Monday, February 24, 2020

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/22/20

Oh, don't even ask.

But I do have a few new books to mention this week!

Two of them came in the mail -- in a mailer heavily battered and repacked by someone claiming the unlikely name of "Nixie Sorter" and admitting there may have been other things, possibly wondrous and valuable things, in that package originally that were now irretrievably lost -- and one more was a book I just bought, perhaps because I still think of myself as someone who actually reads books. (Which I am not, at the moment.)

The two books in the mail both came from the Night Shade arm of Skyhorse, and I have to admit that I have no idea who the editorial staff is there these days, despite once knowing people on both sides of that equation quite well. (Well, I'm pretty sure Tony Lyons is still running Skyhorse, so hi to both him and whoever he hired to edit SFF for him.) Both are advance proofs; both are publishing in June; both will be hardcovers. And the two books are very different in nearly every way, which is nice for the field and for the health of the Night Shade program.

First up alphabetically (and in the package as repacked by the estimable Nixie) is Neal Asher's The Human, third in his current series "Rise of the Jain." Asher writes zippy, exciting space-opera adventure, and as I recall his super-science is generally on this side of the plausible line. (He's British, you know. No idea if that has anything to do with anything, but don't we colonials usually grant anyone with even the loutiest British Isles accent the benefit of the doubt?)

And then we have a book that's fantasy rather than sf, old rather than new -- The Best of Jules de Grandin by Seabury Quinn, a new collection edited by George Vanderburgh (who also edited Night Shade's previous five-volume collection of the complete de Grandin). Quinn is the great forgotten Weird Tales writer -- if you know the original Weird Tales at all, you think of Lovecraft and Howard first, maybe Clark Ashton Smith next, maybe August Derleth if you're a masochist. Quinn, in those days, was actually more consistently popular than any of those [1], and his work has been occasionally re-discovered since then, only to fall into obscurity again and again. de Grandin is his most famous character, an occult detective based in Harrisonville, NJ, whose stories were told in the Sherlock Holmes manner by his assistant, Dr. Samuel Trowbridge. I have to admit that I've never read Quinn, but having a nice new collection of twenty of the best stories of his most famous character definitely moves him up the list. Maybe it would for you as well?

And last is The Eye of Mongombo, the first third of a long-thought-dead comics series by Doug Gray. Eye was originally supposed to be a twelve-issue comics series from Fantagraphics; it started in mid-1989 and ran for seven issues before Gray quietly walked away. Last year, he popped back up with a Kickstarter to finally finish it off -- the project didn't hit its goals but he went forward anyway, and this first volume is now available via Lulu. (If you're reading this in the future, Grey intends to get the book onto the usual bookselling platforms, so you could check there as well. I bought a copy almost as soon as he announced it.) Eye is a wacky adventure comic about a two-fisted Indiana Jones type (Cliff Carlson) who was turned into a duck and thrown headlong into the usual high-adventure chase for a mysterious artifact in South America. I liked it a lot the first time around, and I have an obvious interest in people who were in an interesting creative field, disappeared for a while, and then came back.

[1] Though, frankly, if I had to bet, the most popular creator for Weird Tales was Margaret Brundage...who was not a writer at all.