Monday, February 03, 2014

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/1

There's a really interesting diversity of books to write about this week, so I'll get into that with the minimum of time-wasting here. As always, these six books showed up on my doorstep over the past week, mostly unexpectedly. I've glanced at them slightly but not read any of them yet. But here's what looks interesting and different about them:

The Black-Eyed Blonde is the first Philip Marlowe novel in twenty years -- after the two frankly lousy Robert Parker pastiches, Poodle Springs and Perchance to Dream, part of the mini-Chandler revival of the late '80s -- and only the tenth overall, since Raymond Chandler himself only managed to write seven. This one comes with a pedigree, though: it's written by Benjamin Black, the open pseudonym used by major literary novelist John Banville when he wants to write more quickly and about more violent matters. It's set in the early '50s -- not sure if that means before or after Long Goodbye, or if Black even bothers with that level of minutia -- and, unlike the Parker books, this one seems to be an entirely new Marlowe story, using the same sort of Chandler elements. It's a March hardcover from Henry Holt.

Next up is a YA novel by Cecil Castellucci -- she's written about a dozen of them, though I've only previously seen the graphic novels The Plain Janes and Janes in Love that she did with Jim Rugg -- called Tin Star, from Roaring Brook Press in February. Tin Star is SFnal, about a teenager from a migrant ship waylaid, beaten almost to death, and abandoned on an aline space station. Of course, she then thirsts for revenge. I'm not sure if she gets it, but any book that makes me think first of Stars My Destination is worth a look-see, at least.

David Weber's "Safehold" series lumbers forward with Like a Mighty Army, the seventh book. (Wow, that has grown quickly, hasn't it? Weber is not a slow writer by any means.) It's a Tor hardcover that hits stores on February 4th, and it seems to be still stuck in the same immortal-AI-battles-repressive-religious-bureaucracy-on-mankind's-secret-last-hideout-to-jumpstart-massive-technological-advancement-and-kick-nasty-hegemonic-alien-ass plot as the first book. In other words, the nasty alien ass is still out there, blatantly unkicked, but nasty religious human ass is still being kicked up one side and down the other, which is presumably nearly as good.

The final volume of Mari Yamizaki's unique manga series is here: Thermae Romae, Vol. 3. The Roman architect Lucius -- specializing in the creation of elaborate bath-houses -- is still time-traveling to 21st century Japan at random times, to learn lessons and make both societies of bath-obsessives happier and better. This is from Yen Press, it's out now, and it's like nothing else in the world, bless it's heart. (I reviewed the first volume at the end of a round-up last year.)

Comics Art by Paul Gravett is a serious -- one might say "scholarly" -- look at comics, from a global and modern perspective, and has already been widely acclaimed from its original UK publication last year. Since "comics" is often a heavily Balkanized field -- manga vs. eastern, European vs. American, superheroes vs. "indy" -- I'm particularly interested to see how Gravett pulls all of those areas together to tell one story. This is a hardcover coming from Yale University Press on February 25th.

And last for this week is a new graphic novel from Drawn & Quarterly: Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet. It's described as an "anti-fairy tale," and seems to be set among fairies -- or some other variety of tiny humanoids. It will be published as an album-sized hardcover in March.

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