Noir cops, Area 51 and more in this week's new-release picks, May 17, 2011

Categories: Lists

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Some people probably think escapism is a bad thing, but if we've learned anything over the years, it's that sometimes you need to get as far away from reality as possible. Case in point: All the picks this week are somehow related to the idea that you don't have to be where you are -- whether that means pretending you're a 1940s cop in a video game and solving crimes. or looking to the skies every night for UFOs. If you're looking to leave for a little while, now's your chance.

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5. Pinocchio, by Winshluss
We're all familiar with the tale of Pinocchio, but as he's wont to do, celebrated illustrator Winshluss has taken that story into a darker rendition worthy of nightmares. Instead of Pinocchio wandering aimlessly trying to become a real boy, this wordless comic starts with Geppetto building Pinocchio as a weapon of war and has Jiminy Cockroach squatting inside Pinocchio's skull. The story remains the same, but the telling is a bit different than most will remember. Winshluss's art is also a thing of beauty, which might help explain why the book took home the Grand Prise at France's Angouleme Comics Festival.

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4. Area 51: An Uncensored History of America's Top Secret Military Base, by Annie Jacobsen
Area 51 is surrounded by more myths than almost any other government building in the world. That stems from a number of notable occurrences, including, of course, the supposed crash landing of a UFO in Roswell in 1947. The rest revolves around the fact that it's a top-secret military base, which means -- well, it's top-secret. Area 51 is billing itself as the first credible book about the military base, complete with plenty of interviews, firsthand accounts and more. The "truth" will probably never get out there, but if nothing else, this book might offer a few answers to the billions of questions people have asked over the years..

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3. If 'n Oof, by Brian Chippendale
If you recognize Brian Chippendale's name at all, it's probably in connection with his duty as drummer in the noise-rock band Lightning Bolt or from his collaborations on Björk's album Volta. But while when he's not touring and making loud-as-a-steam-train noise, he's kicking out bizarrely rendered graphic novels. If 'n Oof is a story about a duo whose antics are something like Laurel and Hardy, as told in Chippendale's blindingly bright, messy style.

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2. Embassytown, by China Mieville
China Mieville is one of those rare, underappreciated writers who happen to write genre fiction. His books tend to stick to sci-fi, but they do so in a way similar to Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick -- where science fiction is just a place for a truly rewarding story to take place, not a crutch to lean on. Embassytown is no different from Mieville's previous works in those respects, and while the story relies on an alien planet and a human colonist for its setup, it ends up being more about loyalty, political distrust and drama than flying spaceships and silver pants.

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1. L.A. Noire (Xbox 360, PS3)
Look, we're not trying to wrangle anyone into doing something they don't want, but if you've ever found yourself even slightly interested in video games, L.A. Noire is going to be a good place to start. The reasons are endless, but the absurdly detailed facial animations, the fact it stars an actor from Mad Men and the fact that the premise is that you're a cop in the 1940s, solving crimes and interrogating people, screams the type of mass appeal that few games can muster. If that's not enough, you can skip the action sequences -- meaning you'll essentially play an interactive, twenty-hour movie.

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