Monday, April 29, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 4/27

Below I've listed the books that arrived in my mail over the last week. Publicists sent me these books, to review, thinking you readers are a large enough audience to try to reach.

(Which tells you, as much as anything can, what the Internet has done to media. God help us all, I am a media outlet.)

I've been doing these lists weekly since January of 2008. I started out of guilt and uneasiness: if people send me things for free, I must owe something back. I can't possibly review every book I see. Lately, I don't seem to be able to even review the books I read, and I'm reading fewer books, too. (But we must remember that life is pain -- if anyone tells you otherwise, they're trying to sell something.)

Some bloggers take pictures of the stack of books, which is quick and easy. Some copy the descriptions from the books, which can be long and tedious (if they're retyping) or nearly as quick (if they find those descriptions online). I write a paragraph or so on each book, trying to be objective and positive, because I am obsessed with doing things the right way, and because I have the usual obsessive's idiosyncratic definition of "right."

So: this is not precisely what their publishers wanted to say about these books, but it is, I hope, both moderately accurate and moderately entertaining.

First up is Two Serpents Rise, the second novel by Max Gladstone. It looks to be a secondary-world fantasy, without an obvious quest or Maguffin to drive the plot -- and that's a very big plus in my book. It's also set in the same world as Gladstone's first novel, Three Parts Dead (link is to my review), without being a direct sequel, which is a massive plus in my book. If you ever complaint about the proliferation of closely-tied series, consider buying this book purely pour encourager les autres. Two Serpents is a Tor hardcover in July, and it's the story of a risk manager in a fantasy world, on a job to clean a city reservoir of shadow demons. (And the combination of "secondary-world fantasy" and "risk management" makes me love this book even more.)

Somehow, I simultaneously got two copies of New Moon: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1, in which Young Kim adapts the first part of Stephenie Meyer's second "Twilight" novel. This is sad, because I'm really not a great audience for even one copy of it -- but the fans do seem to like Kim's manga-esque take on this very popular story (even though her versions of the characters don't really look anything like Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, etc.). If you're either a huge Meyer fan or the odd person who thinks a comics adaptation is the best way to first encounter this story (and, who knows? it just might be), Yen Press published this earlier this month in hardcover: go forth and find it.

A Private Little War is the first novel from Jason Sheehan (who is well-known in other writing circles: he's a James Beard-award-winning food critic and food editor for Philadelphia magazine), coming in trade paper from Amazon's SF imprint 47North in June. It's a military SF story, in the subset about pacifying an alien planet inhabited by low-tech natives, and so likely falls somewhere into the territory marked by The Word for World Is Forest and Avatar.

Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 2 continues Tsutomu Nihei's manga saga of a rag-tag band of hardy human survivors, racing across deep space in search of a safe place and battling nasty aliens in gigantic battle robots. (So this one is something like Macross's bastard child out of Battlestar Galactica.) I read the first one, but haven't managed to review it yet -- it's dark, and pitched at a serious level, without the  lazy genre fripperies that US readers are used to seeing in popular manga. Vertical published this on April 16th.

From Yen Press, earlier this month, comes Bunny Drop, Vol. 8, a slice-of-life-ish manga by Yumi Unita focusing on a bachelor raising a young girl quirkily related to him (she was his grandfather's very late-in-life illegitimate daughter). The series is also apparently complicated by a big Funky Winkerbean-ish time jump in the middle, as the girl went from being a toddler to a teen between stories. This volume, from Yen Press, continues the post-time jump story, as romances develop for both father and adopted daughter.

And last for this week is Deborah Harkness's Shadow of Night, sequel to the bestselling A Discovery of Witches and a bestseller in its own right, which possibly marks the beginning of the next big fantasy wave, as witches follow zombies, sparkly vampires, and emo werewolves. Shadow of Night is hitting paperback (from Penguin) in late May, but I have to admit that I haven't read either of them.

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