What I Read – October 2015

Hello lovely humans, today I’m going to be talking about all the things I read in October which I am still failing to believe is already over. Like the hell, when did that happen? As ever you can watch the video or skip ahead to read a text version.

Can’t see the video? Watch it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/adx2Dd2yakI

In October I finished three books and two graphic novels which doesn’t sound like much but I’ve been rather ill for the last half of the month so I’m quite pleased with it. If you don’t follow me on twitter you may not already know that I’ve had labyrinthitis for about two weeks. It was entirely not fun but I seem to be all better so Awoohoo.


Goblin Emperor cover

First of my reads was The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This is a fantasy book about a young prince who very unexpectedly becomes emperor of the elvish kingdom despite being exiled and despised by his father and three elder brothers thanks to his half-goblin heritage.

It follows him from the discovery of his new position into the first few months of his reign as he come to terms with the memory of a father who didn’t love him, a government that doesn’t believe in him, and court of nobles about as easy to understand or trust as a nest of snakes.
I’ve become so used to fantasy books that are all violence and betrayal and general awfulness. Even when there’s romance or triumph in the end the main thrust is always a protagonist at odds with everyone, misunderstood or downtrodden or alone. And I kept expecting that and it never happened. This is heartwarming, a tale of learning and finding your place and voice and people who understand you. That whilst there is turmoil and horror there is kindness and friendship and loyalty. It’s a truly lovely story, well written & well executed with characters I came to love. Enchanting, delightful and totally unexpected.


 

Lock In by ScalziThen came Lock In by John Scalzi, a total change of pace to a fast-reading detective story set in a future where a percentage of the population are locked in their bodies because of a disease but are able to operate in the world by using future neural technologies that allow them to control other human bodies, with agreement, or human shaped robots knowns as threeps.
Our protagonist is a Haden starting his first day as an FBI agent and he’s thrown into a mystery that starts with a murder where the suspect claims to have been under the control of another and then gets way more complicated and dangerous when the murder starts linking to a much wider plot of corporate intrigue and somebody hacking the neural technology to take control of people’s minds.
Like all of Scalzi’s books this was a fun read, his writing is consistently good and damn readable. It’s a simple classic detective story with ideas about internet security and privacy and personal integrity and control all woven into a great future concept. It’s not going to blow you away with its complex literary ideas but that is so not the point. It’s damn good at what it wants to be.


 

Ancillary MercyAnd then, and then, oh my goodness, then came Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. This is third and final book in Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series and I am both happy and sad to have read it. It’s really impossible to tell you any of the plot without totally ruining the first book but I will tell you that it was a wonderful ending to the series. As a whole they have blown me away.

Leckie has a way of creating characters and worlds that you come to know intimately and that reach far beyond the story that takes place on the pages. It was a relatively neat ending which was not necessarily what I expected but worked in that there was clearly more to come that we won’t ever see.

And that’s the magic of these books – there’s a huge universe of cultures and politics and ideas and people that we learn about and are inspired by and it’s just a taster of the many stories in that universe, it’s a beginning, even though this is the end. Goddamn it’s like Harry Potter all over again. I can’t cope.

Mourning the book

If you want to get schooled in elegant writing that can confront social and ethical issues with grace, and give you all the emotions about spaceships then read these books immediately.


 

Saga Vol. 5And the first of my two graphic novels was Saga Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples – the continuing epic which continues to be epic. The art is still lovely, still inspires moments of laugh out loud holy shit am I glad I’m not reading this in public like I did that one time because ohmygod that’s a big picture of a….lizard. I still really like it but I can’t deal with having my stories broken up so much. I need to know what happens.


 

 

Sex CriminalsAnd then for continued not to be read in public enjoyment there was Sex Criminal Volume 1 by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky. This is the story of a young woman for whom time stops after she orgasms. And then one day she meets a man for whom the same thing happens and they decided to use this amazing superpower to rob banks. Because of course. It is witty and clever and so so funny. The creators have obviously just taken these ideas of what you might do in that situation and when that situation might come up and it’s just cringingly, hilariously awful and yet amazing and sweet. Definitely worth a read – if you’re over 18.


 

And that’s it, that’s all she read! Thanks for reading.

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March Reads – Mini Reviews

Hello lovely humans. This week’s video/blogpost is a roundup of all the amazing things I read this month, and there were some seriously amazing things! As ever you can find a readable version below.


Female Factory coverThe Female Factory by Lisa Hannett and Angela Slatter.

A collection of short stories all themed around ideas of reproduction and the female body and the ways these are controlled, taken apart, and constructed by people around them. It is gloriously weird and gothic.

Some stories are more fantastical like that of the shape changing rebirth in the billabong, some are more science fiction like the future where only a few women have the ability to bear children but can do so many at a time, and some blur that boundary between genres like the workhouse children desperate for a mother who try to build one for themselves. Something in each story feels very familiar despite their fantastical nature giving them a little hook back to real life that leaves you wondering, worrying, waiting for it all to come true.

4.5/5 


 

God's War coverGod’s War by Kameron Hurley

This is the first book in the Bel Dame Apocrypha trilogy but it stands very well on its own. And dear god I am in love with this world. And it’s not even the kind of world I would normally love.

It tells the tale of Nyx Nissa a government assassin turned bounty hunter living in a world divided by a centuries long war. It’s brutal and dark and nasty but so amazingly imagined that I couldn’t stop reading.

All technology is based around insects which is at once gruesome and amazing, the society is based around Islam which was so refreshingly different to see, and the cultures are female dominated which just felt so cool but wasn’t at all nice. The characters themselves are unpleasant but very human and actually horribly understandable.

 5 out 5 stars


 

Lagoon cover imageLagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

My copy of this book is covered with a veritable explosion of post-it notes because it made my brain very excited.

The story is told from multiple points of view but centres around three people who are all in the same place in Lagos when aliens arrive. But this is not your average first contact story. The aliens are just the beginning.

This is a blending of science fiction and fantasy and fairy tales and mythology and urban legends and media reporting and every other way that we tell stories.

If you’ve ever read Angela Carter especially Nights at the Circus then imagine that but updated, moved to Nigeria, and with aliens. It’s uncanny and unsettling and makes you want to know more about Nigeria and Lagos and the rich world of stories that you might not be so familiar with.

5 out 5 stars


 

Saga #1 cover imageSaga by Brain K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

A couple of weeks ago I asked you all for graphic novel recommendations and that’s what I’ve been reading since then. So my very first one was Saga by Brain K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Everyone seemed to love this so I figured it was worth a go though I’m always dubious about hype.

Totally worth it guys. It is actually really really good. The story and the characters are so clever, the art work was lovely, and the way the story is told is very easy to get into even if you’re not so familiar with the way comics read which, y’know , I’m not.

4.5 out 5 stars


Rat Queens #1 coverRat Queens by Kurtis Weibe and Roc Upchurch

So that was a good start but I’m a dubious person I was not expecting the next thing to also be amazing and perfect.

I was so wrong. So wrong wrong. Because Rat Queens is….I just love it. I feel like it’s everything I was subsconciously asking for in media and someone’s just given it to me in comic form. SO GOOD.

The story followss an all female gang/adventuring group of mercenaries in a fantastical world with orcs and dwarves and and elves and giant squid-gods and magic mushrooms and sarcasm. It’s basically Discworld with more girls. I feel like Violet might be my cosplay destiny and all-around bro.  Can’t wait for the next one.

5 GIANT STARS


 

the wicked + the divine coverThe Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act

The premise of The Wicked + The Divine is that, every ninety years, twelve gods from across human history come to earth and inhabit the bodies of teenagers. They quickly become inspirational, famous, and notorious figures – celebrities, actors, and popstars in the current cycle. But within two years every teen is dead and the cycle continues on for another ninety years.

The artwork is completely gorgeous but I was a little bit squicked by the ‘live fast die young leave a beautiful corpse premise’. It’s very macabre: worshipping the cult of youth, and the perfect dead celebrity, tokens of our messed up society. But actually this weirdness, wrongness, was explored eventually which made the whole thing a lot more interesting.

4 out 5 stars


 

Serenity coverSerenity: Those Left Behind

This is the first of the Firefly graphic novels continuing on from the TV series. Whilst it was fun to return to that world, and the dialogue and story felt true to that, the artwork just was really varied and just couldn’t live up to comparison with memories of the actual people that were meant to be depicted. Fun but not something I’ll be continuing.

 3 out of 5 stars

 

 


 

So that’s been by reading month for March a varied but extremely good month overall!

And a huge thank you to those who recommended things for my first graphic novel explorations. I couldn’t have asked for a better start!

Love and rockets
EJ
x

Where to get started with graphic novels?

This week’s video comes in two parts. As ever you can read a text version underneath the video.
  • Part 1: A Hugo Award readalong!
  • Part 2: Graphic Novels.

Part 1 – Hugo Award Readalong!

If you were watching my videos as far back as last year then you may remember that I read all the Hugo award nominees between April and August (when the ceremony happens). I was planning on doing so again and now the lovely Nicole over at Nicole’s Adventures in Science Fiction has organised a read along group on Goodreads. So if you want to join in and chat with me, and everyone else, about the awards and the books, then come over and say hi!
Myself, Nicole and a few other youtubers will also be doing a live show about the nominees on Saturday April 11th – I’ll keep you posted.

Where to start with Graphic Novels?

graphic novels covers

I have noticed with my sleuth like senses that there’s a whole world of books that I’m missing out on. They’re creeping into my library rubbing shoulders with the science fiction section, they’re in the bookshop with their back to front covers, and apparently all of you are already reading them. I am talking of course about graphic novels and comics. They’re everywhere and everyone reads them. Except me.
The extent of my graphic novel experience, if you can call it that, is Garfield and Our Wullie. Newspaper cartoons. Oh and I once tried to read an Arkham Asylum graphic novel years ago but apparently Batman just isn’t my thing.
Saga #1 cover imageBut then I got given a Star Trek: The Next Generation graphic novel omnibus which I never knew was a thing so now I’m kind of interested to try it out and while I’m there I might as well try a few other things!
So today’s post isn’t really me talking to you about graphic novels (because I know nothing), it’s me asking you guys questions about graphic novels. Where do I start? How do I know what sort of stuff to try out? Like I don’t even know if there are like different genre names or something. Oh sweet universe I hate being the noob. Be nice.
Mostly it’s can you give me some recommendations? Please! I’m looking for things in my areas of interest already – so science fiction, a bit of weird fantasy, and things with cool female characters. But mostly science fiction. Things that will hold my attention because I have a tendency to just read the words which kind of misses the point of the whole exercise. I’ve already had a recommendation from Amanda, whose comics channel is very lovely, for Locke & Key by Joe Hill. And also before you all tell me – yes I will try Saga.