Thursday, January 21, 2010

Books to look forward to (and one I didn't like)

Wow. It feels like it's been forever since I posted on GLW. I mean, I did miss December, but that was because the book I planned to review ended up being completely *meh*.

The book, Blood Ninja by Nick Lake, just didn't live up to expectations. I mean, ninjas and vampires, what could be bad about that, right? Only, in the book, the ninjas are vampires, see. That's what makes them, um, ninja-awesome, I suppose. Again, meh. That seems to me to be a perfect formula for making ninja boring. Like Batman, they are cool because they are normal people, without special powers, except training, training, awesomeness, gadgets, and training.

Let me say this-- it may not have been the book's fault. Nick Drake does a great job with the research and he brings to life the era of Samurai and Ninja almost as good as Stan Sakai (more on him later). But I was expecting Ninja vs. Vampire. That's cool.

I mean, come on, folks, aren't we over vampires yet? Can't we find our way back to some kind of unexpected cool that doesn't involve sensing the blood pulse in the neck of a best mate/potential girlfriend?

I'm so glad, then, for 2010, when we look to the future, and a slew of great looking books chock-full of the offbeat, the new, and even some old school stories brought back to life. After the break, great books to look forward to...

So, what to look forward to? These are books I've seen bits and pieces of, or advanced copies of, or have just gotten enough of a lick to really, really want more:

I mentioned Stan Sakai earlier. He's a master cartoonist, often overlooked because he does two things that have fallen by the wayside here in the states: historical adventure and funny animal. Usagi Yojimbo is a ronin rabbit, wandering Japan, falling into one adventure after another, some big, some small. Sakai has written and drawn over twenty volumes of this noble warrior, and every time a new one comes out, I rush to pick it up (it also comes out as a comic pamphlet, but I "wait for the trades," as they say in the comic book biz). If you've never read any Usagi, there's two great ways to dive in. The first is a $14.95 hardcover, stand-alone story from Dark Horse Comics called Yokai, in which Usagi fights all kinds of demons and goblins of Japanese folklore. That came out last month. If you're more ambitious, save up your dough, because for $85, Fantagraphics, publisher of the first seven volumes of the comic, is issuing a deluxe, two-volume complete edition of everything Usagi that they ever published, including long out of print stories, interviews, and more.

Speaking of historical adventure, Crogan's March, Chris Schweizer's next book in his swashbuckling adventure series of graphic novels, comes out later this year. It's about a Legionnaire from the annals of the legendary Crogan family, and Schweizer one-ups his earlier Pirate adventure (Crogan's Vengeance) with a combination of pulpy military adventure, The Dirty Dozen, and The Odyssey.

I'm also looking forward to books without pictures as well. One of my absolute, knock-out recent reads is an advanced copy I got of Adam Rex's next book. If you know Adam Rex, from his picture books, or his chapter book The True Meaning of Smekday, then you know how hysterical he is. And that's why I picked up Fat Vampire without hesitation. Yes, I know I began this essay by bemoaning vampires. But when it's about a kid who realizes that he's going to be fifteen, fat, and unpopular for the rest of eternity? And the book opens with a scene at San Diego Comic-Con? How can you not love it?

Finally, I think what I'm looking forward to the most this coming year is David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself. It's the transcripts of interviews, two hundred pages worth, Lipsky did with author David Foster Wallace back when he was on tour fifteen years ago for his book Infinite Jest. As tragic as his death was (Wallace committed suicide a year and a half ago after losing a battle with depression), Wallace's mind was absolutely fierce. And as brilliant a fiction writer as he was, I think his non-fiction work will stand the test of time. This, his thoughts unfiltered? I'm hoping to dive again into the mind of someone I admired and loved so much.

What books are you looking forward to this year?


Colleen said...

Justin: I changed the cover image because that Blood Ninja cover was so so so bad. Ugh! What on earth was S&S thinking? (And honestly it actually hurt my eyes to see it on our background.)

I like the David Foster Wallace one much better - besides, it's a book you're actually looking forward to! Thanks for letting us know about it!

Ms. Yingling said...

I felt exactly the same way about Blood Ninja. Just did not do it for me.

Becker said...

Thanks for the heads up on the new Adam Rex book! I loved The True Meaning of Smeday, and have recommended it at the library and given it as a gift, so I'm looking forward to more of Mr. Rex's humor!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Colleen.

As far as Blood Ninja goes, were I 12, I might love it, but the vampires seemed so unnecessary.

As far as Fat Vampire goes, what makes it really great is how it's more than just funny--he has moments in there that are bittersweet, awkward, heartbreaking, gut wrenching... I loved it.

Doret said...

I loved Melina Marchetta's new book Finnkin of the Rock.

Looking forward to Sharon Flake's -You Don't Even Know Me -Stories and Poems About Boys

And The Last Summer of The Death Warriors by Francisco Stork