This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is ‘ten books I’d love to read with my book club’. I am a member of an awesome group for SF/F, so that’s easy — except that we’re quite particular about the sorts of books we end up reading for discussion. So hmmmm.
- The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. This is kind of cheating, because we are discussing it. And actually, I’m supposed to be leading it.
- Mélusine, Sarah Monette. Because it’s so different to The Goblin Emperor! (It’s the same author under a pen name.) And it’s a bit more dark than I’d normally go for; I need some impetus to get on and read it.
- Century Rain, Alastair Reynolds. Or really anything by Reynolds; I used to like his work a lot, though I haven’t read any in a long time, and Century Rain was my favourite.
- Lock In, John Scalzi. We’re planning to read this anyway, but it does sound fascinating. We normally enjoy Scalzi, and this sounds like there’s a fair amount to chew over here.
- Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight, Kelly Sue DeConnick. Because hey, I love this series and I want to share it. And talk about how it could be even better and all the places we wanna see Carol go.
- Just about anything by Octavia Butler. I think we’ve probably already discussed some of Butler’s work, but it’s all great to talk about (and sometimes problematic, too, in ways that would make it even more interesting to bat it back and forth).
- The Unreal and the Real: Collected Stories, Ursula Le Guin. It’s most often Le Guin’s short stories that I find I want to discuss and pick apart to make sure I really understand them.
- The Just City, Jo Walton. And we probably will, since we’re big fans of Jo.
- Under the Skin, Michael Faber. I’ve been convinced to buy it, so let’s discuss it. I think someone in the group actually suggested this one, too.
- Anything by Ian McDonald. I think they might’ve discussed one of his books without me at some point, but I’ve read a couple of his older ones that’re really interesting too.
What about you guys? Any reading groups online to recommend?
This week’s theme from The Broke and the Bookish is “Top Ten Books I Read in 2014”. This one you can probably predict if you follow this blog, but I won’t leave you guessing. Also, links don’t show up on my theme very well, so I’ll just say now that all the titles are links to the reviews I wrote earlier in the year.
- The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison. Yep, you probably predicted this one. I just loved it to bits — I’d have happily gone back to page one and started all over again right away. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but it was pretty perfect for me.
- The King of Elf-land’s Daughter, Lord Dunsany. This is definitely not new to a lot of people, but it was new to me. I think I’d read one of Dunsany’s short story collections before, but not this one. It’s a lovely mythic/fairytale-like world. In style and the like, it’s not like the more typical modern fantasy, but that doesn’t put me off at all.
- We Have Always Fought, Kameron Hurley. I haven’t read any of Hurley’s fiction yet; she may even be a writer who appeals to me more as a commentator than as a creator, since I did start God’s War at one point and put it down again. But I loved this collection of her essays. She very much deserved her Hugo.
- My Real Children, Jo Walton. Again, probably predictable. I loved the characters in this — the sheer range of them, the ways small circumstances could change them. It was quite upsetting on a personal level because of the mentions of dementia, but the fact that it had the power to upset me only made me like it more.
- The Movement: Class Warfare, Gail Simone. I think this is a pretty timely comic. This sums it up, from my review: “[T]his is a group of young people getting together against injustice. Not supervillains: injustice. Crooked cops who beat poor people and POC because they can. The whole system of privilege and disprivilege. It’s a team of heroes for the Occupy Movement, for the 99%, for the disenfranchised.”
- Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge. Read this all in one go on a train journey and resented every interruption. There’s a great atmosphere to this book.
- Behind the Shock Machine, Gina Perry. I’ve always been fascinated by Stanley Milgram’s experiments, and this was a great way of delving into them — looking at it not from Milgram’s point of view, not looking at the results, but at the people he used in this experiment.
- What Makes This Book So Great, Jo Walton. This is kinda cheating, in that it’s a book chock full of the books Jo Walton likes. Not limited to a top ten, of course, but I have a feeling it could furnish the whole contents of this list.
- Spillover, David Quammen. Fascinating stuff, with some very obvious conclusions that apparently still need to be said. We are destroying habitats, forcing animals closer together and closer to us: we’re creating the perfect situation for a pandemic. It’s going to happen again, as it’s happened before, and we’ve just got to hope it isn’t something exotic and deadly. Even the flu is bad enough when it sweeps the world.
- The Broken Land, Ian McDonald. This is the only book in this list I didn’t give five stars. But it’s stayed on my mind the whole time, and the issues it examines aren’t temporary ones that’re about to go away.
This is gonna be a really interesting week to check out other people’s lists; I’m looking forward to this! Make sure you link me to your list if you comment. I’ll always visit and comment back.
Out on Blue Six, Ian McDonald
Had this from NetGalley aaaages ago, and finally got round to reading it now. It’s something very much in the vein of 1984, with some aspects clearly riffing on that, and it gives me really major déjà vu about something I’ve read before (but which I suspect was published since). It’s one of McDonald’s earliest novels, published in the year I was born, and yet I don’t think it’s gone out of date as speculative fiction so often can.
In a way, I found it predictable: once you know the roles of certain characters and how they fit into society, you can see how it’s going to end. That doesn’t diminish the fun of the ride, though: this is a quicksilver, frenetic book, a strange new world. I love the concepts here, filched from mythology and jumbled back up to make something new: Lares and Penates, household gods, mixed in with stuff straight out of 1984.
While I didn’t like this as much as I liked The Broken Land, and the writing style isn’t always entirely for me (too disconnected, jumbled, like an abstract painting), I think it’s worth a look, particularly if you enjoy dystopian stories. The last chapter or so is all a bit of a rush; a lot suddenly happens in a few words, and I could’ve enjoyed seeing it unfold more completely, but I like what’s sketched in for us as the result of the climax of the story.
Hooray, another Top Ten Tuesday post, run by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far This Year. Luckily, I have no lack of awesome books that I’ve been reading. I’ll link to my reviews on this blog. These are not in order of awesomeness, I couldn’t manage that! I’m not including rereads, or Jo Walton would swamp everything.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker et al. I just. All the feels.
- Spillover, by David Quammen. This one was fascinating. Lots and lots of stuff about not just the way animal diseases spill over into humans, but on the way humans interact with the environment, how we come into contact with these kinds of diseases.
- The Universe Versus Alex Woods, by Gavin Extence. I loved this, and really didn’t expect to. The quirky friendship, the bonding over books, and the things Alex ends up doing for that friendship. It’s beautiful and I’m pretty sure I cried. It deals with a topic that’s really important to me, too — as it happens, my tithe this month went to Dignity in Dying, campaigning for the right to voluntary euthanasia in this country.
- What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton. I love this as a resource for more books to read, and as a way to read insightful discussions about books and get a different perspective on them. Also, it’s just a really good read.
- Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell. I think this one may have surprised people who know me, but somehow I just adored it. Good building of characters, and I like the way the love story comes about.
- Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge. Got this as an ARC, had it finished before the end of the day. Just captivating. I love that it’s a changeling story, and the story itself doesn’t work out the way you might expect.
- My Real Children, by Jo Walton. Can’t miss this one out. I was uncertain how I felt about the style and structure, and then right at the end Jo pulled everything together and made it work. And despite a certain simplicity about it, I cried — multiple times.
- Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, by J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien. I’ve been waiting for this for, literally, years. I always hoped Christopher Tolkien would publish this, and stop holding it back. The translation is interesting, but actually what really excited me were Tolkien’s in depth notes on just about every aspect of the poem, including close reading of the actual Anglo-Saxon words.
- Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues, by Gail Simone et al. I only really knew of Red Sonja as a sexist symbol whose image caused some trouble in the SF/F community. So I wasn’t sure about trying this out, but I’d heard good things about Gail Simone. And it turns out she created a good story with fun characters, full of powerful women who are not perfect, but who are compelling and are not just fan service.
- The Broken Land, by Ian McDonald. I wasn’t expecting to love this one so much, but it fascinated me. It creates a world that’s different to pretty much anything else I can think of, and comments on civil wars and the rifts they can create. It’s not light reading, but I thought it was good.
The Broken Land, Ian McDonald
I’ve had a review copy of this for ages. I was slightly put off by negative/ambivalent reviews, but this ended up being really, really fascinating. I’m a little taken aback by the fact that people see Israel/Palestine here and not Catholics/Protestants in Northern Ireland — I mean, come on: the language thing, read Translations by Brian Friel, and Confessors vs. Proclaimers… The language thing especially got to me, because you know, I’m Welsh and I live in Wales and yes, half the place named are bastardised into English, and there was the whole issue of the Welsh Not and the Treachery of the Blue Books and… so many of the issues spoke to me.
Others, of course, do speak to other conflicts, to other people’s; to discrimination anywhere and everywhere. It’s not purely about Ireland or Israel or anywhere: it’s about a land, any land, splitting itself in half. And maybe, maybe, coming together again afterwards.
The writing style is different — more reported speech than direct speech, a narrator that’s liquid and loose, more like a thought than a sentence spoken aloud. The world is fascinating, some of the characters really intrigued me, but somehow it was that liquidity, that flow, that really made the story fly by for me. It’s easier if you just immerse yourself in it and go go go; harder if you try to overthink it. It’s a dizzingly different world, and yet so much the same.
In other words, I was completely hooked and must read more Ian McDonald books.