Over on YouTube I’ve been talking about all the books I’ve acquired recently. As ever if you prefer not to watch the video (you not like my shiny face?) then you can read all about the books here. But I’m not putting in any pictures because if you wanted pictures you could have watched the moving ones in the video. Hah. That told you.
We’ll start with the little trip to the second hand bookshop.
House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski is one of those giant books that looms on your reading horizon for long time. I’m not planning on reading it any time soon but wanted to have it there just in case. It’s about a guy who finds a notebook in a dead man’s house that tells the story of a very famous and well known family. Except nobody he knows has ever heard of it. It’s weirdness inside mysteries inside strangeness.
Then I got a copy of The Great God Pan and other stories by Arthur Machen. Machen is considered to be one of the grandaddies of weird fiction. He was a key inspiration for Lovecraft and Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen King are among his fans. The Great God Pan is probably his best known work. At just 76 pages it’s an odd victorian tale of woman who is the child of human and Pan the god of nature and mischief and base instinct. Not things known to go down well in Victorian society. I’ve read it many time before and thoroughly recommend it.
Then still secondhand I got a couple of Gollancz SF Masterworks. RUR & War with the Newts by Karel Capek is actually one play and one novel bound up together. RUR (Rossum’s Universal Robots) is regarded as the most important play in SF history. This is where the word robot comes from and began the concept of robots that we still know today.
Floating Worlds by Cecelia Holland is set a few thousand years into the future where humans are a space going anarchist culture and at war with the Styth an alien race who live on the solar system’s outer planets. We follow Paula Mendoza a young musician who must learn about the problems of power and the possibilities of different modes of culture as she seeks to broker a truce. It sounds utterly weird but is filled with explorations of some really big politically crunchy sort of questions.
Moving on I also got a couple books sent to me for free by Twelfth Planet Press. I’ve talked about some of their books before these 12 Planets series this one The Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter is the newest. I’ve really enjoyed all the other books from this publisher but this one sounds most up my alley with a selection of short stories all about reproduction and genetics. Very Frankenstein indeed.
They also sent Bad Power by Deborah Biancotti which has five interlinked shorts about power and its abuse. So superheroes, lawyers, police and so on. It sounds sinister and amazing.
Onwards to library books. I got God’s War by Kameron Hurley because I loved her book The Mirror Empire last year. This one is from an earlier series and tells the story of Nyx, an ex-assassin turned executioner who lives in a war-torn world that seems a mixture of science fiction, fantasy, and the grimmest darkest thriller you can imagine. It opens with the line Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, one the edge of the desert. And that’s just so weird and grim and odd that I had to pick it up.
Then there’s Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey. This is the fourth book in the Expanse series so I can’t really give you any kind of plot description except to say that the first three books were freaking amazing. A cross between Battlestar Galactica and Firefly and Game of Thrones.
And the final library book was An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay who most of you I’m sure will have heard of from her book Bad feminist. This is a novel about a rich young woman in Haiti who is kidnapped and held captive for a long time when her father decides to resist the kidnappers demands. It’s all about privilegdge in the face of poverty, about the destructive anger that appears in the face of corrupt governments and maybe about redemption.
And finally moving on the brand shiny new things.
First there’s a single ebook – The Life in Papers of Sofie K. by Octavia Cade. I read and reviewed Trading Rosemary by Cade last year and loved it so this was a no-brainer. It’s about a little girl raised on stories of monsters. But when she grows up and the monsters turn out to be real she if forced to ask some tough questions about what she herself might be.
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor tells the tale of three very different people who are walking along a beach in Lagos when a meteorite hits. Suddenly they are thrown together along with a visitor from beyond the stars to try and save the city. It’s part science fiction, part fairytale, and part realism that sounds wondrous.
The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord is about an alien society some of whom have come to a distant planet populated by human-ish sort of people who may be evolved from a common ancestor. While there they hear that their home planet has been destroyed. Now these clashing societies have to work together to both preserve the alien ways of life and also adapt to their new planet. There’s a lot going on there.
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel (there are cute Four Weddings and a Funeral clips in the video at this point and you’re missing them) is about a travelling shakespearean theatre in a post apocalyptic society and well that’s such a good premise and just about every book tuber I’ve watched has raved about it so here it is.
Penultimate book is Blackout by Connie Willis. Willis if you’ve never heard of her before is a bit of an SFF legend. She’s won 11 hugos and 7 nebulas – more than anyone else, she’s a SFWA Grand Master and in the SF hall of fame. So yeah big deal. This book won the 2010 hugo and it starts in the time travel labs at Oxford University in 2060 with academics going back to various points in time to study what’s going on. But the labs are in chaos, two historians going back to the second world war find themselves thoroughly unprepared for the reality of the situation, and the long held belief that time travel cannot alter the course of history is suddenly called into question. DUM DUM DUM. Oh my god.
And finally there’s Haruki Murakami’s cutest new little book – The Strange Library. It’s a fantastical illustrated weird wonderland of a story about a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library. The tagline just says ‘All I did was go to the library to borrow some books’. Well we all know how well that sort of phrase ends.