September 01, 2007

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

Hello everyone. I recently got back from the San Diego Comicon, where I saw all kinds of crazy stuff, including amputee booth models, and way too much CosPlay to contemplate.  Because of this recent over-exposure to all things anime, I feel compelled to tell you about some anime that has made its way to the Borderlands DVD shelves.

First up is "Burst Angel".  This just-released genre-bender mixes sci-fi, action, comedy, and a touch of spaghetti Western into an over-the-top girls-with-guns confection.  The first two volumes/8 episodes of this one are on DVD now.

Another strange anime series that has been getting talked up is the noir/sf series “The Big O”;  (no, the title is not referring to what you think its referring to).  It’s about a futuristic city with 40’s retro styling, whose entire population has lost their memories.  The city is ruled by the police force, and there are giant robots that kind of sit around and don’t really do much.  The title refers to said giant robots.  Think of this as a weird mix of "Dark City" and "Batman The Animated Series," without Batman.  It’s interesting stuff that was apparently shown on the Cartoon Network.  But who has time for cable?  There are now two giant 4-dvd sets available, each containing a 13-episode season.  This is exactly the kind of weird mix of styles and genres that anime does really well.

August Bestsellers

1. Spook Country by William Gibson
2. Sandworms of Dune by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert
3. Hilldiggers by Neal Asher
4. Thirteen by Richard Morgan
5. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
6. Coyote Road: Trickster Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
7. Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
8. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
9. The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
10. Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. Plague Year by Jeff Carlson
2. Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
3. Undertow by Elizabeth Bear
4. Sea of Suns by Karl Schroeder
5. Thin Air by Rachel Caine
6. Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
7. Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds
8. In Fury Born by David Weber
9. Polity Agent by Neal Asher
10. The Machine's Child by Kage Baker tie with
Clan Corporate by Charles Stross

Trade Paperbacks
1. Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey
2. The Very Bloody Marys by M. Christian
3. Grey by Jon Armstrong
4. Poltergeist by Kat Richardson
5. The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks tie with
Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson

Origin of the Bookstore, Part the Eleventh - Moving Books

For the next two months we'll be doing a special feature each month in honor of Borderlands' upcoming 10th Anniversary (November 3rd, 2007).  We'll share some stories about what Borderlands is and how it got that way.

by Alan Beatts

Anyone who collects books or who is an avid reader knows what a pain moving books can be.  But to really appreciate how bad it can get you have to work at a bookstore (or, gods help you, own one).  As I write this, Borderlands has a total of 18,937 books in the store.  When we moved here from our old location, we only had about half that number.  All of which had to be boxed up in alphabetical order and moved over to the current location.  We were clever (at least a little bit) and found boxes that were exactly the right size to fit three long rows of mass-market paperbacks (those are the small paperbacks) stacked one deep.  At least that meant that the books would stay in order as they were moved.  Then it was just a matter of packing them up.  And packing them up.  And packing them up.

I was busy working on getting the new location into shape and most of the rest of the staff were either working their other jobs or helping me at the new location, so Claud Reich packed almost all the paperbacks by himself.  When I left the bookstore that morning, there was a pile of broken down boxes in the middle of the store about five feet high.  By the time I got back there in the evening, there were three or four piles of boxes in stacks higher than Claud's head (and he's not a short guy -- taller than my six feet, in fact).  When you think of regular moving boxes, that doesn't seem very high, but remember, these boxes were only 4" high.  That is a lot of boxes.  And then there were all the boxes of hardcovers and trade paperbacks.

Recent Reading

by Alan Beatts

It has been a good summer for my reading, so this month I thought I'd talk a little about books that I've read recently that really impressed me.  It's a truism that booksellers are either reading something old or something that hasn't come out yet.  I think it's because we're either working on our stacks (and we all have piles of books to read) of brand news stuff or we're "finally getting to that", fill in the blank, "that I've been meaning to read for months".  Whatever the reason, booksellers are almost always either behind our customers' reading or ahead of them.

Having said that, the first book I'm going to mention is an exception to that rule.  HILLDIGGERS by Neal Asher arrived at the store very recently and I grabbed it.  I've been a fan of Asher's since 1998 or so when I read THE ENGINEER, his first collection of short work that was published by Tanjen (a now sadly defunct UK small press).  I was crazy about that book and bought up the entire supply of copies available in the US.  And I promptly sold every single one at the then-cover price of around $15.  Now I wish I'd saved some copies since they're hard as hell to find and go for at least $100 now.

Fast-forward to 2007 when Asher has more than a half-dozen novels out, is a pretty big deal in the UK and working towards that in the US.  His Polity universe, in which most (if not all, the jury is still out on whether COWL is a Polity novel or not) of his novels and many of his short stories are set, is perhaps the must interesting and fully-imagined future history since Niven's Known Space and Banks' Culture.  HILLDIGGERS is his most recent work and in some ways I liked it better than the last two (POLITY AGENT and THE VOYAGE OF THE SABLE KEECH).  Not that the last two were poor examples of his work but they both are followups to other novels (BRASS MAN and THE SKINNER, respectively).  HILLDIGGERS, however, introduces a completely new cast of characters and is set on the outskirts of the Polity (the Line, as it's called).  It's a solid piece of writing that demonstrates Asher's increasing skill at starting the reader at the beginning of the action and then filling in the back-story bit by bit throughout the course of the novel.  If you haven't tried Asher yet, HILLDIGGERS is a good place to start (though I still think that THE SKINNER is his best work to date).

Next I'm going to jump way forward and tease you a little.  John Meaney may be familiar to some of you from his Nulapeiron Sequence (PARADOX, CONTEXT, and RESOLUTION).  His newest novel, BONE SONG, is a departure from his other work and I think it's his best yet.  It's a noir-ish detective novel set in a world very different from ours where something like magic (or more accurately, Necromancy) takes the place of much of our technology.  Neither science fiction nor fantasy, BONE SONG is the book that I've been waiting years to find.  Combining the aesthetic of Hammett or Robert Parker with a setting reminiscent of China Mieville's New Crobuzon, it's a remarkable entry into the canon of supernatural investigation.  Here's the catch: although the UK edition is out already I strongly suggest that you wait to read the US edition.  There were a few editorial and textural changes to the US edition that make it a stronger novel.  The bad news -- the US edition won't be out 'til February of next year.  So, you'll just have to wait.  Don't worry though, we'll mention it in this newsletter when we get copies.

Finally, I'll jump back in time and mention that I finally got around to reading Glasshouse by Charles Stross.  I know, I know it's been out forever but the paperback just caught my eye.  If there's anyone out there who hasn't gotten to it yet either -- buy it.  I heard mixed reviews right when it came out (which was part of the reason I waited on it) but I thought it was great.  Some of the riffs he's playing have been around for a while (interstellar teleportation, artificial societies, and human/meta-human/trans-human relations) but he does his usual (and remarkable) job of extrapolating and integrating ideas so that they are a seemingly rock-solid basis for the story, instead of being the centerpiece.  And the story is a lovely paranoid thriller where the no-one-is-what-they-seem element is enhanced by technology that allows effectively instant body switching and even multiple instances of the same personality in duplicate bodies.  The damn thing hooked me completely and cost me sleep, not to mention several hours at work!

That's about all for this month.  Have a lovely fall.