Monday, September 23, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/21

Some weeks I have a lot of mail; some weeks I have a little. This is one of the "a lot" weeks, which I hope will make people happier.

The rules are the same as always: these books arrived, mostly unexpectedly, in my mailbox over the last week, sent by the hardworking publicists of the trade book-publishing biz. All of them this week, and nearly all of then most of the time, are from the US, since that's where I live -- though I'd be happy to get books from father away, if anyone's offering. I'm going to tell you what I can about them despite not having read them, and I'm going to try to be positive -- but the book I'm snarky about might turn out to be your favorite of the year, so go after what looks good to you.

(Heck, the book I'm snarky about could be my favorite of the year; that's happened before.)

Since there are a lot of books this week, I might be brief about them -- and my apologies to any author if my "brief" comes off as "dismissive."

I'll lead off with the new novel by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., The One-Eyed Man, mostly because I love the moody John Jude Palencar cover art, and want to stick that up top of this post. This is one of Modesitt's occasional standalone SF novels, set on a colony world that's the only source for important life-extension drugs used across the interstellar Unity. To this ecologically fragile, and only slightly understood, world comes a man from offworld, fleeing personal trouble elsewhere. (And I'm entirely sure that Modesitt knows well and intended the faint echoes of Dune you may detect there.) SF is supposed to be about complicated worlds and societies, and this one looks to be right down that street -- so check it out when it hits stores on September 17th in hardcover from Tor.

Next I have two books that I've mentioned here before, so I'll just hit them each briefly to remind you:

Little Star is the new horror novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, author of Let the Right One In (which became two movies of similar but slightly different titles, in the US and his native Sweden). Little Star is about a baby girl found in the woods who grows up to become a singing sensation, and it's a St. Martin's trade paperback on October 2nd.

And Jack Campbell's "Lost Stars" military SF epic -- itself a sequel to the prior series "The Lost Fleet" has a second volume in Perilous Shield, an Ace hardcover on October 1.

And now I'll dive into the big box for this week, a collection of books (mostly manga) publishing from Yen Press this month:

Are You Alice?, Vol. 2 continues the latest Wonderland-themed manga (seriously, I've seen four or five of them, for whatever reason) by Ikumi Katagiri and Ai Ninomiya. This time, "Alice" is a boy -- and "Alice" seems to be more of a title than a personal name. There are also more guns than you remember from Lewis Carroll.

Soul Eater, Vol. 16 is the latest in the series -- I think it's popular in the wider world, but I know it's very popular in my own house -- about witch-hunting "Scythemeisters," about their sentient shape-shifting weapons, and about the school they all attend. It's by Atsushi Ohkubo, and I know my sons will find an excuse to grab it from me within a day or two.

Kieli, Vol. 9: The Dead Sleep Eternally in the Wilderness, Part 2 is not a manga, but the finale of Yukako Kabei's light-novel saga about, as the back cover puts it, "a lonely girl" and "an undying soldier," and, at this point, they're "trapped inside the Church's headquarters, which is still surrounded by monsters." So, as usual, book nine is not a good place to begin a story -- we all knew that already, right?

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 7 continues the side-story of the main Haruhi Suzumiya series (which was originally a light novel series before becoming both manga and anime -- and has several other spin-offs as well), in its goofy, chibi style, with art by Puyo and story by Nagaru Tanigawa.

Goong, Vol. 13 is officially manwha rather than manga, since it comes from Korea and reads left-to-right. I believe this series, by Park SoHee, started off about the arranged marriage of the (fictional) Prince of Korea to a commoner girl, but, in this volume, the two main characters have been divorced but come back into contact with each other unexpectedly.

The Infernal Devices: Clockwork Prince continues the manga-esque adaptation of the novel by Cassandra Clare (second in the "Infernal Devices" series, set in a Victorian England-- and no points for guessing what subgenre it fits into), with art by HyekYung Baek.

And then there's The Betrayal Knows My Name, Vol. 6, the manga with the emo-est name possible. It's by Hotaru Odagiri, and the back-cover copy is full of frantic activities by names that will be familiar to readers of the prior volumes (but, sadly, not to me).

And last from Yen this month is A Bride's Story, Vol. 5, continuing Kaoru Mori's acclaimed story of young brides on the 19th century Silk Road. I don't believe each volume is self-contained, but this is more episodic than most manga, focusing on one young bride (or two, in the case of the twins this time out) for just a couple of volumes.

Returning to fiction told purely in words, without pictures, Vicious is the first novel credited to V.E. Schwab (which is the thinnest possible pseudonym for the YA author Victoria Elizabeth Schwab; at this point the point just seems to be having a different permutation to make the bookstore computers happy). It's a SF novel set in a world where scientific accidents can lead to superpowers, although it doesn't seem like there are too many superheroes in this world -- our two main characters are former roommates and best friends, now mortal enemies ten years later. I like modern superpowers novels, so I'm going to try to find time to read this. If you get to it before me, let me know how you like it.

Ghosts Know is not a first novel at all: it's the new book by Ramsey Campbell, and I'm not going to try to count the earlier ones so I can say this is the eleventy-first or eleventy-second. This time out, the master of horror has a story about a talk-radio host who humiliates a famous "psychic" on his show and then finds that psychic has fingered him as the culprit in his next case -- with horribly damning evidence. It's a Tor hardcover, coming October 1st.

Steelheart is billed as Brandon Sanderson's "first young adult series," which I think implies that he's written standalone YAs before, and possibly a series for young readers that was officially middle-grade. (He's pretty prolific, and I have to admit I don't know all of his work.) This is another superpowers-in-the-modern-world book, in which a Calamity about a decade back gave a few people superhuman powers -- and, aparrently, turned all of them into world-dominating supervillains. Steelheart is the local overlord, ruling Chicago. And our hero is a boy that wants to kill him. Steelheart is a September 24th hardcover from Delacorte.

The Incrementalists is a new novel by Steven Brust (whose books I've been reading for close to thirty years) and Skyler White (who has two novels I haven't yet seen), about a secret group of two hundred people with memories and history stretching back forty thousand years, who keep making the world just a tiny bit better every year. But now there's a big break -- caused by the death and rebirth of one of this secret society -- and they must gather in Las Vegas to save their group, and (just maybe) the world. It's a Tor hardcover on September 24th, but they had me at "Steven Brust."

Day One is some kind of apocalyptic thriller about New York City under siege "from a deadly and brilliant enemy that can be anywhere and can occupy anything with a computer chip." So it's not necessarily Wintermute, but that's the way I'm betting. The author is Nate Kenyon, the publisher is St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne, and the date is October 1st. This may be one of the few near-future apocalypses you get this year without zombies, so take that into strong consideration.

If you want to break into Big Two corporate comics, you should probably at least take a look at The DC Comics Guide to Creating Comics, written by long-time comics scripter Carl Potts and published October 8th by noted art-book house Watson-Guptill. All of the examples are obvious from DC, but it seems to be a reasonably comprehensive look at the writing and art that goes into that particular sausage factory.

Pop Manga will probably be less useful at getting its readers jobs in its target industry, but that's primarily because the world of manga is even tighter than US superhero comics and Americans (this book's expected audience) has a massive disadvantage in not being Japanese. Still, they can draw in a Japanese style, and Camilla D'Errico's book (with Stephen W. Martin) can show how to do that. As far as I can tell, the cover and all of the interior art is by D'Errico, which is a big advantage in a how-to-draw book -- there's one less interpreter in the middle. This is also from Watson-Guptil. available on October 8th.

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