Monday, July 26, 2021

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/26/21

So this is weird: I'm typing this a week early. I was on vacation the week of Independence Day, and decided to put up some extra posts while I had time on my hands. So I wrote a couple of Reading Into the Past posts, dated for the next two Mondays, and one of those is dated July 19.

Because of the nature of those posts, I can't move them: they're based on a specific date. Instead, I'm holding the one book that just came in the mail for another week. I may end up getting more books before this post actually publishes; if so, there will be a paragraph immediately under this one saying, in slightly more elevated language, psyke!

The Escapement is the new novel by Lavie Tidhar, coming in paperback on September 21 from Tachyon. I am not a Tidhar expert, though I've actually read a couple of his novels (rare these days for any active SFF writer; I'm reading very slowly this decade) -- Central Station and The Violent Century. My sense is that he writes across genres pretty freely: Station was a Mahfouz-style fixup about a space elevator and Century was a superhero epic across multiple decades. So Escapement should not be a surprise in general outline, though the particular elements may be: it's a surrealist fantasy Western, more or less, with a hero called the Stranger and some level of circus imagery and/or details. That sounds deeply weird, and I'm on board for it.

Psyke! I did get more books in the mail. Two of them, in face, and these are them:

OK, I think the correct order of the title elements of the next book (which is not how they read on the cover) is I Survived: The Attacks of September 11, 2001: The Graphic Novel. This is a line extension of the long-running "I Survived" series of middle-grade non-fiction books, each of which tells the (somewhat fictionalized) story of a kid  who lived through something dangerous and/or of historical importance. Lauren Tarshis originated and has written all of the prose books in the series; she's top-billed on this one as well. The cover mentions that Corey Egbert drew the graphic novel; creators' bios in the end also include Georgia Ball (a writer of comics; my assumption is that she put Tarshis's original 2012 9/11 book into a comics script and possibly was the one who worked with the artist) and Chi Ngo (another artist; maybe a finisher or inker or colorist, or some combination of all of them).

Now, this is one of my pet peeves. Graphic novels should be at least generally clear about what the people involved in them did - and that goes double for books for young readers. Thousands of kids who like to write or draw will read this book. Knowing that Ball and Ngo got jobs doing...whatever, specifically, they did...could be useful to those kids as they plan their lives. That should be called out here.

The story itself follows a boy named Lucas, who was visiting his father and Uncle Benny - they both work at a firehouse in Manhattan - on the day in question. My guess is that even though the title gives away that Lucas survives, I would not expect the same for both dad and Benny. It also looks like this is a pure adaptation of Tarshis's original book, so fans of the series should expect color and comics format but not otherwise something new.

This is coming from Scholastic and will be available on August 3. (I'm glad to see they resisted the temptation to publish on the day itself.)

And the last book I have to tell you about this week - unless something arrives unexpectedly in today's mail - is a new SF novel by Alex J. Cavanaugh, published by Dancing Lemur Press in April. I will do my best not to make fun of the capitalization in the title, which I'm sure is for a good in-story reason: CassaDarK.

This is a MilSF novel, and the front matter mentions three other books with titles that start "Cassa," so my finely-tuned editor's brain detects a series here. CassaStar is listed first, so my guess is that would be the best place to start. It looks like the series hero is a guy named Bassan, who commands spaceships or something like that, whose father is a higher-level commander now about to retire, who has saved the galaxy at least once, and who is afraid of public speaking. This time out, he speaks at a conference and then goes to a prison planet - the description is slightly coy about what status he has there.

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