Read in July

I'm going to stop moaning here about how little I'm reading -- for this month, at least -- and just dive into the actual list. So here's what I did read this month:

R. Crumb, The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat (7/5)

Charles Burns, The Hive (7/8) -- This doesn't publish until October, so I expect I'll be able to get something down in words in a timely way. For now, go check out X'ed Out, the first book of this trilogy.

Walt Kelly, Pogo Vol. 2: Bona Fide Balderdash (7/11)

I read the first volume of the syndicated-strip Pogo reprints around this time last year, and burbled excitedly about it here. This volume continues the reprint project, with the complete strips from 1951 and 1952...and, somehow, I'm not as excited.

Kelly's line is just as lovely and expressive, and the characters go through the same kind of adventures -- Kelly was particularly good at telling long continuities with funny stuff every day -- but my reaction, this time, was more "hmm, this is quite good" than "I've got to read more of this." I may be just far too jaded for a man of my years, since Bona Fide Balderdash is full of laughs and great art -- but this book didn't strike me as strongly as the first volume did.

Brian Ralph, Daybreak (7/15)

Ian Frazier, The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days (7/16)

Alex Ross, edited by Chip Kidd, Rough Justice (7/18)

Paul Cornell, London Falling (7/19)

Craig Yoe, editor, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Creator Joe Shuster (7/21)

Jacob Tomsky, Heads in Beds (7/23)

Nick Hornby, More Baths Less Talking (7/24)

Hornby's been writing a column called "Stuff I've Been Reading" for The Believer -- entirely focused on the positive, which implies that he leaves out books he disliked -- for a number of years now, and there have been four collections of that column: The Polysyllabic Spree, Housekeeping Vs. the Dirt, Shakespeare Wrote for Money, and this book (which covers May 2010 through the end of 2011). The first book was one of the inspirations for this blog, way back when I started in 2005 -- which explains why I so often fall into just posting slightly annotated list of books -- and I reviewed Housekeeping in 2006. All of those books are deeply enjoyable to read if you're at all bookish. But trying to "review" a book of lists of books in another list of books is just far too meta, so I'll leave it at that. Oh, and the title is explained on page 115 -- you've got that to look forward to.

Jeffrey Brown, Vader's Little Princess (7/26)

Hey, remember Darth Vader and Son? (If not, see my quick precis at the end of this monthly roundup.) It was fun, and quite popular, so Brown got to do another one. This time out, Leia is the focus -- sometimes with Luke running about as well -- and Brown takes advantage of his severely out-of-continuity premise to do teen-daughter jokes as well as little-girl jokes. They're good jokes, generally, and they reference famous Star Wars lines that you will recognize and enjoy. If you need a quick gift for a geeky friend, this is exactly what you want.

Austin Grossman, You (7/29)

Barry Deutsch, Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite (7/30)

Ernie Bushmiller, Nancy Likes Christmas (7/30)

Yes, she does. Nearly all of us do, actually. And almost as many of us like the clean, crisp cartooning of the late Ernie Bushmiller. This book collects all of the Nancy dailies from 1946-1948, early enough in Bushmiller's career that the gags aren't quite as precise and honed as we expect. This isn't quite Three Rocks Bushmiller, but it sees him heading in that direction: tightening his gags, focusing ever more on universals rather than gags based on current life. And even on-the-way-up Bushmiller is pretty darn good -- this shows him turning into the pure gag cartoonist he quickly became, and that may be of particular interest to budding gag cartoonists.

Tim Kreider, We Learn Nothing (7/31)

Several of those italicized titles will turn into links over the next three days, and I expect (hope?) I'll be banging out things on the rest of them through the weekend. In any case, it was a decent month, with a good pile of books, nearly all of which I can recommend to the right readers.

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daybreak is the world's only second-person zombie apocalypse graphic novel: the main character is "you," whose face or body Ralph never shows, whose viewpoint frames the entire story and whose voice is never heard. You begin the book by meeting a friendly one-armed man, and spend most of the rest of the book in his company -- dodging zombies (whose faces are almost never seen, as if You spend all of your time looking at the ground to keep your feet), scrounging for food, and having variously tense meetings with other still-human survivors.

Ralphs has a detailed, textured art style that works well for this story -- he's really good at drawing rocks and rubble, broken machinery and tangled junk, rain and darkness, grubby hide-outs and makeshift shelters. His dialogue is serviceable, but it gets choppy -- he's only showing one side of a conversation, but still wants the entire thing to be clear. Daybreak has a clever idea, but it never transcends the level of "clever idea" -- the story is just fine, entertaining on a picaresque zombie-story level -- but the reader has to assume that Ralphs was aiming at something more than that, and Daybreak doesn't deliver on that level. Still, it's a fun graphic novel with zombies and an interesting organizing idea, which is pretty good.

Thea Gilmore i legendariska Sun Studio

Det händer att jag trillar på en musikalisk upplevelse helt oväntat och den tar mig med på en upptäcktsfärd så att jag nästan är där. När den här 25 minuters videon var slut höll jag på att börja applådera...!!

Häpnadsväckande 25 minuters magi med Thea Gilmore och hennes kompanjon (både i musiken och privat) Nigel Stonier. De framför "Roll On" (tänkvärt och inspirerat), "Old Soul" (en favorit i bästa versionen), "Inch by Inch" (hur bra kan det här bli...?), "The Lower Road" (nu ryser jag innerligt och skakar av välbehag...) och positiva "Come Up With Me".

Däremellan får vi höra kloka ord av Thea. Vilken tjej! Vilken röst! Vilka låtar! Vilken inspelning!
Jag blir alldeles matt...!

The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat by R. Crumb

I didn't start reading Crumb until I was old and grumpy and embittered -- which does match Crumb himself these days, so it's appropriate. But his biggest fans, I think, found his work when they were young and impressionable and enthusiastic, the way Crumb was as a young cartoonist in the '60s. So I've looked at a bunch of Crumb books over the past few years -- his interesting Book of Genesis, the mostly illustrative Sweeter Side, the aptly named Odds & Ends, and the very '60s Mr. Natural -- but not really clicked with any of it -- he's an interesting cartoonist of historical importance, but there's nothing that I really loved.

The Life and Death of Fritz the Cat is one of Crumb's central suites of stories, with the indomitably self-obsessed title character at their heart. Crumb's early work was all about screwing ever deeper into his own psyche -- which, luckily for him, both fit the mood of the age and featured a psyche very much in vogue -- and so each of the stories here sees some version of Fritz, a young man on the make in a world of anthropomorphics, haring off in a million directions at once (college student, rock star, CIA agent, revolutionary, etc.) to fit the fever dreams of a generation that didn't know what it wanted but was sure it wanted that right now.

The stories don't fit together in any coherent way; they're barely about the same character. Fritz is just one side of Crumb's desires, the semi-controlled id, always wanting to run off and do something more interesting than whatever's already in front of him. The stories also span nearly a decade, from the very scratchy, barely intelligible art of "R. Crumb's Comics and Stories" in 1964 to the mature full Crumb look of "Fritz the Cat 'Superstar'" from 1972 -- there's nothing at all consistent about this book.

I suspect that Crumb is highly regarded mostly for his work ethic -- he's produced vastly more work than his peers of the early underground scene, consistently for forty-plus years -- for the sensuousness of his mature art, and for the fact that he's been so willing to push boundaries his entire career. He wrote and drew stories about sex and drugs and angst and alienation, in immediate and obvious terms, and the Baby Boomers both knew just what he meant and felt he was talking right to them. That doesn't mean, unfortunately, that those stories work all that well for a different audience forty years later -- if you're my age or younger, I wouldn't expect you to ever love Crumb.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/27

I have no specific attempts at humor to lead off with this week, so I might as well just get right into it. These are books that I got last week, all sent to me by publicity folks at publishing companies. They'd very much you to buy and love the books they publish, since that's what pays their salaries -- and, on top of that, no one goes into publishing just for the money to begin with. I haven't read these books as of this moment -- and, given time constraints and my already full shelves, I might not read all of them before the Heat Death of the Universe -- but here's what I can tell you about them right now.

I like to lead off with something specific and interesting, and I've seen Chuck Wendig's Under the Empyrean Sky around a bit lately, so it gets the top slot. I haven't read Wendig before, but he's written a few books -- I think mostly SF for Angry Robot, though he's got a lot of very different projects linked on his blog -- and is a well-known blogger. This particular book begins a YA fantasy series called "The Heartland Trilogy" for Skyscape, the new Amazon imprint. (So you might not have much luck finding this in your local B&N or indy store.) It's publishing in hardcover and the usual digital formats on Tuesday, and looks to be one of those trendy dystopias, with the rich folks floating above in palatial "sky flotillas" and Our Heroes mucking about near the ground in scavenged tech, trying to control the nasty engineered monoculture crop that covers all of The Heartland. Don't expect too much subtlety, I guess, is what I'm saying.

Box Office Poison is the first novel by ex-TV writer (story editor, actually, which is something like "head writer," more or less) Phillipa Bornikova, and will probably turn out to be the first in a new urban fantasy series. Bornikova takes the usual UF setup -- there really are vampires, werewolves, and elves, pretty much all exactly as you think of them, but they've been hidden for most of human history -- and throws it into legal-thriller territory. Linnet Ellery, a human lawyer at a vampire-dominated firm, has been hired to arbitrate a dispute within the Screen Actors Guild between the unearthly beautiful elves and the humans who are steadily losing jobs to them. Of course, there's skuldugggery and secret factions running around, too -- it wouldn't be a legal thriller without at least one murder -- so Ellery has her (exquisitely manicured, I'm sure) hands full. Box Office Poison is a  Tor hardcover, coming August 6th. (And, looking at it more intently, it either changed title from This Case Is Gonna Kill Me much too late in the process or is actually the second book in the series -- because many of the quotes on this book are attributed to Gonna Kill Me.)

Also on August 6th in hardcover, from Tor's less-fantastical cousin Forge -- home to legal thrillers without vampires, mysteries without werewolves, or, in this case, sword-slinging without magic -- comes Jack Whyte's new historical novel Robert the Bruce, second in "The Guardians" series after The Forest Laird. Robert, as we all should know by now, was King of Scotland at the end of the turbulent thirteenth century, and this book traces wee Robbie's journey from a ten-year-old boy to that king. This is the kind of thing Whyte is famous for, so if you can stand your medieval intrigue and battles to be sans dragons, jump right in here.

The next book is not titled Super Heroes, possibly because that's a trademark of the Marvel and DC comic-book companies. It is actually titled Super Stories of Heroes & Villains, but the cover might make you believe otherwise. It's edited by Calude Lalumiere, and is a reprint anthology coming from Tachyon in September. Inside are 28 stories, ranging from Kim Newman's "Ubermensch!" to Gene Wolfe's "The Detective of Dreams," with stories by Kurt Busiek, Kelly Link, Chris Roberson, Rachel Pollack, Carol Emshwiller, Jonathan Lethem, Carrie Vaughn, Tim Pratt, and many others in between -- and all of those stories, obviously, are about the kind of people we in SF used to call Wild Talents before comic-bookishness completely took over the world of nerdity.

Last for this week is another book from Tachyon, Deadman's Road by Joe R. Lansdale, coming as a trade paperback in August. It collects a series of weird western tales -- gunslinger horror, to put it another way -- about the Reverend Jebidiah Mercer, the hard-drinking and gun-slinging preacher of the Old West. Lansdale's intro declares that these stories were created in the spirit of the old pulp magazines -- so, if you're looking for something like that, here you are.

All the Awards in the World

Or at least it feels like that many. These are the recent award announcements that I've missed pointing out here -- many (most? all?) of you will have heard of some or all of them already, but I hope there's something new or surprising below:

2012 Shirley Jackson Awards

This is a new award -- so new, in fact, that it popped up after I lost my SF job, so it confuses me every year. It's an award for literary horror, more or less -- creepy/uneasy/weird stories written well, in the vein of the award's eponymous writer -- and there's a site for it here. This year's winners are:
  • NOVEL: Edge, Koji Suzuki (Vertical, Inc.)
  • NOVELLA: “Sky,” Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls, Twelfth Planet Press)
  • NOVELETTE: “Reeling for the Empire,” Karen Russell (Tin House, Winter 2012)
  • SHORT FICTION: “A Natural History of Autumn,” Jeffrey Ford (Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July/August 2012)
  • SINGLE-AUTHOR COLLECTION: Crackpot Palace, Jeffrey Ford (William Morrow)
  • EDITED ANTHOLOGY: Exotic Gothic 4: Postscripts #28/29, edited by Danel Olson (PS Publishing)
Congratulations to all of the winners, and just one question to the organizers -- do you really have to specify an "edited" collection? I'm not aware of any spontaneously published anthologies out there....


2013 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards

This is a long list -- I grumbled about the number of categories when I was a judge, a few years back, and the categories have only proliferated since -- so I'll just give a few of the biggies.
  • BEST CONTINUING SERIES: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)
  • BEST NEW SERIES: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)
  • BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM -- NEW: Building Stories by Chris Ware (Pantheon)
  • BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM -- REPRINT: King City by Brandon Graham (TokyoPop/Image)
(via Comics Reporter, though every other comics site has it somewhere as well)

2013 Prometheus Awards

These are given by the Libertarian Futurist Society each year to, as far as I can tell, the book that they really like that will most confuse the people who look at "Libertarian" in their name and go extremely literal. There are two awards: one for a new work, and one for an old one:

  • BEST NOVEL: Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow (Tor Books)
  • HALL OF FAME: Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
 These awards will actually be given at LoneStarCon 3 at the end of August, so, if you see Cory or Neal in the meantime, keep it quiet, OK?

(via Science Fiction Awards Watch)

Science Fiction Awards Watch also updated with several other awards -- I'd call them minor, but I'm trying to be tactful here -- like the Seiun (the Japanese Hugo, though the name means "Nebula"! Ha ha ha!), Scribe, and Sunburst. But my fingers are getting tired, so I'll just link 'em.

Fem tjejer som når ända fram

Ytterligare några tjejer, kanske inte lika pretentiöst och originellt, men i sin tur väldigt bra...! Tjejer som går hela vägen... oj då... som når ändå fram! Enkelhet kan ibland vara att föredra.

Amelia Curran - "Spectators" 2013
Kanadensiska Amelia Curran skrev "What Will You Building" på The Once första skiva, en bland de bästa låtar på länge. Den finns med här i en ny version med spännande arrangemang. Men alla tio låtarna här har kvalitet rakt igenom, med texter som en ung Jackson Browne hade varit stolt över. Tänkvärda funderingar både om kärlek och tillståndet i världen. Det här är en vidrigt bra skiva, men det tog flera lyssningar att inse det. Det är lågmält och absolut inte publik-friande, men jag antar att Amelia kände att hon var tvungen att få ur sig den här skivan. Så ruskigt suggestivt och utlämnande att jag inte finner ord...

Maja Heurling - "Tänk om inte kärlek övervinner alllt" 2012
Svensk vispop som borde få mycket större uppmärksamhet. Maja skriver väldigt personligt och formulerar sig på sitt eget sätt och musiken har omväxlande och fyndiga arrangemang. Det låter självklart och självsäkert, men ändå ödmjukt. Mycket starka texter med oväntade vändningar. Lite som en kvinnlig Winnerbäck. Maja Heurling kan mycket väl ha gjort förra årets bästa svenska skiva. Fast det visste jag ju inte då...

KT Tunstall - "Invisible Empire / Crescent Moon" 2013
KT (uttalas Katie) Tunstall slog igenom 2005 med "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree", trots att hon tidigare fått höra att hon var "för gammal" (över 25!) och "inte sexig nog". Den skotska tjejen, som även har irländskt och kinesiskt påbrå, har nu gjort sin femte skiva och det är en imponerande skapelse. Väldigt lågmäld och även här kan det ta lite tid att lyssna in sig. Skulle dock önska lite fler rytmiska och snabbare låtar som den här tjejen är så bra att få fram.

Susan James - "Driving Toward the Sun" 2013
Inte speciellt originellt, men i all enkelhet en väldigt tilltalande skapelse. Här finns de snabbare enkla låtarna jag nyss efterlyste. Jag antar att det är svårt att få uppmärksamhet med ett så vardagligt namn och musik som inte direkt sticker ut. Synd, för hon har gjort en skiva det är lätt att tycka om. Inte alls märkvärdigt, men riktigt bra och medryckande.

Thea Gilmore - "Regardless" 2013
Thea är en favorit här hemma. Hennes stämma framkallar välbefinnande, hon skriver bra och angelägna låtar och verkar vara en väldigt klok tjej därtill. Bruce Springsteen lär nyligen ha sagt till henne att han lyssnar på hennes skivor varje kväll, eller i alla fall ofta... Efter det lyckade projektet att tonsätta Sandy Dennys texter kommer nu Theas första egna album på ett tag. EP:n som kom innan, "Beginners" är inget annat än fantastisk. Nya skivan är lite mer arrangerad och inte fullt lika fantastisk, men ändå enastående bra. Som bäst är hon i de nedtonade akustiska låtarna, som "I Will Not Disappoint You" och "Punctuation", men de växer alla efter några lyssningar. "This Road" är en klar kandidat till årets låt. Singeln "Love Came Looking for Me" är väldigt medryckande. Thea visar hela sin bredd och kanske äntligen kan nå lite större framgångar.

Originella tjejer - och ganska bra...

En bunt med tjejer som gör originell musik, egensinnat och utan att anpassa sig efter det som marknaden förväntar... Bra och imponerande, men tyvärr inte fantastiskt... Det är inte alltid så lätt att nå ända fram... Men tillräckligt bra för att uppmärksammas...!

AnnaMy - "Woodpecker" 2012
AnnaMy (Anna Myrsten) spelade förband till Great Lake Swimmers på Debaser i november. När en skivdebuterande tjej väljer att göra psykadelisk folkrock sticker det ut. Verkligen. Och hon har gjort en bra skiva, men ändå krånglar arrangemangen till det något och det lyfter bara ibland. I avslutande "Too Fast Too Far Too Fun" får hon till det så att jag blir berörd. Innan dess är det en sådan där skiva där huvudet säger att det här "borde" jag verkligen tycka om, men jag gör det inte fullt ut. Den enda låten på svenska, "Stegen", sätter sig på tvären. En av de bästa låtarna, men när allt annat är på engelska, så låter det fel. Ändå: En stark debut!

Jessica Rydén - "My Little Heart" 2013
Jessika Rydén från Stockholm har nog lyssnat mycket på tidiga Joni Mitchell och Rickie Lee Jones. Lågmält och ärligt och Jessikas speciella röst sätter sin prägel på musiken och ger den personlighet. Det är snyggt gjort, men jag saknar lite mer temperament och lite fler tydliga melodier. Avslutande "Time" är en pärla och visar vilken kapacitet Jessika Rydén har. Lyssna här: "Time"
På hennes hemsida kan du höra hela skivan!

Mona & Maria - "My Sun" 2013
Mona Andersen och Maria Knudsen är två blonda tjejer från Norge som debuterar med ett vackert album med stämningsfulla låtar, där deras sång ligger som ett veckert täcke överst i musiken och lyfter de påhittiga arrangemangen. När det funkar som bäst är det oemotståndligt men ibland känns det lite överarbetat och blir då inte riktigt angeläget... Ibland kan jag höra någon frasering som får mig att tänka på Jane Relf i ursprungliga Renaissance, bättre beröm kan jag inte ge. Det finns också ett stänk av Clannad's senare skivor. Men ibland blir sång-arrangemangen irriterande vackra och jag önskar de hade tonat ner ljudbilden lite, som i de lågmälda "Golden Mind", "Healing Song" och "Shivers In The Blue". Då blir det riktigt bra...! 

Jude Johnstone - "Shatter" 2013
Jude Johnstone är sjungande låtskrivare med flera skivor bakom sig. Hennes mörka, lite hesa röst ger djup och närvaro. Titellåten och "Girl Afraid" är exempel när resultatet blir lysande. Men när hon försöker låta som Tom Waits funkar det inte riktigt. Jazzinfluenserna är inte lika bra denna gång. Som helhet spretar det åt lite för många håll. Johnstone's första två album "Coming of Age" och "On A Good Day" är så bra, så jag får uppmuntra till att lyssna på dem istället...! Börja med "Wounded Heart" här ovanför...!

Incoming Books: July 22

These are all comics -- bought by mail from one of this nation's finer such sellers (and, as usual, packed to within an inch of their lives, because comics shops are hardcore about that shit), and mostly to replace books I had before the flood.

So these are pretty much all things I think worthy buying at least twice, which is a pretty good recommendation, I think.

(And they did arrive on Monday, but it took me until tonight to write about them, due to a big semi-off-site meeting at work Tuesday-Wednesday. Life is too damn busy, and it's too damn busy with the wrong things.)

It's Science with Dr. Radium, Vol. 3 by Scott Saavedra -- Saavedra doesn't seem to have done much cartooning over the past decade or so, or, at least, not things I've noticed. (Please tip me off if there's some great body of recent Saavedra stuff.) But his '80s and '90s work on Dr. Radium was inspired nuttiness, the kind of thing I'm surprised in retrospect didn't become a short-lived cartoon around about 1994. With this book, I've re-acquired the whole series, such as it is. It's not high art, but it is high fun, and mad science, and a lot of other wonderful things.

Paris by Andi Watson and Simon Gane -- see my review of it back in 2008. Rebuilding the Andi Watson shelf, even if this is pretty minor Watson.

The Legend of Grimjack, Vol. 1 by John Ostrander and Tim Truman -- here we see my comics OCD in full force; I do have most of the books in this series (re-acquired post-flood), but I have the later omnibus instead of volumes 1 & 2, and so I'm fixing that, so all of the books line up nicely in the shelf.

Flaming Carrot's Greatest Hits: Collected Album No. 3 by Bob Burden -- My sons have never read Flaming Carrot comics. Do you believe that? I have to fix this.

Thor Visionaries: Walt Simonson, Vol. 1 -- I lost the first three of these to the flood, and am re-acquiring. Again, I think both my boys will love these stories, so I can count this as a cultural enrichment process for my family.

Two Love & Rockets collections -- Heartbreak Soup and Amor Y Cohetes-- by Los Bros Hernandez, as I inch closer to getting the whole thing again for a massive re-read. (Not as big an inch as hoped, since my long-delayed and half-forgotten Fantagraphics order, which arrived last week, also had Heartbreak Soup in it. I'll have to figure out how to deal with that.)

And last is Skin Deep, a collection of Charles Burns's "Dog Boy" stories from the '80s. In this case, I didn't have a copy of this book before the flood, though I think I had all of the stories in other things (probably comic-shaped stapled collections of paper) that were drowned.

Lite mer från Enköping

Måste dela med mig lite mer från Enköpings Folkrock-festival:
Några bilder: Inget pris till den som inser varför jag valt just dessa...  :-)

Båda togs av Lars Wall och här kan du se fler av hans bilder:

Bildalbum från folkrockfestivalen i Enköping
Gudarna ska veta att det inte är lätt att ta bilder på konserter, men Lasse gör det väldigt bra!

Vagabond Ways kommer snart med sin skiva med enbart nytt och eget material. Här är två av de nya låtarna, hör vad bra det blir:

Reviewing the Mail: Week of July 20

It's been scorchingly hot in my neck of the wood this past week, which has kept me out of the basement office -- basements are cooler than the outside, but that's only a minor consolation when the temperatures are in the mid-90s -- and that only adds to my typical blogging lethargy. But I'm here now, with a stack of books to tell you about, and a hope that it's slightly less hot wherever you are (or that your climate control is better than this room's).

These books are arrived on my doorstep over the past week, sent by publicists working for their respective publishing companies. I haven't read any of them yet, and some of them may not be things I'd personally love -- but your tastes aren't necessarily mine, so here's what looks most interesting or amusing about these books:

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has been chronicling the adventures of her fictional version of that historical con artist the Count Saint-Germain for about thirty-five years, to the point where I expect a lot of readers believe she invented the character herself. Yarbro's version of Saint-Germain is an immortal vampire, and her novels are scattered across his long life and not organized in any specific chronological sequence. The new one is Night Pilgrims, set in Egypt and the Holy Land during the time of the Crusades -- I think specifically the early 13th century due to a reference to "Jenghiz Khan" -- in which the Count guides a group of pilgrims to some hidden holy sites, possibly seduces a noblewoman, and deals with various kinds of intrigue. It's a Tor hardcover, on sale the 30th of July.

Ace -- which was my favorite publisher for a long time in the '80s, and still does a lot of books I love -- has three mass-market paperbacks coming in August:

Pile of Bones launches the "Parallel Parks" series by Bailey Cunningham, in which a group of graduate students spend their nights in a local park-cum-alternate-world, where they become DD&Dish adventurers. Of course, things don't stay simple -- or contained -- for long.

Ilona Andrews is back with the sixth book in the "Kate Daniels" series in Magic Rises. Daniels is some manner of shapeshifter in Atlanta -- and is also apparently a "mercenary," which I guess doesn't mean she works for Blackwater guarding supplies in Iraq, but I have no idea what it does mean -- and fantasy-married to "Curran, the Beast Lord," because that's what happens to an urban fantasy heroine. This time out, she and her Beast Lord are trying to get the fantasy medicine needed to save juvenile shapeshifters, which they can only get from the usual ancient and sneaky Europeans.

And the third Ace paperback is Jean Johnson's Hellfire, third in a military-SF series called "Theirs Not to Reason Why." The heroine is a prophetic starship captain named Ia who needs to "save the galaxy" -- possibly from the invading Salik, but it sounds like something bigger than that. There also seems to be a near-Thomas Covenant level of doom lingering in the air, for those looking for that. There's nothing that says this is the end of a trilogy, but it is a third book.

To change gears entirely, next I have Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium: Volume 1, a new collection of the comics -- launching a new series, it says, though it's not terribly different from the other reprints of the comics series. Still, it's 176 pages of Simpsons comics, by a whole bunch of people (each story has credits, but the book doesn't compile them in any way). It's a trade paperback from Harper Design, hitting stores on July 30.

I saw a pre-publication promo piece for Joe Sacco's new "book" (more on that later) The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme about a month ago, but now the actual object itself is in front of me. As I just implied, it's an odd package: a slipcase containing a single wordless 24-foot long drawing (accordion-folded between heavy boards) by Sacco and a booklet with an essay about the battle by Adam Hochschild and notes on the drawing by Sacco. It's certainly an interesting object, and I look forward to staring at for a while. It's coming from Norton on November 4th.