Monday, November 11, 2013

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/9

This may be the only Antick Musings post for a few days either side -- I'm back home briefly (more than 24 hours, but not by much) in between a week-long family vacation in the Lands of the Mouse and a work conference up in Beantown. So this is my official apology/excuse if I don't manage to post otherwise from Saturday through Thursday.

This particular post is a weekly tradition, going back several years, which makes it pretty venerable for the Internets, where it's not a real week if Google doesn't kill a major service. Since I get books in the mail -- sent to me by publicists, hoping I will read and love and review and recommend those books and that sales will increase -- and since I will never manage to read every one of those books, I make sure to give them all a little attention the week they come in.

These books are as new as ever I'll be able to write about them, and one of them might just be your favorite book of the year. So here's a semi-serious look at those books, based on what I can tell by looking at them quickly.

First up is a ringer: I backed Matt Feazell's The Amazing Cynicalman, Vol. 2 on Indiegogo, and the finished book arrived this week. It collects the weekly Cynicalman strips from various small Michigan papers (Feazell is famously from Hamtramck) from 2008 through nearly the present. Feazell has been writing and drawing his stick-figure stories for more than twenty years now -- originally, and still occasionally, as traditional mini-comics, and in many other formats since them -- and his world is much sunnier and more interesting than you'd expect from a twenty-year run about a guy called "Cynicalman." There have been three other collections of Cynicalman stories before this, in various formats and from various publishers, though they're all hard to find now. But this one will be available soon from Feazell's website, and it's as good a place to start as anywhere.

Laddertop Books 1 - 2 collects the first two volumes -- though I can't find any indication that the second volume was actually published as a separate book -- of a newish manga-influenced graphic novel about plucky kids competing to maintain the mysterious technology at the top of a group of alien beanstalks on a near-future Earth. (Apparently the technology in question couldn't be accessed by either adult humans or remote robots, because shut up, that's why.) Laddertop is credited with a story by Orson Scott Card, his daughter Emily Janice Card, with Zina Margaret Card and art by Honoel A. Ibardolaza. It does not credit an actual script at any point, so I assume that the Cards had the idea and Ibardolaza did all of the hard work of turning it into an actual book. This is space adventure that's manga-ish while still reading left-to-right and being tuned for American sensibilities, which may be appealing. And it's a Tor/Seven Seas trade paperback, which went on sales November 5th.

Fiddlehead is also a Tor trade paperback, but that's about all it has in common with Laddertop. It's steampunk rather than traditional SF, a novel with no pictures, and entirely the work of one person: Cherie Priest. It's the fifth (and reportedly the last) book in Priest's loose "Clockwork Century" series, and, this time out, a brilliant inventor has to convince ex-President Lincoln to stop the Civil War to save the world from a threat his calculating engine has uncovered, and then a female Pinkerton and ex-Confederate spy has to stop the secret forces trying to destroy that inventor. It hits stores tomorrow.

Child of Vengeance is something else again: a historical novel set in 17th-century Japan, retelling the story of the life of the legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto. It appears to be the first novel of David Kirk, a student of samurai movies and a teacher of English in Japan, and may lead into a series. It's a trade paperback from Anchor, and will be available on December 3.

The second novel in Gilliam Philip's Rebel Angels series is Bloodstone, continuing the intertwined stories of medieval Scotland and the otherworldly realm of the Sithe. It's a Tor hardcover in November -- and, if you're looking for the first book, that's called Firebrand.

And last for this week is Johnny Hiro: The Skills to Pay the Bills, the second graphic novel about the titular young slacker in New York (call him the Asian Scott Pilgrim, and you're not far off), his lovely girlfriend, his tough boss, and the various supernatural oddities that keep complicating his life. Like the first book -- which was titled just Johnny Hiro when I reviewed it, but turned into Half-Asian, All Hero in its most recent edition -- all of the stories here are by Fred Chao. I liked the first book a lot -- it had verve and energy and a light touch, all good things -- so I'm very happy o see more adventures of this Hiro.

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