western, set in the creepy frontier town of Golgotha. The flap copy mostly runs through the various creepiness and weirdness -- an apparently hanged sheriff, a hoard of mythical treasure, a secret order of pirates and assassins, that old abandoned silver mine and what might be coming out of it -- rather than giving away the story, so I should do the same.

There was a time when there were a lot of comics based on TV shows -- if you frequent the right parts of the Internet, you've already seen that famous "log of wood" cover of The Rifleman a few dozen times -- but that time is long ago now. About the only currently running show with a healthy comics presence is The Simpsons, and that Bongo comics series is still being collected for the book market by Harper. The new one is Simpsons Comics Supernova, including issues 81, 101-103, and the Summer Shindig # 2. The book itself just credit the whole shebang to Simpsons creator Matt Groening (in small type on the copyright page), but the stories themselves include the original credits. You probably know what to expect from Simpsons stories by now, but I'll note that this leads off with a fine homage to Carl Barks (and his modern followers), "Uncle Burn$."

I left the most complicated title for last, so I could get up to running speed before I tackled it. But here goes: The Eye of the World: The Wheel of Time: The Graphic Novel: Volume Three, credited to Robert Jordan (writer of the original novel, in case you've forgotten), Chuck Dixon (adaptor to comics) and artists Marcio Fiorito and Francis Nuguit. I do have to admit that I don't understand the appeal of adapting a novel into comics [2] -- new stories for comics about the same characters is perfectly cromulent, though -- but clearly there are people who see an appeal there. Tor publishes this in hardcover on January 29th -- though, in case you didn't know, this collects the individual issues originally published by Dynamite through comics shops.

[1] Everyone just assumes that the various electronic editions are available at the same time unless specified otherwise these days, right? That's my assumption, at least. I'll mention otherwise if I know otherwise.

[2] Of course, as soon as I typed this, I thought of the Roy Thomas/Barry Smith (not yet Windsor) Conan stories of the '70s, which is a major counterexample. So it may be possible to convince me I am wrong.

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