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.
I needed to step away from sff reading at least briefly, mix it up. I got a blast of something beautiful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“I was brilliant. Not just your run-of-the-mill brilliance either. I was extraordinarily brilliant.”
In the last few weeks I’ve read two great books; both are clever and both feature a strong central trio of characters.
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 […]
I recently read, back to back, Ben Aaranovitch’s Rivers of London and Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself, the latter a long overdue read for me as a fantasy author. It was because of their similarities that I’m writing about (and recommending them) together.
Here, by Richard McGuire, is no less than the zenith of the graphic novel as an art form. It is one of the most profound things I’ve read.
Hopefully all China Miéville’s novels are as original and engaging as this one. The City & The City is on one level a standard ‘detective investigating death of girl uncovers big conspiracy’ story, but Miéville has decided to weave the tale into a quite unique milieu.
If the horror genre is a journey, then House* of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski, is its destination. I say this not only because it is an attempt to get at the fundament of what is horrifying, but also because the nature of the attempt is an audacious, remarkably intelligent and emotionally satisfying weaving of […]
Hearing that I hadn’t read any of Gabriel García Márquez’s work, when his death was announced, a friend kindly bought me this, as he had Wolf Hall. Clearly, he knows what’s good for me. This twentieth century classic in the magical realist tradition was my first foray into the realm, unless Calvino’s If On A […]
Replay, by Ken Grimwood, tackles the classic ‘What if…’ scenario: “What if I could live my life over again?” It treads a path between the wonderful Star Trek episode ‘The Inner Light’ and Groundhog Day. Jeff, the book’s protagonist, is going to ‘replay’ his life more than once, unlike Picard; but unlike Phil Connors, he’s […]
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, is a masterpiece. It is one of the best books I will ever read. I know this because I’ve lost count of the times I’ve paused over a page, muttered ‘Fuck off’ at the sheer and dazzling quality and control of the form and the narrative, and then carried on reading, […]