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The original Japanese robot, Tom Waits and more in new releases this week, August 2, 2011

We have reached the absolute lull of the summer as far as new releases are concerned. But while nothing coming out on DVD this week appealed to us, we did manage to track down a few books, games and comics that should provide some nice indoor entertainment while everyone else is off getting sweaty and suntanned. To cool you off, we have a detective mystery taking place in the upper reaches of Canada, Tom Waits talking about the weird shit Tom Waits talks about, a game that takes place in a nice cool cave and more.


Books


White Heat, by M.J. McGrath

M.J. McGrath has won a couple fistfuls of awards over the years, but White Heat is her first foray into fiction. We're especially fond of the fact that Amazon tags this in the "Canadian detectives" category, but there probably isn't a more apt description. The book follows the trail of Edie Kiglatuk, a half-Inuit half-outsider, as she searches out the truth of an adventurer killed while on an extreme vacation. It's a culture rarely attached to fiction and a story as classic as time itself, but McGrath manages to keep it fresh and new throughout the novel. Plus, we always like seeing armchair adventurers getting mauled and killed at the beginning of a novel.

Tom Waits on Tom Waits: Interviews and Encounters, edited by Paul Maher Jr.

Tom Waits is a notoriously difficult interview to land, and even when he does give access, few journalists have ever been capable of cracking the Tom Waits code of near insanity. Tom Waits on Tom Waits hopes to illuminate the intrepid songwriter by collecting together more than 50 interviews from a variety of sources that might, if read in total, actually illuminate Waits ideas of songwriting and composition. Or you'll just learn a ton about weird bugs, burlesque dancers and eating beans out of a can with a bunch of hobos -- who knows?


Games


Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (XBLA)

The Xbox Live Summer of Arcade has been one of the best in recent memory this year, with Bastion and From Dust impressing us the last two weeks. The event continues with Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, a Metroid-vania style exploration game that hinges its core mechanic on the SNES classic. It's not all a rehash, though -- ITSP is more inspired than most with its distinctive art style, and considering you play as a spacecraft, there is no platforming. The rest is all there, though, with lots of exploration, backtracking and item upgrades to help you through the adventure. It's short, clocking in around four hours, but it's only $15.


Comics


Petrograd, by Philip Gelatt and Tyler Crook

At the height of the first World War, a British spy was stationed in the Russian empire to orchestrate the death of strongman Gregorri Rasputin. It's one of history's most infamous assassinations of a bearded man, and Petrograd aims to provide not just the narrative that lead to his death, but provide enough backstory and research to offer a truthful account of everything that happened. You'd think this would be something you'd find in the history section of the book store, but after two years of work, we'll trust Gelatt and Crook to deliver not just an amazing graphic novel, but an accurate one.

Tank Tankuro, by Gajo Sakamoto and Chris Ware

Rather surprisingly, this week marks the first time Tank Tankuro has been published in English. This Japanese manga from 1934 hold the roots of Astro Boy and is thought to be the first appearance of a robot in Japanese comics. Yes, the first -- ever. You would think the book would be a bit dated at this point, but considering it started the entire genre of robot manga, it's packed with all kinds of interesting bits, especially when you consider this was pre-World War II-era Japan.

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