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Punk rock politics, pop culture retromania and more new release picks for July 19, 2011

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With the dearth of new releases this week, it seems like the media industries think we should all get out of the house a little in the summer, or they don't like releasing anything new. What they don't know is that it's too damn hot outside, and nobody with any sense really wants to go out there. We've combed the incoming new-release boxes to come up with a few things worthy of your dollars this week, though, including two books about music, one about the meaning of the universe, a comic that tells eighteen stories simultaneously, a game with a constant, emergent narrator and plenty more. Summer or not, we're not leaving the damn house.


Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its own past, by Simon Reynolds It's no secret we're currently living in two different presents, one in which all of our favorite bands broke up and another in which they're reunited and touring the country for some reason. Simon Reynolds attempts to understand the cult of the reissue, the reunion and the tribute in his book, Retromania. He also argues we're at a tipping point, where we're so obsessed with recent history we might be slowly becoming incapable of looking forward. It's a dangerous game and, as far as we can tell, not one the country has ever been through before -- although, we're pretty sure had Gershwin broken up, he'd totally have gone on a reunion tour with himself for some extra cash. White Riot: Punk Rock and the Politics of Race, by Stephen Duncombe Stephen Duncombe's White Riot is one of the first essential collections of punk rock's long and storied past with race relations. With contributors like Greil Marcus, Dick Hebdige and Paul Simenon, it might end up being one of the most comprehensive anthologies of criticism and essays on the subject. The story of punk and race might never be over, but White Riot provides an excellent starting point for scholars and fans alike. From the Sex Pistols to Bad Brains, the subject can't be explored enough, but at least we've got a good place to start now. The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World, by David Deutsch The Fabric of Reality, David Deutsh's first book, broke down the four strands of knowledge and understanding into a comprehensive and relatively easy look at how we view reality. In The Beginning of Infinity, he argues that the explanations of the universe are enough to control our understanding of the universe. Confused? We are, too, but Deutsch manages to use his skills as a quantum computation master to explain these things to idiots like us.


Bastion (Xbox Live Arcade) On the surface, Bastion is essentially an old-school action-RPG made specifically for anyone craving the style of the 16-bit era. Dig a little deeper and you'll find not just a great game, but a great game with an innovative storytelling mechanic you've never seen before. You won't have just a wall of text this time around; you'll get an emergent narrator who will tell your story, describe the world and more -- all depending on how you play it. There's more than that, including an innovative looting system, difficulty curve and plenty more. If you long for the 16-bit RPGs of the past, this is $15 well spent.


Limitless (DVD, Blu-Ray) Director Neil Burger has been carving out a small but noticeable niche in the thriller market, and Limitless managed to take that in an extreme, science-fiction direction. Following a writer who discovers a top-secret drug that grants him superhuman powers and the ability to use one-hundred percent of his brain (we have some of those drugs too, actually), it's a twisty, turny tale with plenty of plots inside other plots that's sure to keep thriller and sci-fi fans happy. It's not exactly the greatest film of all time -- but as far as over-the-top sci-fi/medical thrillers go, it gets the job done well.


Turf, by Jonathon Ross, Tommy Lee Edwards You know what most noir fiction is missing? Vampires and aliens. Turf fixes that clearly ridiculous omission to the noir canon. It sounds incredibly stupid, but somehow Jonathon Ross and Tommy Lee Edwards manage to make an interesting story with an arresting art style and a combination of two things we love dearly: the hardboiled and the fantastic. It doesn't stop at just vampires and aliens either -- picture it as something of a prohibition-era monster mash, with all types of ludicrous things happening between an actually intelligent plotline. One Soul by Ray Fawkes One Soul is running off a conceptual trick, telling the story of eighteen individuals from birth to death in eighteen-gridded panels per page spread. It's tricky to ensure the hook doesn't overwhelm the content, but Fawkes is already a fantastic storyteller, and he doesn't struggle with delivering great content over the course of the massive book. It's complicated experiment, but it pays out in spades and is already a contender for for one of the best of the year.

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