Monday, September 12, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 9/10

Yes, yes, it's Monday again. Let's try to forget that as much as we can. How about a few books?

These all came in my mail over the past week, unexpectedly, and all are just or about to be published by the fine folks at various US publishing houses. One of them might perhaps be your favorite books of the year! (Or, even, just a diversion for an hour or three.)

Here's what I can tell you about them, even though I haven't actually read any of them:

I'll lead off with the new novel by Hugo-winner Cixin Liu: Death's End. In fact, this is the conclusion of the trilogy that began with his Hugo-winning novel, The Three-Body Problem, so hard-SF fans and probably required to read this. (As usual for Liu's novels, it's translated by Ken Liu, who is, as far as I know, no relation.) The battles of the earlier books have lead to a long detente, with Earth and the Trisolarans still officially opposed, but living side-by-side fairly peacefully -- and I note that this period has lasted five hundred years, which will make some SF commentators pull out their historical references and look dimly at that really huge span of time. (But everything in SF must be bigger than real life!) And, of course, that fragile peace isn't going to last as is throughout this book, as anyone who knows how fiction works will have already realized. This is a Tor hardcover, arriving September 20.

My other book of prose for the week is Deadlands: Thunder Moon Rising, a tie-in to the weird western RPG of the title. It's by Jeffrey J. Mariotte, and I think of myself as a guy who doesn't read enough weird westerns. (Most of us probably don't.) The particular weirdness in this west seems to be equal measure steampunky super-science and creepy Lovecraftian apocalyptic supernaturalism, which gives a lot of narrative hooks for dungeon masters or novelists. This particular book concerns a washed-up drunk dragooned into a posse chasing the origins of various murders and cattle mutilations, and has a double-helping of creepy things named Thunder: the Thunder Mountains, and the looming Thunder Moon. Read the book to see if the two are related! This one is also from Tor, also coming September 20, but will be slightly less of a hit on your wallet, since it's a trade paperback.

Everything else from here out is a manga volume published by the fine folks at Yen Press, which recently broke free from the good ship Hachette, took on new co-owners from the brigantine Kadokawa, and set sail on the literary seas as their own enterprise. (Apologies for the horribly mangled metaphor there.) Anyway, these are manga, and they're all out now:

Akame ga KILL! ZERO, Vol. 3 -- this is by Takahiro and Kei Toru, and I don't know why they are YELLING AT US, but I assume it must be IMPORTANT. This is a prequel to the regular Akame ga KILL! series, I believe focusing on a fan-favorite character back in the days when she was killing people indiscriminately and not on the side of the good guys.

Aldnoah Zero, Vol. 4 comes from Olympus Knights and Pinakes, who tell the exciting story of an Earth fighting off a Martian invasion through airships. (Ah, it must be an alternate history! Every story with airships is an alternate history...and vice versa.) I think these are little-green-men Martians rather than human-colonist Martians, but I can't find anything in the book to confirm that.

Are You Alice? Vol. 12 is the last in the series from Ikumi Katagiri and Ai Ninomiya, which is some kind of violent retelling of Alice in Wonderland with added metafiction. (There's a character who is Lewis Carroll -- or, perhaps, is taking the role of Lewis Carroll for this performance.)

The Boy and the Beast, Vol. 2 comes from Mamoru Hosoda and Rneji Asai, and is about a boy -- I'm going to guess an ordinary boy, since this is manga -- who wandered into a world populated by anthropomorphic animals, and so apprenticed himself to a master to learn swordfighting. (As you do.)

Chaika: The Coffin Princess, Vol. 5 concludes the series by Ichirou Sakaki and Shinta Sakayama -- I believe this is adapting a light novel of the same name. No idea why she's a "coffin" princess; she seems to be pretty lively.

Demonizer Zilch, Vol. 2 is another series that I missed the first volume of, so I may be more wrong about this one than usual. It's from Milan Matra, manga-ka of Omamori Himari...which I also didn't read, so that won't be much help. It seems to be another story about a boy who got caught up in a supernatural girl's machinations -- this one is a demon -- and now is working against his former friends at the secret society that hunts demons. Oh, and I think it's also a harem manga, set at the guy's high school, because of course it is.

First Love Monster, Vol. 5 continues the story (by Akira Hiyoshimaru) of a fifth-grader and his epic first love for an older (?) girl. I'm not sure if the guy here has been repeatedly left back or zapped with an age-changing ray, but there's definitely something weird (other than Japan, I hope) in the background of this seemingly simple love story.

He's My Only Vampire, Vol. 8 continues the story of a girl who has been collecting supernatural creatures -- she has four werewolves, six other assorted weres, three mummies from different countries, five men assembled from parts, two wendigo (US and Canadian), and more ghosts than she can shake a stick at, but sadly, she's only been able to get one vampire so far. I'm sorry, that's completely wrong -- it's what I wish this series was about. Actually, the heroine is a mousy girl (the disatff equivalent of the ordinary boy) compelled by a vampire to serve him and all of that rot. It's byAya Shouoto.

Then there's The Honor Student at Magic High School, Vol. 4 by Yu Mori and Tsutomu Sato. Hot studying action! The thrills of homework! Be astonished by the magical equivalent of Zonta Club! Gaze in wonder at hours of student-council deliberations and be astonished by what magic kids do with Model UN!

Another book adapted from a light novel: My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected, Vol. 2 comes from Wataru Watari's original novel, is drawn (and possibly adapted) by Naomichi Io, and has character designs by the entity designated Ponkan➇. [1] I think this is a parody of a harem manga, with a grumpy loner in place of the ordinary boy and a couple of girls with big breasts in place of the...well, the usual girls with big breasts. But they're totally different girls with big breasts! Probably....

Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 04 synthesizes the ennui of an entire generation of Japanese youth into a powerful indictment of the Weltschmerz of their elders and...well, no, not really. Just that title is so pretentious that it drives me to ever-greater-heights of pretension every time I see it. This is actually a manga by nanao and HaccaWorks*, and this particular volume is about people having dinner -- there may be a larger plot, but I don't know what it is.

Overlord, Vol. 2 continues the adaptation of the light novel of the same name; Kugane Maruyama did the novel and Hugin Miyama does the art for this version. In this one, the ordinary boy logs into a MMORPG that's closing down for one last moment -- and finds himself trapped as an undead evil overlord and faction leader in the fantasy world. Oh, how horrible, right?

Space Dandy, Vol. 2 continues -- and ends; this is the last volume -- the story of an idiot in space by some of the folks behind Cowboy Bebop. (That story is also an anime series; these may be the same stories retold in another format, or not.) The credits imply this is the same as the anime -- "story" is by a creature called Bones, "art" is done by Sung-Woo Park + Redice, and "adaptation" was the work of Masafumi Harada.

Strike the Blood, Vol. 4 has art by TATE, an original story by Gakuto Mikumo (the original light novel; that's what that credit means), and character designs by Manyako. Gee, how hard can character designs be? This one is blonde, that one has dark hair, and the other has the weird color (let's make it chartreuse this time!). They all wear school uniforms with too-short skirts, though one (designated the slutty one) wears hers too tight and shows off more cleavage. And they all have the same face.

Last for now is Shouji Sato's Triage X, Vol. 12, which reminds me both that I haven't read the last few volumes and that I missed #11 entirely. (See my review of #7, which links back to the reviews of 1-5 and 6. But, briefly, this is pretty much exactly what you think it might be, looking at that cover and knowing that it comes shrink-wrapped.)

[1] And I have to figure out the HTML code for that stupid ➇ every time.

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