Monday, May 31, 2021

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/28/21

I'm rationing again this week: I got a box of graphic novels that I ordered from an Internet seller (no, not that one, this time - one of the bigger online comics retailers, nicknamed for its state), which I'm going to keep holding until next week, because I can do that.

Instead, I'm going to list two books that came in from Tachyon - brand-new SFF books publishing any minute now, and clamoring for your attention - and then three from the library, since the library ones will get read first for obvious due-back-soon reasons.


Jillian vs. Parasite Planet is a SF novel for younger readers by Nicole Kornher-Stace about the eleven-year-old of the title who travels to an alien world with her family for what's supposed to be a fun camping trip, but...well, the author's afterword (which I glanced at) includes the phrase "mind-control parasites," which can't be a good sign. Jillian is also loosely based on the author's son, and has anxiety, so this is not going to be the usual save-everyone-with-my-daring-do skiffy adventure, I think: it's something more specific and modern. Jillian is suggested for ages 8 to 12, and publishes on July 16th.

The Tangleroot Palace is a collection of short stories (I'm going to guess mostly fantasy from the cover) by novelist and comics writer Marjorie Liu, whom I think I've only encountered from Monstress. (Parenthetically, her blurb says that she was the first woman to win an Eisner for Best Writer, which, decades later than the first woman should have been? I mean, don't get me wrong, she deserves one, but first is mind-boggling and not in a good way.) The seven stories here are mostly from 2009-2013, with one from 2016, and originally appeared in various anthologies. This collection will hit stores on June 15.


Making Friends: Back to the Drawing Board is, as I hope will be obvious, Kristen Gudsnuk's sequel to Making Friends. In the first book, seventh-grader Dany dealt with uncomfortable changes in her life with drawing a best friend, Madison, in a sketchbook...which turned out to be magic, and brought Madison to life. As is usual with magical tools, Dany has not exactly learned her lesson, and it looks like, in this book, she decides to make a copy of herself to help with homework and the usual not-being-able-to-be-in-two-places-at-once problems. And I'm sure it all goes absolutely fine, and the book is an endless sequence of Dany triumphing over life, he said sarcastically, looking forward to the opposite.

Black Hammer: Secret Origins is some kind of superhero comic; I've seen it praised a lot, so I think it's generally considered pretty good. (Chime in with a comment if not.) My sense is that there's been a bunch of semi-random Black Hammer stuff, but that this is at least a beginning. (But my sense was also that "Black Hammer" was a single hero with a somewhat darker skin tone than any of the people on this cover, so I'm not paying attention the way I should.) It's written by Jeff Lemire, whose personal and SSFF work I've generally liked, and whose superhero stuff I'm almost entirely avoided. And it's drawn by Dean Ormston, about whom I know nothing. But it's colored by Dave Stewart, who did a lot of great moody stuff for Hellboy and related projects, and also seems to be Dark Horse's go-to color chappie.

Invisible Differences is a graphic novel with odd credits: story by Julie Dachez; adaptation, illustration, and colors by Mademoiselle Caroline; and inspired by and in collaboration with Fabienne Vaslet. (I think that means Dachez wrote the whole thing, but not in comics form, Caroline turned it into actual comics, and Vaslet kibitzed and/or vaguely edited and/or is the comics equivalent of an executive producer.) That was all in French, so this edition was translated by Edward Gauvin. It's the story of a young woman named Marguerite, who discovers in what seems to be her mid-twenties that she has Asperger Syndrome [1], which, I gather, gives her a framework to understand who she is and why she's different from the people around her. I'd thought this was entirely non-fictional, but I gather it is thinly fictionalized: Dachez was diagnosed at the age of 27, so this is mostly but not exactly what happened to her. 

[1] I don't have a dog in this fight - though I do have a son on the autism spectrum - but Asperger's is no longer a separate diagnosis in the DSM-5, for about a decade. It's all now "autism spectrum disorder," rather than being a series of checklists to drop people into smaller boxes. I gather this is controversial. As I say, I don't have a side; my son has gotten multiple diagnoses in that region; the one that stuck was the least helpful, PDD-NOS, which basically means "in there somewhere, vaguely, but nothing else specific."

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