Monday, May 30, 2016

The Best Antiwar Song I Know

This is "When the Tigers Broke Free," the Pink Floyd song that didn't quite make it onto The Wall the record, but did make it into the movie. I can't listen to it too often; it's that powerful.

This came up in a random shuffle in early May, and I realized I should post it for Memorial Day. And so I am. Today, remember those who fought in the wars of the past, but also work to avoid wars of the future.

Books I Read in January and Never Bothered to Review

I'm declaring review bankruptcy again -- one year after the last time I did it, which is sadly Trumpian of me. As part of the restructuring, my creditors (the books) require that I list them and indicate something about them. This may still take some time, but the post for February is half-drafted, and March, April and May should follow, possibly at weekly intervals. (And Antick Musings intends to continue in business at this diminished level on a going-forward basis. But the Management is not providing any specific earnings guidance to investors at this time.)

Ben Towle, Oyster War (1/12)

Towle was an Eisner Judge the same year I was, so we spent a long weekend (along with a few others) sitting in a past-its-prime San Diego hotel ballroom, reading comics and recommending things to each other.  I don't know him other than that, but he was smart and incisive and committed then, and I've tried to follow his comics since.

Oyster War is a big graphic novel -- physically large pages on top of a strong story -- set in the Chesapeake soon after the Civil War, where an ex-Confederate seaman is hired to deal with fiendish oyster pirates who threaten the livelihood of the rough and  mysterious town of Blood's Haven. (There's a bit of buried E.C. Segar influence here, all thoroughly transmuted but visible as a deep vein.) And there are supernatural forces at work as well.

This is a fun modern take on the classic adventure story, somewhat in the same territory as Chris Schweizer's Crogan stories but with a tighter focus. I liked it a lot, and you should buy it to support my old Eisner buddy.

John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, Vol. 3 (1/13)

See below.

John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, Vol. 4 (1/14)

No, further below.

Walt Kelly, Pogo, Vol. 3: Evidence to the Contrary (1/14)

Two more years (1953 and '54) of one of the declaredly best comic strips of all time, featuring the first appearance and comeuppance of Simple J. Malarky, perhaps Kelly's most pointed transformation of a real-world person into his strip. I liked the first volume a lot, and was a bit more muted about number two -- so this third book sees me naturally bounce back a bit into the middle.  Much of Pogo is of more historical interest to those of us who weren't there at the time (and, sixty years later, that's the vast majority of us), but Kelly's art is gorgeous and deeply expressive, his language is sneakily cutting, and his plotting is excellent. You don't actually need to have been there at the time, though that definitely helps.

John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, Vol. 5 (1/15)

I'm reading this series too slowly and too late -- it's already ended, I think, and been collected into larger hardcover volumes (which makes these paperbacks more difficult to find). But the story of a cibopathic (he gets psychic impressions from things he eats) detective in a deeply weird world full of food-centric supernatural abilities is entirely sui generis, which is incredibly rare in comics or any medium. And it's both fun and funny consistently, with smart plotting from Layman and wonderfully baroque art from Guillory. I'll probably finish it some day, though I'd probably be better off just buying all of the books and reading them straight through. Maybe I will!

Sean McMullen, The Time Engine (1/15)

This was published more than a year after the SFBC told me it no longer required my services, so maybe I sat on it for so long to try to ignore that. (Or maybe I was hoping McMullen would continue the loose "Moonworlds" series, of which this was the fourth.)

Moonworlds was a quirky series, set on one of the moons of a gas giant among humanoids who were pointedly not human (there was one human in the cast to underline this). It was even quirkier because the first two books had essentially the same plot -- megalomaniacal magician starts a megadeath device, which has to be stopped before it destroys the world, device does succeed in destroying roughly one continent each time -- and borrowing H.G. Wells plots for the back two novels. Time Engine has an obvious predecessor and follows Voidfarer, which riffed on War of the Worlds.

This is probably the least of the series -- start from the beginning, like any series, is my advice -- but it's still deeply entertaining, in that spiky McMullen way. No one is guaranteed a happy ending in a McMullen story; he's like Vance in that way. But everything does work out in the end, more or less, with the world not destroyed.

Kate Beaton, Step Aside, Pops! (1/19)

The second major collection of Beaton's miscellaneous strips, which mostly appeared online on her blog, following the amazing Hark! A Vagrant. Beaton, among many other things, shows that feminists can be deeply funny, which is a useful thing to have on the Internet.

Also, there's the whole really-smart-and-incisive thing. Don't want to forget that. So just read Beaton, OK?

Vanyda, The Building Opposite (1/20)

This is a slice-of-live story set in one apartment building and translated from the French, from a small publishing house. I think it came to me in a box post-flood -- several people sent me care packages when they heard I'd lost all of my comics, which was really sweet of them. It's small in many ways, but thoughtful. I'd never heard of Vanyda before -- or since, for that matter.

This is likely the first and only time you'll ever hear about this book, and I'm afraid it's not that wonderful that I should urge you to seek it out. If you do happen to see it, pick it up, though -- and see if it connects to you.

Lemony Snicket, "Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?" (2/22)

This is the fourth book in the second major Snicket series for younger readers, and the short version is this: yes, he sticks the landing.

The "Snicket" books -- Snicket is a pretty open pseudonym for novelist Daniel Handler, who mostly works for adults under his own name -- are smart and sneaky and imply about five times as much as they say, which is very appropriate for the kind of smart kid who wants to figure out how the world works and how she will fit into it. They're also great for us post-kids who love supple writing, mysteries, melancholy, and the kind of fight that you don't give up on even though you know you won't win. Don't start here, but give Snicket a try if those ideas interest you.

Mike Grell, The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance, Vol. 1 (1/25)

This is not the place to find a review of this book.

Mike Grell, The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance, Vol. 2 (1/26)

This is a better option, but still the wrong place.

Mike Grell, The Complete Jon Sable, Freelance, Vol. 3 (1/27)

This seems much more promising, yes? But it's still wrong.

Mike Grell, Jon Sable, Freelance: Bloodtrail (1/29)

I'm sure these were also from post-flood care packages; I'd never read Jon Sable before. This was one of the big series from First in its heyday -- probably the only one I didn't read, since I was a fan of Badger and Grimjack and Nexus and Dreadstar and American Flagg! and Nexus and the Michael Moorcock adaptations -- but I guess I found the setup a bit fussy.

And it is fussy: Sable is an ex-big game hunter with a tragic past (several different levels of tragic past, since the first two stories of the main series are big flashbacks to sad things that happened to him in the old days in Africa) who is now an unlicensed private eye and a bestselling author of treacle-y [1] books for kids with a disguise (bushy mustache and afro-ish wig) that screams "have you seen my mid-70s work in porn?"

The stories are the kind of adventure fiction that comics fans pretend is completely different from superheroes because the hero doesn't wear spandex or have powers. (He does, though, have a "battle mask," which is a dead giveaway, and does fight crime and save the innocent and all of that malarkey.) I don't have as deep an affection for that kind of story as most of the people who read mainstream comics, but these are decent adventure stories once you fight through the '80s undergrowth. And the racial politics were surprisingly non-cringeworthy for a series about a super-bwana white hunter from the 1970s.

(Bloodtrail was a new story in about 2005, for the relaunch of this and several other old First properties from my buddies at ComicMix. The story is the same kind of thing as the old stories -- which is good; it shows consistency -- but I think the series went the way of most relaunches these days.)

Charles Portis, Norwood (1/29)

So my reading series of the Vintage Contemporaries has floundered on the rocks on my lack of posting and general ennui. This is the last one I read to date, meaning I've now missed several months and am far behind. (And I thought reading and writing about one book a month would be easy -- I'm blaming A Fan's Notes, with earlier contributions from Far Tortuga.)

But I'm not going to review Norwood here. It's going back on the pile, and will get a full post eventually, and the Vintage Contemporary series will start back up -- maybe not that often, maybe not reviewed all that way, and definitely not the thing any of my readers come to Antick Musings for. But it's a series I want to do, and that's what matters.

[1] Grell might mean for these to be sweet, but the bits he gives us of them are deeply lousy. So I choose to believe he meant them to be lousy.

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/28

For those of us in 'murrica, today is a holiday -- and I bet the bulk of my readership (such as it is in these lesser days) is 'murrican. But "Reviewing the Mail" goes on every Monday, like some pointless Energizer Bunny of the Internet, and so I have a book to tell you about today.

(To remind you all: this weekly post lists the books that arrived the week before, to help you find things to buy and love and clutch to your bosom forever. I very rarely have read any of those books or know anything particularly deep about them.)

The one book that arrived last week is The Mermaid's Secret by Katie Schickel, a contemporary fantasy with possible chick-lit roots. ("Chick-lit" is so dismissive, but I don't know a better term for stories about young women trying to find their way in the world. Bildungsroman doesn't quite fit for people already grown-up. But, to be honest, we don't give similar books about young men a specific name -- they're just considered "literature," most of the time -- so maybe women should get the same pass.) Anyway, Jess Creary is a twentysomething stuck in life -- her sister died two years ago, her mother has disappeared, she's flipping burgers on a fishing boat to pay the bills, and the only thing she really wants to do is surf. But then one night the perfect wave transforms her into a mermaid -- as it does, you know -- and she first glories in a new exciting life and then, inevitably, has to choose between the briny blue and humanity. Mermaid's Secret will be available June 14th in most of your modern book formats: hardcovers, softer covers, and several flavors of free-flowing electrons.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Incoming Books: Last Weekend

Last weekend, The Wife and I went off for a romantic weekend -- meaning, a weekend away from the kids -- in trendy bucolic New Hope, PA. The town was so impressed, they had a fireworks display on Friday night -- well, actually, that was because it was also Pride Week, but we pretended it was for us.

One of my favorite leisure-time activities is puttering through bookstores, so of course I came back with a stack of things, from two side-by-side used bookstores in Doylestown, from a new comics shop in New Hope, and from the local library sale (because who can pass up a bargain?). And those books were:

Vox by Nicolson Baker -- I've read a number of his novels, and I like the way he turns really tiny moments into full stories. And I could have had as many copies of this phone-sex novel as I wanted back in the '90s, when my employer sold it and it was around the office for close to a decade. But I was embarrassed then, and I'm probably still embarrassed now. But I may read it, eventually.

The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey -- this is one of two Booker winners from Carey, one of the great names in modern Australian literature. I read his novel Jack Maggs (because of the Dickens connection) around 2002, and his short travel book Wrong About Japan (because it was short), and I keep thinking I should read more by him.

Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M Coetzee -- I know nothing about this one, or about Coetzee (whose name I've heard, but I'm not even sure if "J.M." is male or female, and I'm deliberately not looking it up). It's slim, and looks fabulistic in an interestingly literary way, and it was cheap.

The Translator by John Crowley -- I'm behind on reading Crowley, but, luckily for me, Crowley is an incredibly slow writer, so it's not that far behind. This is a historical novel, without supernatural elements (I think), and is now about a decade and a half old.

Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl -- this is the first half of the two-volume autobiography of Dahl's young life, along with Going Solo. I read the young-man book last year, and I guess I'll get to the pre-adult book sometime soon.

The Great Cat Massacre by Robert Darnton -- Picked up because of that magnificent title, and kept because it was cheap (that library sale) and because it's a book about oddities in French history by, I just noticed, possibly the preeminent expert in pre-Revolutionary France.

Funny Girl by Nick Hornby -- I've enjoyed Hornby's books for a long time, despite a nagging sense that they're more lightweight than they should be, the literary equivalent of Twinkies. This one seems slightly deeper, being the story of a working girl in '60s London.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan -- But no one can ever accuse McEwan of being lightweight at any time. This is his most recent book, I think, and I found a new-looking paperback in a used-book store, which is a nice thing.

West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan -- A novel about the last days of F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood, I think -- "last days" could be stretching the case -- by a writer who I keep wanting to read more of.

The Complete Poems by Christina Rossetti -- It's huge, and don't know if I will realistically get to it at any time before the sun cools. But there's a great glaring portrait of Rossetti on the cover, I've always liked her better than her brother, and I want to read more poetry.

Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh -- I read all of Waugh's novels in the '90s, when I was young and heartless and happy. Now that I'm old and bitter and grumpy, I should try another run at them. (Though I did like them a lot the first time around -- I'm more worried that his casual cruelties will pain me more this time.) This one was his first book, so where better to start?

Orlando by Virginia Woolf -- I haven't read as much Woolf as I want, though I love Mrs. Dalloway way back when and the bits I've read since then. Since the movie is old and untimely now, I can read this novel in peace.

Kyle Baker, Cartoonist -- A self-published collection of Baker's gag cartoons and short strips, as I recall. I had this the first time around, and was happy to buy it again cheaply; Baker is good at the funny stuff and I really loved the expressiveness of his line before he started working electronically.

As Naughty As She Wants To Be! by Roberta Gregory -- Gregory is a strongly feminist comics-maker, coming out of the old underground tradition and maybe the counterweight to Robert Crumb. And I've only seen a few short strips of hers here and there. This is a bigger dose, reprinting work from her Naughty Bits comic -- which title, I understand, is descriptive, but it's not the kind of naughty bits that the usual (read: young and male) audience is looking for.

Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes -- Lute's first big story, which I read as collected into floppies and then in book form -- and then lost to the flood. So I got a new copy.

Fallout by Jim Ottaviani and various artists -- The story of the Manhattan Project, told in comics by the master of science comics. The topic is interesting, and I have to admit I feel a puckish glee in the title, given the video game I've been playing obsessively for the past five months.

Popeye, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 by Roger Langridge and various artists -- More reprints of the Langridge-written recent Popeye series (is it even still running? I'm totally out of the loop on Wednesday Crowd stuff these days), which I expect will be just as much fun as the first book.

The Question: Poisoned Ground by Dennis O'Neil, Denys Cowan, and Rick Magyar -- Second volume reprinting the excellent series about the costumed hero with no face from the late '80s. I guess I'll try to find the others, and re-read the series to see if my description above is actually still true.

Mage: The Hero Defined by Matt Wagner -- A big book reprinting a major story by Wagner, long-awaited sequel to his first major comics story and supposedly the middle of a trilogy. (The Hero Denied, coming, we hope, sometime in the next decade or two.)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/21

Monday. Blog post. Books arrived in the mail. My joy. Sharing with you. Hope you love something. I know very little.

First up this time: the first in a new annual series of anthologies of the year's best science fiction stories, from my fellow New Jerseyite Neil Clarke. (Who, more pertinently, has been running the online new-fiction venue Clarkesworld for ages, and otherwise is deeply plugged into the world of SF short stories as a fine editor and anthologist.) It's is unsurprisingly named The Best Science Fiction of the Year, Vol. 1, and it's coming from Night Shade Books on June 7th. Clarke's Best SF is one of the hefty volumes -- there are occasionally skinnier Year's Best volumes, like the old Don Wollheim series and the early years of David Hartwell's, but fatness is generally the point -- with thirty-one stories from last year included. Some of the authors with stories here are Ann Leckie, Carrie Vaughn, Aliette de Bodard, Brenda Cooper, Nancy Kress, Naomi Kritzer, and Alastair Reynolds. (And, obviously, 24 others.)

And then I have a light novel from the folks at Yen Press, available in trade paperback now, which I think was written by Mizuki Mizushiro and illustrated by Namanie. (The cover credit says, simply, "Mizuki Mizushiro x Namanie," which is not as descriptive as it could be.) The book is titled Psychome, Vol. 1, or maybe Psycho Love Comedy, which the first name seems to be short for. And it's about a teen boy -- absolutely ordinary in every single way, and insistent on it, as required for the heroes of stories like this -- who is thrown into a reform school after he's accused of a crime he didn't commit. Since this is a Japanese story, his fellow students are all both gorgeous girls potentially interested in him and incredibly dangerous convicted murderesses. Cue the wacky harem comedy with sudden-death sauce!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/14

When I get books in the mail -- which I didn't this week -- I write about them here.

When I don't get books in the mail -- as previously referenced, this is one of those weeks -- I instead note what I do the rest of the time.

As I've just done now.

See you next week. (Or you can check out my Incoming Books post yesterday, which is also a thinly annotated list of books I haven't read yet.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Incoming Books: Week of 5/15

I've bought some stuff by mail recently -- one order from my regular comic shop after a badly-planned stop on Free Comic Book Day that sent me back out the door empty-handed, and some random stuff from that big Internet store since I was ordering a new mouse anyway -- and so I'll tell you all about it here.

(I've never mentioned when I get music, even though I buy as much of that as books, probably. I'm geeky about music in slightly different ways, though, and I don't know how to write about music, so it tends to get forgotten here. But, what the hell -- I also got Richard Thompson's Acoustic Classics and Sling Shot to Heaven from Margot & the Nuclear So And So's.)

The most important of the books is a little thing called Black Seas of Infinity, a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories published by the SF Book Club in 2001 and complied by a guy named Andrew Wheeler. (Yes, me -- not one of the myriad others this time.) I might give this to my second son as his summer reading this year, so I needed a copy. I had five or so after I left the club, but the flood of '11 killed them all.

For some reason, I've been thinking about "it was a dark and stormy night" recently -- the Peanuts version, I mean. That reminded me that Snoopy and "It Was a Dark and Stormy Night", a book from 1971 by Charles Schulz that's an independent version of the beagle's novelistic work. And so I bought that, too.

And then there was Charles Stross's The Annihilation Score, last year's new "Laundry Files" book. It's out now in mass-market, but I don't like mass-markets, so it was a good time to get a remaindered hardcover.

And then there was the stuff from the comics shop -- which, frustratingly, didn't include any of the books I picked up in the store and didn't buy because of the long lines -- because those things didn't show up on the online store. (There was The bus 2 and Don't Get Eaten by Anything and I can't remember what else.) Yes, online and in-person commerce don't always match, but being completely disjoint is pretty annoying. But here's what I did find online:

Founding Fathers Funnies, a collection of short Peter Bagge strips from various places about the wacky hijinks of the Revolutionary War heroes.

Giant Days, Vol. 2, the second collection of the college-set comic by John (Bad Machinery) Allison and Lissa Treiman, which is loosely related to Allison's Tackleford-set webcomics. (Esther De Groot is one of the main characters, but it takes place away from Tackleford and the timeline is a bit squishy -- Giant Days seems to be set "now," but it fits in chronologically around the mid-aughts in Allison's other work.) Anyway, it's a fun comic, and Allison writes great dialogue and wonderfully real young women.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye looks to be one of the big comics of the year, a pseudo-retrospective of the work of Singapore's greatest (and entirely fictional) cartoonist. It's by Sonny Liew, who has been a gorgeous inventive artist for a long time (most recently seen, by me at least, in The Shadow Hero) but who I haven't seen write any serious comics before. By all accounts, and quick glance myself, this is big and meaty and interesting and metafictional and deeply informed -- Liew is Malaysian himself, so this is a story about his immediate world. I'm looking forward to this.

The Eltingville Club collects all of Evan Dorkin's scabrous stories of the world's worst, most horrible and emotionally stunted group of fans, the ultimate (and deeply informed) middle finger to the Wednesday Crowd. I wish Dorkin would work more -- I understand drawing causes him pain these days, so I guess I wish either it didn't, or that he'd create a hugely popular TV show, like a number of his acolytes have, and get famous and successful that way -- but everything puts out is worth reading, and his art has always had a nasty, cutting brilliance.

Bloom County: The Complete Library, Volume 4 is by Berkeley Breathed, of course. I don't have volume 3, so this will have to sit and wait to be read sometime later -- but the comics here are already thirty years old, so another year or three won't hurt them none.

And last is something else from our friend John Allison: Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside. It's the latest collection of his main current webcomic, and you're probably sick of me telling you how brilliant he is. Well, he's still brilliant, so I won't stop saying it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mini Twitter Rant on Ownership of Law Firms

Hey! Who knew I had strong opinions on the ownership of law firms?!

But it turns out I do, and the Twitters heard those opinions, whether they wanted to or not:

What I think is behind this -- and this may be my accounting-marketing background coming out -- is that lawyers are afraid the Big 4 accounting firms, the Big 3 management-consulting firms, and adjacent companies (Marsh & MacLennan, for example), will go on an attorney-buying tear and destroy the old clubby attorney-partnership model.

And they want to make sure that can never happen, so the only people exploiting the work of lawyers are other lawyers, like Ghod intended. It's not the hill I'd want to die on, but I'm no lawyer.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Reviewing the Mail, Week of 5/7

It's another week, and yet more books have arrived in my mailbox. This time out, they're all manga (with an asterisk for a related novel, which I'll leave for the end), and all in finsihed-book form, which means they're all available for order right now.

And here's what I can tell you about these various things despite the minor handicap of not knowing basically anything about any of them....

Most of these books come from our friends at Yen Press -- whom we also want to congratulate on their recent change of ownership, and express deep hopes that congratulations are the right sentiment -- but I do have two from the scrappier, quirkier Vertical, so I'll putthose first. (I'm a bit scrappy and quirky myself!)

So first up is the very quirky looking Ninja Slayer: Atrocity in Neo Saitama, Vol. 4, which has credits so long and involved I'll have to rended them as bullet points:
  • Original Work by Bradley Bond and Philip Ninj@ Morzez
  • Art by Yuki Yogo
  • Script by Yoshitaki Tabata
  • Manga Adaptation Supervised by Yu Honda and Leika Sugi
  • Character Design by Warainaku and Yuki Yogo
That's all on the cover folks, underneath the over-rendered picture of the dude with the unfortunate nose. In this volume, the Ninja Slayer is dead, or thought dead, and there's a new Ninja Slayer in town. (So this is the "Reign of the Superman" or Azazel of this particular universe.)

Also from Vertical is Ajin: Demi-Human, Vol. 7, which ups the ante on the previous, already pretty darn dark covers for the series and flat-out dares you to be able to read the title. (Designers: black on black may look cool, but it suffers a bit in legibility.) This series is about immortals forced into science experiments and deigned non-human, but they seem to be fighting back pretty strongly by this point.

(From here on out, it's all Yen.)

Take a deep breath for the title of My Youth R♥mantic Comedy is WrΓΈng As I Expected: @ comic, Vol. 1, by Wataru Watari (original story), Naomichi Io (art) and Ponkan⑧ (character design). (And, yes, the title has an at-sign, a slashed lower-case o, and a heart in it, and one of the authors has a circled 8 in his name. It's like they don't want anyone to be able to reported their credits. Luckily, my HTML-code google-fu is at Level 9000.) After all that, I'm a bit disappointed to find out this is yet another high school comedy about a misanthropic boy and a cold-fish girl, thrown together into the inevitable club and forced to solve other students' problems. They will, of course, fall deeply in love by volume 7, possibly even tell each other by volume 15, and so forth.

Your latest dose of magical-girl fun comes from the Magica Quartet and Gan, in the form of Puella Magi Suzune Magica, Vol. 3. I frankly can't keep track of all of the "Puella Magi" books, but they're all interconnected and all feature cute girls in silly outfits battling evil and the heartbreak of teen girl friendships.

Dragons Rioting, Vol. 3 is not -- and I have to underline this -- a veiled reference to the cover character's barely-contained mammaries and a promise on their unveiling inside. Well, I think it isn't, but this book does have a parental warning and shrinkwrap, so there may well be some naked flesh inside. This, I think is the tough-girls-school-suddenly-allows-a-few-boys-in story, and wacky hijins are at this point ensuing. The whole thing is by Tsuyoshi Watanabe.

From Izumi Tsubaki comes Monthly Girls' Nozaki-Kun, Vol. 3, the continuing story of high-school manga-ka and their combined school and professional problems. But that does raise the question: if both Japanese schools and Japanese comic-making are famously all-encompassing, time-devouring occupations, how on earth is it plausible anyone could do both at once? And, even more importantly, why is the guy on the cover holding a transparent ruler?

Then we have Trinity Seven, Vol. 5 by Kenji Saito (story) and Akinari Nao (art), continuing their story about a wizards' school. This time out, someone is re-devoting himself to his studies after something happened in the previous volume (don't ask me, I don't know what), and It Is Surprising.

Speaking of things I don't know much about, can I offer Yana Toboso's Black Butler, Vol. XXII? It's some kind of Victorian England supernatural thriller, but I've never been able to figure it out any further than that. (of sure, I could read it, but twenty-plus volumes is a big time commitment for that.)

And last is a novel by Kugane Maruyama, called Overlord, Vol. 1: The Undead King. (I'm deliberately not checking to see if it's been turned into a manga and anime and series of collectible figurines yet, because the only question there is the word "yet.") About a century in the future, one super-gamer is online to watch the last moments of his favorite virtual reality MMORPG, Yggrasil, when -- wouldn't you know it! -- he's subsumed bodily into the game and has to live in a dangerous fantasy world that isn't quite the same as the game he played. (Guy gets stuck in VR video game seems to be a thriving genre in Japan.)