Sunday, 4 June 2017

NYC Book Expo

I just flew in from the New York Book Expo and boy are my arms tired of that joke.

I was there courtesy of the Bermuda Book Store - highly recommended if you ever happen to be in town - and as it was my first visit I had no idea what to expect. I was advised not to even think about going on the weekend when it's open to the public, as the place turns into a madhouse. A fun one no doubt, but still, madhouse.

I enjoyed myself thoroughly and came away with a few factoids, one of which is that apparently we have hit peak ebook. Or something along those lines anyway; according to those who have crunched the data, sales peaked at somewhere around 34% of the total market. The book is not dead - it can eternal lie, after all.

What seems to be happening these days is people buy several different versions of the same thing - ebook, audio, and physical. Among other advantages, with the advent of new tech like Alexa this allows people to enjoy the experience seamlessly, because each interconnected device can track where the other left off. You read the ebook, shut it down, go to sleep, wake up the next day and activate the audiobook precisely where you stopped reading the night before, that sort of thing. Presumably for the book you use the same old standards the ancients did, which in my case is a bit of torn-up newspaper or moth-eaten bookmark.

There was much talk of author buzz, and here's where I regret not bringing some of the con tchotchke home with me, as I naively assumed the expo's website would have the data. Not so, or if it does it's so well hidden that not even the wisest of the Keebler Elves can find it.

So I only have what I can remember, as the physicals are being shipped home to save on suitcase space.

Stay With Me by Ayolami Adebayo is my take-home - a signed uncorrected proof, no less. Set in 1980s Nigeria, this story is about newlyweds Yejide and Akin, whose lack of success in having a child has complicated their relationship. Akin swore never to take more than one wife, unusual in a polygamous society, and Yejide holds him to this. However their families are not so understanding, and one day they turn up on Yejide's doorstep with a second wife in tow, so determined are they to get grandchildren. This starts a war of the wombs between Yejide and the unwanted outsider, with devastating consequences for Yejide's marriage.

There are two other books that I did not take home; I left them in New York with some friends, having read them both myself during the Expo. I figured it was good to spread the love, not realizing that I would be relying on memory alone for titles and authors. That was silly of me.

I'm strongly tempted to rant about the ill-designed Expo website or its reliance on its app, which never worked for me. But I shall resist.

The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a modern-day retelling of the Monkey King saga, set in a California high school. Genie - Eugenie, but there are dozens of those at her school, hence the abbreviation - is doing everything she can to get into an Ivy League college far, far away from California, but her smooth progress is interrupted by the arrival of an exchange student, Quentin, who introduces himself as the (disguised) Monkey King. He's been sent to Earth to seek her out, so she can help him deal with over a hundred Demons newly escaped from Hell. Though Genie resembles his monkish companion from Journey To The West, it transpires she's a reincarnation of a completely different yet vital character, but to say more might count as a spoiler. Lots of fun, great action scenes, a thoroughly believable main character in Genie Lo. F.C. Yee in person rather resembles Quentin as he's described in the novel, which I suppose shouldn't come as a shock. Highly recommended, though not as highly as this next one:

Saints and Misfits, by S.K. Ali, tells the story of Janna Yusuf, a young Muslim woman struggling to cope with the usual assortment of teenage woes plus one other: she was sexually assaulted by a young man who everyone in her community thinks is a saint. She doesn't know what to do, who to tell, whether to tell at all. I was attracted to this book partly because it was something new in my experience, a young adult story about Muslims told by a Muslim, in a thoroughly engaging, charming and, best of all, funny way. I read it in a day because it's just that good, a true page-turner. No, there's no demons, spells or supernatural things. Cthulhu is as far away from this book as it is possible to be. I recommend it because it's wonderful, no other reason. Though I suppose if you were looking for a BubbleGumshoe setting that is unique, entertaining and charming, you could do far worse than steal a few ideas from S.K. Ali.

Now, as I'm a cunning man I also prepped a longer post in advance, which shall follow shortly. However this is all I have to say about the Expo, for now. If I think of anything else I shall add it as an addendum. In fact there's at least one addendum I desperately want to add, as it concerns a publisher of reprinted World War One stories - Henri Barbusse and the like - which Dulce Et Decorum Keepers and players will find interesting. However that's in the pile of stuff that's being shipped home, so it will have to wait for another day.



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