Adrian Barnes, Nod, Titan Books, 2016 (reprint).
When I will begin to talk about Nod, people who are old hands at apocalypse novels will watch me with a raised eyebrow: "But C, why are you reviewing it? It sounds like so many others of the same apart from the concept." Very true, but bear with me, because it has redeeming qualities.
Nicky Drayden, The Prey of Gods, Harper Voyager, 2017.
You don't judge a book by its cover. Except in reality, you often pick a book by its cover. The Prey of Gods' cover was what instantly drew me: it's beautiful and invites curiosity about the story. The novel wasn't such an instant hit with me, but it's a great blend of scifi and fantasy in a story packed with action.
A. Igoni Barrett, Blackass, Graywolf Press, 2016.
Sometimes, you speak of novels blurring the genres, when scifi or fantasy is in the background. Blackass definitely blurs them, very much so. The fantasy element is mainly the starting point to the story and doesn't come back much. But as the novel has been shortlisted for a Nommo Award, it felt only right that, having liked it, I'd review it too.
Emma Newman, The Split Worlds,
Myself: "I thought we said 'Never two reviews for the same author, except in the Collections'!"
Me: "Excuse Me? Are you telling Me off because I'm breaking rules? Furthermore rules of my own making?"
Myself: "But there are so many authors out there, all worth discovering!"
Me: "If I read this five books fantasy series in five days, it's probably for the good reason that I loved it. And we also said that this blog was only for books I loved."
Myself: "But you reviewed an Emma Newman series barely 6 months ago! Couldn't you have waited a bit at least?"
Me *blows a raspberry at Myself and keeps on with the review because that series is too bleeding good to not review it*
Vincent Holland-Keen, The Office of Lost and Found, Fox Spirit Books, 2016.
The Office of Lost and Found wasn't what I expected. But I lost expectations and found a couple of great characters in an unusual world.
Robin Hobb, Fitz and the Fool,
I started reading the Farseer trilogy in 2000. Over the years, and after the completion of the Tawny Man trilogy, Fitz and the Fool became "old friends", the kind we readers have when we often re-read books, old friends we like, sometimes dislike, but always come back to.
When this new trilogy began being published, I waited. Three years until it was completed at which moment I started on it, read it all in six days and ended in tears.
In order that there wouldn't be any spoilers (except for one thing happening in the Tawny Man trilogy), this review deals mainly in feelings and impressions: it may feel a bit frustrating at how vague it is. But better vague than spoilerish.
Victor LaValle, The Ballad of Black Tom, St Martin's Press, 2016.
Almost ten years ago, I had read Big Machine by Victor LaValle. I had found it ok. Because of this lack of enthusiasm, I didn't really followed what LaValle did after that. But one person told me I had to read The Ballad of Black Tom. Then another. Then another.
Guess what? They all were right. I had to read it, and so do you.
Short stories... I don't like short stories... Mainly it's because I read too fast: I barely have time to get into the story that it's over. It's a bit like going to a gastronomic restaurant when you haven't eaten for two days.
But sometimes, however short, a story grabs you and the world and characters it depicts remain with you for a long long time.
So, there. I don't like short stories and stories that are short, except when I like them.
Those are all short stories (and two novellas.. and two anthologies) I've read and liked in the past twelve months or so, and, as usual, they are by chronological order.
Alexis Wright, The Swan Book, Constable, 2015.
The Swan Book is by more way than one a novel that blur the genres. It is also something quite unique and if you are the right reader for it, this politically and ecologically engaged fantasy novel from Australia set in the near future will be a delight to read.
Dan Grace, Winter, Unsung Stories, 2016.
In the last year, Unsung Stories has become fast one of my favourite SFF publishers as I have yet to find a story they have published and that I didn't like. And Winter, a fantasy novella set in the near future but steeped in the supernatural, is no exception.
Jen Williams, The Copper Cat trilogy,
Epic and heroic fantasy trilogies are my best frenemies. When I pick up a new one I always long to find back that sweeping sensation I felt the first time I read Lord of the Rings but I usually end up casually throwing the book above my shrugging shoulders: "Been there, done that, read it to death a thousand times". Having read Diana Wynne Jones' Tough Guide to Fantasyland (with accompanying novels of Derkholm) doesn't help either.
So, by the end of the fifth chapter of the Copper Promise, I was eyeing it pretty dubiously wondering if I should really need going any further. But read on, dear reader, because my adventure with the Copper Promise has a happy ending that includes a happy me...
M. Suddain, Hunters & Collectors, Jonathan Cape, 2016.
Though Hunters & Collectors lacks a bit of substance, it is a very enjoyable scifi novel with a grisly baroque comical twist to it that will certainly delight anyone looking for something entertaining to read.
Jennifer Marie Brissett, Elysium, Aqueduct Press, 2014.
By the first chapter, I was intrigued. By the second chapter, I was starting to elaborate theories. By the fifth chapter, I was going "What the heck?" By the tenth chapter, I was going "What the frigging heck?" By the ending, I was in no doubt I would review it.
Ahmed Khaled Towfik, Utopia, Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing, 2011.
Translation: Chip Rossetti.
First published in 2009 in Cairo, a year before the Arab Spring begun, this near future novel has something prophetic in it. But even some 8 years after the events, Utopia is a tale of violence and social unrest that still remains topical.
Naomi Alderman, The Power, Viking, 2016.
The Power was on my reading list for months. It sat there while I was unsure whether I should read it or not. It seemed to me it would be too much like this book or this TV show. I was wrong and as I read on it kept on delivering.
China Miéville, This Census-Taker, Picador, 2016.
I have a huge problem when it comes to Miéville stories: I judge everything he writes by comparing it to The City & The City, which isn't fair because The City & The City is such a masterpiece. So it took me a week after having read This Census-Taker to realise that this novella, despite an initial disappointment, was in fact very well worth a review and a brilliant story.
Aliya Whiteley, The Arrival of Missives, Unsung Stories, 2016.
I started reading with a groan: The Arrival of Missives uses a first person narrator who is a naive and arrogant teenager in love with her teacher. My amount of patience for fictional teenagers is extremely limited and I was thinking that this was turning into a disaster by page 15. So how was I supposed to know that, upon reaching the end of this short scifi novel, some 80 pages further, I'd be standing up on my sofa, elated and the fist raised?
Oliver Langmead, Metronome, Unsung Stories, 2017.
"And then he woke up and it was all just a dream..." is probably the most pointless and infuriating sentence I can read. Except that it's the premise of Metronome, by Oliver Langmead and that, far from being pointless and infuriating, it leads to a poetical and gripping fantasy tale. To keep it short: it's made of awesome...
Helen Oyeyemi, White is for Witching, Pan McMillan, 2009.
I was grabbed from the first page. By the second page, I knew I would review it. At the third page, I was tweeting "Wow". By the fourth page I wasn't doing anything else but reading because I was too engrossed in the book.
Nick Wood, Azanian Bridges, NewCon Press, 2016.
Set in a current South Africa that still enforces Apartheid, Azanian Bridges is, despite some flaws, a striking read with hints of Brazil. Though most political uchronias tend to give a sense of relief (as in "Thank goodness it didn't turn out that way!") with a slight warning for times ahead, it almost feels as if this very topical scifi novel arrived slightly too late for our world's current state of affairs...