Greenberg, Martin H. (ed). The End of the World: Stories of the Apocalypse.

NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2010.

Greenberg has been enormously prolific over the years as an anthologist of short-form science fiction and fantasy, and he can usually be depended upon for a thematic collection that will hold your interest. The theme here is just what it says: The many ways in which the world — or at least human civilization — might end, whether with a bang or a whimper, and what comes after. Always assuming there is an “after.”

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Griffiths, Elly. The Janus Stone.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2011.

This is the second in the series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk, and it’s even better than the first-rate first volume. Ruth is turning forty and she’s overweight, but she had a one-night stand with homicide DCI Harry Nelson — it was a combination of stress and special circumstances during the last case — and that’s complicating her life. Being a bone specialist, she’s been doing some forensics work for the police and this time, three months since the previous case, that brings her to investigate the skeleton of an infant found under the doorstep of an old house being torn down to make way for a block of luxury flats.

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Card, Orson Scott. Ender’s Game.

NY: Tor, 1985.

There’s a rather short list of really important modern science fiction novels, the books that influenced the next generation of both readers and younger authors. This is one of those novels. The original novelette version was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula and the novel-length version won both those awards. It’s also a book that hardly anyone who’s read it shrugs off. They tend either to love it, for a whole bunch of reasons, or to hate it, for a whole bunch of other reasons.

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Horowitz, Anthony. Magpie Murders.

London: Orion Books, 2016.

I’ve read two of Horowitz’s earlier books, both pastiches on Sherlock Holmes, but this one is completely different, and both its critical and its public reception has been surprising. It’s also two of the strangest murder mysteries I’ve ever read. What seems at first to be the frame story is narrated by the fiction editor of Cloverleaf Books, who has settled in for the weekend with the new ninth novel from popular mystery writer Alan Conway featuring the Poirot-like private detective Atticus Pünd.

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Le Carré, John. A Legacy of Spies.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Le Carré is still the best of the great Cold War spy novelists, though he had to change his game rather a lot after the Iron Curtain collapsed. Here, he returns to his roots with a story set mostly in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many years ago, when he was young, Peter Guillam was the personal assistant, factotum, and gatekeeper to George Smiley, the dumpy, rather gray, middle-aged master spy of the Circus, and he was thereby privy to all the great (and usually secret) events of the long, strong struggle against the Soviet Union. Now Peter is becoming elderly himself, living in retirement on the farm in Brittany where he grew up.

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Strahan, Jonathan (ed). Edge of Infinity.

Oxford, UK: Solaris, 2012.

Only to experienced science fiction readers who are used to thinking in terms of galaxy-spanning distances would our own planetary system seem “local,” but that’s the theme of this anthology of original short pieces by an array of authors both well-known and not so much. In his introduction, Strahan makes the point that SF has long been obsessed with its own death as a genre, but this is because science fiction is constantly being “killed by science.”

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Dessen, Sarah. Once and for All.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Dessen’s latest YA novel easily maintains the high standards set by its predecessors. The protagonist in each of her books is usually part of an unusual setting, which adds interest for the reader in addition to her romantic adventures. At seventeen, Louna Barrett has been deeply immersed in the wedding business for nearly a decade, thanks to her mother’s busy schedule. “A Natalie Barrett Wedding” is always a big deal and usually pretty expensive, so the pressure is always on.

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Published in: on 29 December 2017 at 9:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

NY: Random House, 2000.

I have no excuse for the fact that this marvelous Pulitzer-winning epic sat on my “To Read” shelf for most of a decade before I got around to it. Once I started it, though, I found it difficult to put down. I’m ordinarily a fast reader (I never skim, I just take large mouthfuls of text), but this one is more than 630 pages of dense narrative, so it took awhile. You’ll want to read slowly and savor Chabon’s use of the language as well as the immense amount of social history and artistic detail he packs into every scene.

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Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man’s Fear.

NY: DAW, 2011.

The first volume of this engrossing fantasy trilogy-to-be ran close to 700 pages and it took me longer than usual to read because I took my time and thought about what I was reading. Rothfuss’s multilayered style has that effect. This second volume is 1,000 pages even and, again, I took my time. The Chronicler has come to Kvothe’s small-town inn in search of his story, which the legend-covered man known as “King-Killer” decides it’s time to tell, in all its many facets.

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Published in: on 24 December 2017 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sansom, Ian. The Norfolk Mystery.

NY: HarperCollins, 2013.

This is a period mystery yarn that probably won’t appeal to everyone because of the main character’s rather pushy all-knowingness, but it’s kind of an interesting read. In 1932, Stephen Sefton graduates from Oxford with a poor third-class English degree (he’d spent too much time carousing as a student), so he spends a few years teaching at the poorer sort of public (i.e., private) boys’ schools. Then, fighting off boredom, he joins the Communist Party and in 1936 he goes off to fight the Falangists in Spain.

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