Hello 2014! You started off pretty well. There were some great books and stories among my first reads of the year and I’m proud to say I read some sub-genres that I have neglected in the past (with varying amounts of success). I am trying to catch up on books and stories that are eligible for the Hugo Awards because I take my shiny voting rights Very Seriously. Thankfully, people on the internet recommend great stuff and I’m in the middle of some fantastic books that are now all contenders for a spot on my ballot.
Books read: 7 (+ some short stories)
Pages read: 1817
Series started: Mercy Thompson, The Laundry Files, Dial H
Series finished: –
This blew me away on so many levels. I loved the characters and their intricate, interwoven story lines, but even if I hadn’t, I would have stayed for the superb world-building. The comparison to Love Actually that I’ve heard on the interwebs is not completely off, but this book is much less fluffy and way more science-fiction. It is the second book that has earned a secure spot on my Hugo nominations ballot (which I’ll be posting soon) so go and read it.
I am told this is a novelette and thus eligible in that category for the Hugo Awards but I’m still confused. Whether novella, novelette, or short story, I’m putting this creepy unicorn story on my ballot. Without any prior knowledge of this spin-off’s book series, I fell into the story and ended up in love with the humor, the darkness, and particularly the way Charles Stross forever destroyed my idea of unicorns. Do not read right after a Peter S. Beagle novel!
This is what I hope for in Space Opera. There are few things I enjoy more than a crew on a space ship just doing their thing while on the run from evil, or trying to save the universe or something. But it’s the people that crew the ship that make that story hit or miss. In the case of Ascension, I loved even the characters that I didn’t like. Koyanagi made her protagonists women of color, people with disabilities, a woman who starves herself for spiritual reasons, a man who thinks he’s a wolf, non-monogamous relationships, and lots of other ideas and groups of people who usually don’t feature that much in sci-fi. Don’t read this book for its plot, read it for its characters. And then, like me, wait eagerly for the next instalment.
Nothing bad this month. Yay!
My second Ishiguro was brilliant for the same reasons The Remains of the Day was. It is a quiet book that gives the impression of being one thing, while really being another. Kathy H. tells the story of her childhood and of her two best friends, Tommy and Ruth. What starts like an English boarding school novel (and reads wonderfully just for that) takes a sinister sf’nal spin. I loved the character growth and development, how the author gave such an impact to seemingly meaningless events in these people’s lives, and I loved (in a strange, depressed way) the melancholy ending.
If you dangle Orpheus and Eurydice in front of my face, I’ll probably bite. As I did with this book. The myth is turned on its head and spun around a bit, but I fell into this first person narrative so quickly, I didn’t even care about people going to the underworld. This story of two best friends and their different ways of growing up, of dealing with their absent (or dead) fathers, their strange mothers, and the new men in their lives, was deeply moving and written in a way that I can only call flowing. There is no good place to put this book down for a toilet break. It is best read in one go.
Miéville’s reboot of the old comic about a loser who turns into a different superhero every time he dials HERO on an old pay phone. Now, these superheroes range from awesome to ridiculous to downright offensive, and Miévielle did interesting things with this on a sort of meta-level. The plot sagged a bit after the initial discovery of the dial but the very last issue got me so excited, I’ll continue reading. Nelse and Manteau got themselves into way more trouble than they know…
I believe my kind of Urban Fantasy is something more like The Laundry Files or Ben Aaronovich’s Peter Grant series. It pains me to say it but the Anita Blakes and Mercy Thompsons don’t impress me much. That said, Moon Called was much more entertaining than expected. It’s a murder mystery with every mythological beast you can think of. The world building is a mess and the protagonist makes sure to tell us how special it is for a woman to be a car mechanic. I had gripes with the way she was portrayed and the way her behaviour changed into damsel-mode whenever men showed up. But plot-wise, this could have been way worse. I may give the next volume a try sometime…
I feel extremely guilty when I don’t finish review copies. But when the first four or five chapters slog along and there is nothing to grab my attention, I have to throw the towel and admit that my time could be spent better, with books that are more to my tastes.
I was so excited about The Waking Engine by David Edison. The cover and premise drew me in. A city where people go after they died, sometimes after they died many times and have hopped several realities. Only in this city do they have the chance to die forever, without waking up somewhere else. Cooper wakes up in this City Unspoken and stumbles around cluelessly. My problem is that nothing happens! He meets some strange people who find out that Cooper is a curiosity in that he is only person there to have a belly button – a sign of still living your first life, because you lose the navel after you’re reborn. Apart from that, all I got was info-dumpy world building without plot or character development, even proper character set-up. Cooper isn’t a person, he’s just an avatar to stand in for the reader, discovering a place that could be awesome but isn’t.
There are vague mentions of a plague in the city, but mostly the author just dumps paragraphs of boring, boring information on us, whenever a character looks at something that can be described. Whether it’s the city’s architecture or its particular kind of prostitutes, instead of showing us things, we get exposition. It’s even worse than As You Know Bob.
I will try my very best to give this a few more chapters before I give up completely. But when reading fiction becomes a chore, it’s not for me.
I started a few bigger books in January because I want to get them read before the Hugo nomination deadline (end of March). Mostly, I looked at what other people are voting for and picked up the books I hadn’t read yet.
Elizabeth Bear – Range of Ghosts
I plan to read Shattered Pillars right after I finish this, because I’ve seen it on a few Hugo nomination posts and because Range of Ghosts is pretty good so far.
Catherynne M. Valente – The Bread We Eat in Dreams
I raced through this. There are only a handful of stories left for me to read. While I still haven’t made it all the way through The Melancholy of Mechagirl (Cat Valente’s other short story collection that came out in 2013) I couldn’t keep my hands off this beauty. That Coyote story alone makes the book worth picking up. And Subterranean always publishes books that are just beautiful to look at.
Robert Jackson Bennett – American Elsewhere
I slid into this sideways. Originally, I wanted to read The Troupe first because it sounded much more up my alley, but because a lot of people are talking about American Elsewhere, I tried the first chapter and kind of couldn’t stop. This is, however, a very big book and I’m only a quarter of the way done. But I’m enjoying it immensely and wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up on my Hugo ballot. It also helps that, when reading at night, it scares the shit out of me.