With regard to arguing with others about who we should be and how we should act, I wrote recently about how hard I’ve found it to change my mind. So, after the edits and proofs of my forthcoming novel Brother Red, I managed to get stuck into a book I’d bought a while ago precisely […]
Whiteshift, by Eric Kaufman, is an easy book to recommend you read, in part because it is a thoughtful, detailed presentation of some challenging ideas and in part because its subject matter couldn’t (coronavirus aside) be more important. There are aspects to the thesis I don’t accept or understand, but I now accept, more clearly […]
I’m reflecting on the aftermath of a UK election result that I, personally, found disappointing. As with the Trump result a few years ago, there’s a fair amount of soul-searching and blame-pinning on the left. In games we call it a ‘post-mortem’ and it’s a reflection on what went wrong and what needs to change, […]
These two books, one old, one new, continue my lucky streak of ‘boundaried alien geography on earth’ novels that started with the amazing Southern Reach trilogy and continued with Tade Thompson’s award-winning Rosewater. Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, tells the story of Redrick Schuhart, a ‘Stalker’, which is the name given to those […]
With the third book’s first draft completed and no more deadlines at this point in time, I’ve begun recharging after years of frantic scribbling. The first book I chose to read after coming up for air is a book I wish I’d read before starting writing at all. I’ve read one previous book by Robert […]
I’ve been busy finishing my third novel. While I was wrestling with it over the last few months I managed to read a few books I’m now ready to recommend. Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky, first published in 1949, is the story of Kit and Port Moresby, Americans full of fashionably existential angst deciding to […]
“In Paradise there are no stories, because there are no journeys. It’s loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward, along its twisted road.” The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood, is one of the best books I’ve read. It’s a delight to be able to say it so soon, comparatively […]
1930’s rural England seen through the eyes of a troubled young girl coming of age and a high-octane rollercoaster fantasy set in a bleak, violent and ancient city were my January reads. Melissa Harrison’s All Among The Barley is meticulously researched. Early in the book it felt heavy-handed, almost over the top. Edie Mather, the […]
I needed to step away from sff reading at least briefly, mix it up. I got a blast of something beautiful. William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow is a marvellous novella. I was reminded of Ian McEwan’s prose, still my favourite, for its transparency and depth of perception. Maxwell’s book presents the act of […]
The Green Man figure from the folklore of numerous cultures and religions manifests in these two glorious novels as a righteous and very english force; a saviour of tradition, a keeper of continuity. The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth, is the tale of Buckmaster of Holland, an ‘oxganger’ in the 11th century just as the Normans […]
As saddened by the whole Hugo ‘puppy’ bullshit as any right-thinking person would be, it did introduce me to The Fifth Season, so thank you for that guys. Incidentally, Deji Bryce Olukotun’s Nigerians In Space bubbled up to the top of my ‘to read’ pile too. I loved both these books. The Fifth Season deserves […]
I love Jeff Vandermeer’s work because I love HP Lovecraft’s work. But I enjoy Vandermeer more. Horror describes the ways in which people strive to escape the painful and grisly annihilation of the self. It can be personal or impersonal, understandable or insensate. It can also describe our confrontation with the unfathomable. This last is […]
I’m reading a bit of sci-fi at the moment as I’m woefully under-read in the genre. How lovely to have these two line up back to back. Ninefox Gambit is a brilliant debut by Yoon Ha Lee. Kel Cheris is a captain given a seemingly impossible mission to destroy an impregnable space fortress that is […]
Dark Tales, by Shirley Jackson, is a hugely effective collection of short gothic horror stories written in the fifties and sixties. She died in ’65. I confess, like many I’ve spoken to about this book, not to have heard of her until a recent review of this collection, many of which were originally published in The […]
“But preserve your mistrust of the page, for a book is a fortress, a place of weeping, the key to a desert, a river that has no bridge, a garden of spears.” Sofia Samatar I’ve long been fascinated by virtuosi and recently I’ve read two almost without equal. Mark Danielewski and Sofia Samatar are virtuosi, […]
I do almost all my reading on the bus. Thus, my go-to indicator of a great read is how surprised I am that I’ve reached my destination. With Senlin Ascends, by Josiah Bancroft, I’ve been oblivious to my journey altogether. Our protagonist, Thomas Senlin, is a newly-wed on his honeymoon to a fictional Tower of […]
“I was brilliant. Not just your run-of-the-mill brilliance either. I was extraordinarily brilliant.” Patrick Rothfuss has written an astounding debut that I cannot unequivocally recommend. Well, that’s not strictly true. I can, but it’s clear why, despite its assured place in the modern canon, it’s divisive. It’s easy to see why the book is captivating. […]
In the last few weeks I’ve read two great books; both are clever and both feature a strong central trio of characters. In Beyond Redemption by Michael Fletcher, we have three emotionally stunted, savage and amusing warriors who wander a dark and wretched world leaving a trail of death and chaos behind them until they […]
Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant bolsters the list of fantasy genre writing that pushes its boundaries and should invigorate the genre’s authors and fans.
Brian Catling’s The Vorrh is a very beautifully written book, with the most unforgettable first chapter I’ve read in years.
Where do I begin? While this is not my favourite book, it is the best novel I’ve read. Pynchon, for me, is the most accomplished writer in English alive. Here is my impossible benchmark.
If the awards and critical acclaim have not steered you towards the fractious company of the two foremost English magicians of the nineteenth century, then it is unlikely my meagre addition to the chorus will tip the balance. Nevertheless, I exhort you to go get this enchanting novel.
This is a story about superheroes in the second world war and beyond, a counterfactual fantasy. At first you will rightly think of Watchmen and X-Men but Lavie Tidhar has created something here that is more bleak and more noir, as though the X-Men had been re-told by John le Carré.
The title of David Mitchell’s marvellous book almost fully encapsulates it, as all its characters, deathless or otherwise, serve its dominant theme: the misery of ageing.
I’ve written here about my miserable realisation I wouldn’t read more than a couple of thousand books in my lifetime, if I really went for it. I thus struggle to read more than one or two books by any author because there are so many more authors to read. How could I read another Philip […]
Helen Macdonald has opened her soul, and unlike most of us, is able to articulate its pain and its healing with a beautiful and haunting power.
“if our secrets define us, as opposed to the face we show the world: then the painting was the secret that raised me above the surface of life and enabled me to know who I am. And it’s there: in my notebooks, every page, even though it’s not. Dream and magic, magic and delirium. The […]
Minor spoilers regarding early part of novel ahead… I’ve not personally overdosed on zombie movies/games/books/TV shows/tee shirts etc. but because the rest of the world has, I’ve got a second-hand kind of weariness of it, so much so I have tried to avoid it. I’ve done the odd George Romero, loved Shaun of the Dead […]
I’d been putting off trying to articulate my thoughts on Adam Tooze’s masterful analysis of global history from 1916-1931, The Deluge, because, being so ignorant about that era, I wasn’t sure what I could say other than ‘read it, it’ll educate ya’, for fear of drawing incorrect or misleading conclusions from this densely detailed and […]
This book has no right to be a debut. It’s exhilarating, a tour de force. The Quantum Thief is a heist thriller the threads of which are woven into a sinuous and densely realised future. It’s a challenging read, I’ll admit hard to follow in places, as Hannu Rajaniemi displaces the awesome intelligence and agency […]