Friday Reads – 6 March 2015

 Long time, no see!

looming shark

I feel like I’ve forgotten something important…

Oh my goodness, hey there.

Yeah, first up huuuuuuuuuuge apologies for slacking on the blog front. Thanks for sticking with me. Still not quite got a handle on balancing  blog, videos, assignments, and work. It’ll happen, I’m sure. Just keep swimming right?!

 

On the plus side of things I am finally settling into some books and reading them all the way through. This in contrast to last month where I started six different books and didn’t finish a single one of them.

 So what am I reading at the moment?

Strange genre-blurring books of wonderment, that’s what! Read on my precious, read on.


Lagoon cover image

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor 

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.

So far I am adoring this story. It mixes science fiction, fairytale, and a disturbing look at reality to create a very weird world for the reader to inhabit. Plus, that cover. Squiiiiiiiiiiiiid.

Lagoon is currently shortlisted for the BSFA Award.


God's War cover

God’s War by Kameron Hurley

On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx is the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war–but at what price?

Brutal and fast paced this book has had me gripped from the first line.  Hurley’s worlds are like nothing else in SFF. Part fantasy, part science fiction, they are horribly, vividly believable. Religion, science, planetary colonisation, war, blood, and bugs. You can’t look away.


Et tu, darlings?

What about you guys? What are you all reading at the moment or planning to read over the weekend? Anything super exciting I neeeeeeed to know about? (I may have acquired an amazon voucher that needs spending…)

Happy reading!

EJ

 

Many new books

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.

Friday Reads – 23rd Jan 2015

What you reading there reader? I love the promise of a good book over the weekend and lucky for me I’ve got two!


Ammonite I’ve just started Ammonite by Nicola Griffiths – I’m two chapters in and already totally intrigued. It follows an anthropologist called Marghe Taishan who has volunteered to study the people living on the planet of Jeep whilst testing a vaccine against a virus that infects all who land there. Intriguingly the virus only kills males so the population of Jeep is entirely female yet they manage to flourish. As she risks death to uncover the women’s biological secret, she finds that she, too, is changing – and realizes that not only has she found a home on Jeep, but that she alone carries the seeds of its destruction.

 

DUN DUN DUUUUUUN.

Dramatic chipmunk

I mean, seriously, that’s one dramatic sounding premise! So far the writing has been excellent and I’m fascinated by the background of our protaganist and how it’s going to play into her experiences on the planet. Plus any book that gives a shout out to a Welsh town deserves bonus points.


The Female FactorySometimes if I’ve only got ten minutes to read something I like to read single short story rather than not having time to really get back into a novel. This means I’ve usually got one or more collections of short stories going on. And so my other book is this very beautiful collection of shorts, The Female Factory by Lisa L. Hannett and Angela Slatter. I was sent this for free by the lovely Alisa who runs Twelfth PlanetPress because she is very kind and knows how much I love the Twelve Planets collection. I was particularly excited to get my hands on this one because it sounds right up my street.

Hopeful mothers-to-be try everything. Fertility clinics. Pills. Wombs for hire. Babies are no longer made in bedrooms, but engineered in boardrooms. A quirk of genetics allows lucky surrogates to carry multiple eggs, to control when they are fertilised, and by whom—but corporations market and sell the offspring. The souls of lost embryos are never wasted; captured in software, they give electronics their voice. Spirits born into the wrong bodies can brave the charged waters of a hidden billabong, and change their fate. Industrious orphans learn to manipulate scientific advances, creating mothers of their own choosing. From Australia’s near-future all the way back in time to its convict past, these stories spin and sever the ties between parents and children.

There’s just so much that interests me here – the grotesque and the uncanny are rife in concepts of reproduction and that combination of the familial, the scientific, and the gothic just calls to me. And actually it all fits with the concepts in Ammonite as well. Look at me theming like a boss.

Me and Frankenstein have issues


It’s going to be a very creepy life-death-science-nature-Frankenstein sorta weekend. Hells yeah.

Friday Reads – 9th Jan 2015

I’ve just finished reading Jo Walton’s new book THE JUST CITY and about to get back into GARDENS OF THE MOON by Steven Erikson (as part of a booktube group read) but between the two there’s just enough time to fit in some short fiction. So here’s what I’ll be reading this weekend.


Issue 1

Issue 1

I helped to Kickstart the wonderful Uncanny Magazine back last year. Issue 1 came out in November and I started it but totally forgot to finish it and I’m missing out on so much. Even better Issue 2 arrived this week and OOOOOOOOOMG such a good contents page.

There’s a classic short by Ann Leckie (I LOVE HER), a translated piece from Hao Jingfang, poetry from Isabel Yap (whose short story A Cup of Salt Tears was one of my favourites of 2014), essays on nerd-rock & cosplay, and interviews with both Hao Jingfang and Ann Leckie. And that’s just a SAMPLE. This is an epic magazine people. You can get all the content for free over at their website though you’ll get it earlier if you’re a subscriber!


Issue 100

Issue 100

Another my recent Kickstarter funds has also borne fruit! Clarkesworld’s campaign to fund the publication of more Chinese SFF stories in translation caught my eye. Especially when they added the stretch goal for an additional fund for translating works in all kinds of other language as well!

I just received my first issue (#100) and it’s already amazing. The first story, Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight, is from Aliette de Bodard’s Mindships universe and was beyond beautiful. There’s also a story from Catherine M. Valente and, of course, a translated piece; ETHER by Zhang Ran.

You can get the whole issue over on their website for free. Or you can get an esubscription in all kinds of formats for a small fee.

Friday Reads – 2nd Jan 2015

Whatcha reading?

Because it’s Friday and I’m too lazy to make a video about it I thought I’d share my current reading here on the blog.


City of Stairs
First up is City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. Part murder-mystery, part fantasy, this is pure fun. It’s set in the city of Bulikov, previously the centre of magic and divine powers, now a wrecked shell of a land. When the mysterious divinities that ruled Bulikov and the surround provinces were destroyed large parts of it disappeared with them and the city folded in itself.

Now staircases to nowhere and strange merged buildings linger and the once powerful land is ruled by its former empire. We’re following a spy sent to investigate a murder who finds herself stumbling into far more secrets about the past of this divine city than might be healthy. Oh and there’s an old love interest, a naked Norse bodyguards wrestling with a giant squid, and enough tea to float a small navy. Loving it.


Stranger in Olondria
My current audiobook of choice is A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar. This won the John W. Campbell award for Best New SFF Writer last year (it’s the NotAHugoAward, Hugo Award) and I’ve been listening to this on and off for most of the month. Pretty sure this was a bad pick for audiobook because the book is so descriptive and based around the cleverness of language, especially that of writing in books, that it can feel kind of long and flowery when read out loud.

However, I’ve been soldiering on and I really do think it’s an amazingly beautiful book. It reminds me of medieval texts somehow, the way they have a tendency to wander off and tell stories within stories, and also just how very real it feels. Honestly, there are huge chunks of time when I completely forget that this isn’t an actual history or diary. It’s fairly epic.


So now I’m off to read a bit more of City of Stairs, drink tea, and maybe watch a bit of My Five Wives. It’s a glamorous life, I know. What are you reading this weekend?