What are you reading?

Started by Jubal, May 14, 2009, 04:09:47 PM

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Spritelady

Quick update: I finished Bone Shard War, which I thought was very good, although the first in that series remains my favourite.

I've also since read Silence of the Girls, which is an interesting telling of the Classical tale of the war with Troy, from the perspective of Briseis and focusing on the fates of the women and girls involved in it all. I've read a few similar sorts of books in the last year or two, and enjoy them thoroughly. I can happily recommend this one!

Has anyone else read Fourth Wing? I'd not heard of it, though it's apparently gaining popularity very quickly. A friend recommended it, and I went out to get a copy over the weekend. I finished it in my lunch break today and have to say, it was very fun. All about dragon riders, if anyone is interested!

Jubal

At long last I finished reading Embroidered Worlds, an anthology of 350 or so pages of Ukrainian SF and Fantasy. It's really interesting! There's definitely a common thread or feel to it which mixes typical western SFF tropes, a big dollop of eastern European/Slavic mythos, and then also something that feels more in the Garcia Marquez line, a strong sense of magical realism/fantasy as colonial trauma processing. Some of the stories aren't easy reads, and some of them didn't quite click for me, but I'm very glad I took the time to read through the book as a whole.

I think a few standouts among the stories for me included A.D. Sui's Svitla, which is a good example of a sort of low-focus magical fantasy being brought to bear on modern concerns around nuclear war and motherhood, and Vira Balatska's Revenge in Pursuit, which is actually one of the most fun stories in the book and has a really enjoyable SF premise that I'd happily have read more of. I also really loved Yaryna Katorozh's The Bike Shadow, which is a sweet-hearted piece of urban fantasy that doesn't shy away from actual stakes but is a warmer read. Admittedly maybe that's missing the point: I'm sure that the points of light stood out to me because the folk horror, bleak authoritarian SF, and broken-world fantasies that dominate the line-up are so difficult to process, as they should be given their background. Probably the piece that best summarises the book for me was Olha Brylova's Iron Goddess of Compassion, a SF story that above all else really nails the simutaneous incomprehension and total comprehension that a population reeling from the after-effects of colonisation have for those in the colonial centre who retain the old mindset, as so many Russians still do.

All in all, would hugely recommend if you ever get a chance to find a copy, there's some really good stuff in there.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Rob_Haines

I've heard really good things about Embroidered Worlds, so I really should pick it up some time.

I've just finished Tade Thompson's Rosewater trilogy, which is really fascinating near-future science fiction, with a living meteor showing up in Nigeria and setting up a foothold on Earth for potential future alien incursions. But simultaneously it heals anyone who comes close, grants a degree of psychic ability to certain humans sensitive to such things, and triggers a power struggle between the local authorities and the wider government of Nigeria. The ending of the series didn't quite land for me (though I think I understand why it was the right ending), but the journey was worth it.

indiekid

#258
I've nearly finished Jane Austen's Emma, which I'd highly recommend. Emma is an arrogant and entitled heroine who gets into a number of social scrapes, all of which are highly relatable. It still feels relevant today. As she tries to right her own wrongs Emma grows as a person and it's a very satisfying read. I'm starting the original Dune next.

I read the first Rosewater book a few years ago and didn't get on with it. A few too many interesting ideas meant that none were explored as much as I'd hoped. I liked the scenes with people coming to the meteor for healing though.

Jubal

I have been in Groningen with intotheferns and kjelda, and we went bookshopping, which was interesting - I've not really spent much time working round SFF sections in bookshops for many years, so seeing what the current balance is was fun. Groningen incidentally seems to be better than Vienna for English bookshopping which is interesting too - I guess maybe it's the balance of fewer things being translated into Dutch and an even more anglophone population in a small Dutch university city. SFF book blurbs that I was reading mostly left me rather cold, sadly. It felt like there was a big emphasis on "girl meets boy during inconvenient apocalyptic/political/magical catastrophe" being the thing that was emphasised in every blurb, with not as much space as I'd have like for "here's why this fantasy is not actually the same as all the other fantasy". It feels like court politics and intrigue, or magical mysteries, are major themes at the moment, often with non-western takes - and I really like the non-western bit of that but I'd be much more into diving into some more folkloric takes etc. I guess there's maybe a certain Period Drama Romance Fantasy thing that I've never fully clicked with.

Anyway, I bought and read Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard, which is a sapphic novella about fantasy SE Asian themed politics, fire, and what it means to care about people. I've had AdB on my vague radar for a long time without reading any of her work, and I really liked the book: it was refreshingly different without getting heavy going.  There's not a lot I can say without plot spoilers because it's only a hundred pages, but in general that feels pretty good. I do actually like novellas and I feel like they are a good pitch for an author or setting without me needing to invest 500 pages of time. Can recommend, anyhow!
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

indiekid

Sounds interesting. I agree that a lot of fantasy series seem kind of same-ey now. The world is often in danger of literally ending, and I wonder if there's scope for more - what's the word - localised? stories

Jubal

The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

indiekid

I think I missed that one!

Jubal

Meanwhile, I read Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (who also wrote Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which is a book I've not yet read).

I liked Piranesi. It's a portal fantasy of sorts, though very much started in the secondary world from the perspective of a character who has become "naturalised" to the setting there. There's a lot of central mystery of how the whole situation came about that slowly unravels throughout the book - in general the mystery isn't very complex, and we as the reader usually know what's happening well before Piranesi as the point of view character does, which can sometimes border on frustrating but there is nonetheless something nice in putting the pieces together before the plot gives us confirmation.

I think the nice thing about the book for me is the sheer strangeness and melancholic beauty of its secondary world. The descriptions of the House and of Piranesi's life there are wonderfully done, and they achieve the interesting (and important) effect of making the mystery plot which is really the book's driving narrative actually feel almost small and shabby by comparison. This would be a bad thing in many narratives, but here it manages to give us some of the sense of Piranesi's attachment to the House and his confusion at the somewhat petty narratives he is unravelling over time. One of the book's starting quotes is from The Magician's Nephew, and some of the core themes of that CS Lewis book around people applying limited scientistic-magician approaches to things much vaster and greater than they can comprehend are definitely carried through into Piranesi.

Anyway, another recommended one I think, I enjoyed it.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Rob_Haines

I was in an online writing forum with Aliette de Bodard back in the mid-2000s, and we've met up a few times. I really like a lot of her work, especially the Xuya series (science-fiction with ancestral mindships); The Red Scholar's Wake was a recent favourite.

I've recently been re-reading Adrian Tchaikovsky's Dogs of War as part of a book club with friends. I very rarely re-read books, but this is one of my favourites, and absolutely something I'd call a modern classic.

It's quite a short book, but goes through multiple transformations of what it's about, and really doesn't waste your time.