Jemisin, N. K. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

NY: Orbit, 2010.

[NOTE: Apologies for the unexpected three-day hiatus, folks. I was out in the wilderness without an Internet connection.]

By the time I was one chapter into this not terribly long first volume of a trilogy, I knew I’d be along for the whole ride. The characters are that fascinating from the outset and the prose is that mesmerizing. In Jemisin’s world, the Arameri clan runs everything — and Dekarta Arameri runs the clan — and they do it with the assistance of the gods, both Bright Itempas (only survivor of the original Three) and all the little godlings who are their children (sort of). Itempas insists on order and avoidance of change, and that’s how things have been for the more than two thousand years since the Gods’ War.

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Published in: on 23 January 2018 at 8:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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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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Bagieu, Penelope. California Dreamin’.

NY: First Second, 2017.

This is one of those books that’s going to mean quite different things to you depending on how old you are. I grew up in Texas in the ’50s, a much bigger fan of Jerry Lee than of Elvis, and I had no use at all for those floppy-haired guys from England with all their “yeah, yeah, yeah.” And then I went to Northern California for a couple of years in the early ’60s just as beach-rock and folk music was being invented. I saw Baez in concert. PP&M came and played on campus for free, just for laughs.

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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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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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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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Lehane, Dennis. The Drop.

NY: HarperCollins, 2014.

This rather short novel was based on the film of the same name, which itself was based on the short story “Animal Rescue,” which Lehane had written a few years before. It sort of epitomizes his recurring theme of working-class life and problems in the fading industrial Northeast. Bob Saginowski runs the bar in the place owned by his cousin, Marvin, who used to be a big-time fence but who now knuckles under to the Chechen mafia, which uses the bar as a conduit for their other criminal revenues.

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Published in: on 18 December 2017 at 5:32 am  Leave a Comment  
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