Monday, October 07, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 10/5

One week every month tends to be The Big One -- usually because, like this week, it's the time the bulk of the stuff from Yen Press comes in -- and that means I have more books I look at and you have more books that you might potentially love. (Though there's a lot of manga here, so I hope you're not one of those I-hate-everything types.)

As usual, I haven't read these books -- I've barely organized them into a stack, and glanced at the covers -- but I can still tell you that they exist, and try to find something interesting about each of them to tempt you with. And so I will:

Before I dive into the big box of Yen, I have a few books from the fine small SFnal press Tachyon to mention, starting with In the Company of Thieves, a new collection from the late Kage Baker. It has six stories, mostly long ones, including The Women of Nell Gwynne's and Rude Mechanicals, previous published as pricey individual books, plus "Hollywood Ikons," a new story completed by Baker's sister Kathleen Bartholomew. Baker died much too young and much too suddenly; she'd only gotten a little more than a decade out of her writing career, and had done a lot of great stuff in that time. So it is wonderful to see more of her work collected into affordable editions, even if that implies we've come to the end of Kage Baker's writing. Company of Thieves is a trade paperback, available this month.

Also from Tachyon this month is She Walks in Darkness, a newly published novel by Evangeline Walton (best known for her Mabinogion quartet of novels beginning with The Island of the Mighty). It was originally written in the early '60s and was marketed in the mid-'70s, just too late for the Gothic craze, and then rediscovered among Walton's papers recently. Its heroine is a modern woman -- well, modern as of forty years ago -- who finds herself in a Tuscan villa much darker, deeper and more dangerous than the kind that are in vogue these days.

Tachyon seems to be specializing in dead writers right now -- the third book I have from them came out last month, and features several dozen of them. The Treasury of the Fantasticis a new reprint anthology of mostly 19th century stories, stretching from the heights of Romanticism with Byron and Coleridge  in 1816 up to just after The Great War with Virginia Woolf's "A Haunted House" from 1921. It's edited by academic David Sandner with Tachyon head Jacob Weisman, and has over 700 pages of stories, poems, and other fantastic literature that you won't see collected together anywhere else.

And now it's time to get into that big stack of Yen -- as usual, I'll try to organize it from most accessible to least, to give us all a fighting chance to understand as much of it as possible.

So I'll start with the first volume of a series from Nico Tanigawa, with the tongue-twisting title of No Matter How I Look at It, It's You Guys' Fault I'm Not Popular!, Vol. 1. (Though I'm more distracted by the very Dr. Seuss-ian font used for that title.) The heroine goes to high school with a wealth of experience in dating games, sure that she'll be popular...and she remains the quiet, mousy loner in the back of the room she's been her entire life. It looks like this volume focused on that girl, Tomoko, the whole time, and stays locked on her viewpoint, which seems unusual to me -- most manga I've seen would throw the mousy protagonist into a club with various outgoing wacky attractive people of the opposite sex. So this may be something more interesting and specific.

Speaking of unusual premises, Cocoa Fujiwara's Inu x Boku SS, Vol. 1tells the story of a young woman who comes to live in a very exclusive apartment tower, where each apartment comes with a "secret service" agent -- essentially a private bodyguard. I expect this will turn into a romance eventually, but Ririchiyo starts out here as a sharp-tongued self-hating girl who doesn't want protection.

Puella Magi Oriko Magica, Vol. 2 completes the story of another magical girl, branching off from the main Madoka Magica series to tell its own side-story of Oriko, who needs to kill someone to prevent some kind of vaguely characterized apocalypse. The story is by the Magica Quartet, the group that produced and owned the original animated show, with art by Mura Kuroe.

Triage X, Vol. 4 continues Shouji Sato's story of crime-fighting nurses and copious fanservice -- if you're a fan of Highschool of the Dead, you'll probably want to check out this series as well, since it substitutes battling organized crime for Dead's zombies, but otherwise looks pretty similar.

Speaking of zombies, Is This a Zombie? returns for a sixth volume from Sacchi (with credits to Shinichi Kimura for the original story and Kobuichi and Muririn for character designs. It's still the story of a boy who was killed by a serial killer, resurrected by a necromancer, and accidentally took over the powers (and costume) of a Magical Girl. Expect a lot of fanservice in this one as well.

Yana Toboso's Black Butler is back for a fifteenth volume, this time beginning a story in which our hero and his butler (or is that our hero and his master?) investigate an English boarding school that from which several students have failed to return recently.

And now we're getting into the higher numbers, as with The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Vol. 16, by Garu Tsugano and Nagaru Tanigawa. This time out, the SOS Brigade -- the group of secretly supernatural students and their massively perky and enthusiastic (but oblivious) leader, the title character -- investigate an area by the riverbank where dogs refuse to go.

I've lost track of what Pandora Hearts, Vol. 18 is about -- I believe Jun Mochizuki's story started off as one of the many retellings of Alice in Wonderland in vastly modified manga form, but I'm really not sure what it is at this point in its life. Anyone out there want to school us?

And then there's Higurashi When They Cry: Festival Accompanying Arc, Vol. 2 which is the second of eight volumes adapting the story of the ninth of fourteen story arcs from a light novel series based on a video game series about murders in a small Japanese town. (As far as I can tell, each game is about a different version of the same murders.) The story for all of these pieces of Higurashi, including this one, are by Ryukioshi07, and the art on this piece is by Karin Suzuragi. As far as I can tell, each arc should stand alone, but if anyone wants the "beginning," the first arc was Abducted by Demons.

Yen also publishes things that aren't exactly manga, as with Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel, in which Cassandra Jean adapts Ransom Rigg's original illustrated novel. (I reviewed the novel on this blog a couple of years ago, for reference.) Like all of the other Yen Press things I'm listing this week, it's publishing in October.

And last from Yen this month is Shiro Amano: The Artwork of Kingdom Hearts, which is pretty self-explanatory as long as you know what Kingdom Hearts is. (It's a series of adventure games in which a pretty typical JRPG protagonist travels through worlds based on Disney movies -- accompanied by Goofy and Donald -- to save the universes and free Mickey Mouse. According to my older son, it's not nearly as weird as that sounds, and he's enjoyed them a lot.)

Switching gears to a pure SF novel -- just words on a page, the old-fashioned way -- Tor is publishing The Cusanus Game in hardcover on October 15th, a new time-travel novel (from the obligatory damaged and dying near future, to the Middle Ages) from noted German writer Wolfgang Jeschke, translated by Ross Benjamin.

To finish up, I have two more manga volumes, both coming from Vertical this month. First up is Flowers of Evil, Volume 7 by Shuzo Oshimi, continuing the story of two young outcasts in a small town in Japan, and their increasingly dysfunctional and damaging relationship.

And then last is the other Vertical book, Sickness Unto Death, Part 1 by Hikaru Asada and Takahiro Seguchi, the first of two volumes about another odd pair of young people: a college student and budding psychologist rents a room in a supposedly-haunted mansion owned by a woman his own age who has her own problems.

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