The OF Blog: Recommended recent reads

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recommended recent reads

Despite now having a bit more "free time" (to say the least), I regretfully will not be able to review at length every single book that I've read and had things to say. While full reviews of Ekaterina Sedia's The Alchemy of Stone, John Rieder's Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, and the dual review I'm currently working on for Strange Horizons of Ursula Le Guin's Lavinia and Jo Graham's Black Ships will all be completed in the next couple of weeks, here are a list of books that I've read recently that I would recommend to most here:

1. Francie Lin, The Foreigner (2008) - I usually do not like crime/thriller novels that use mysterious family elements as a hook. However, Lin's tale has so many levels of meaning to it that her story becomes much more than an American-born Taiwanese returning to his ancestral homeland. Lin writes nuanced, carefully-crafted characters, creates palpable tension without sacrificing these well-rounded characters' personalities to the plot demands, and she tosses in certain symbolic acts and gestures that bring the story full-circle by the end of this 300 page novel.

2. D.M. Cornish, Lamplighter (2008) - I posted a few weeks ago about how I believed Cornish deserved a larger readership for his YA series, Monster Blood Tattoo. After reading this 700 page sequel to 2006's Foundling, I found the sequel to continue with the vividly-drawn (and illustrated) characters and monsters, with interesting side-plots, and with a twist at the end that makes me eager to read the concluding volume whenever it comes out in the next few years.

3. Kay Kenyon, Bright of the Sky (2007); A World Too Near (2008) - Sometimes, I just want to read a nice SF quest story. When I do, I like to read stories that have a nice pace, interesting characters, with writing that doesn't irritate me. Kenyon's first two novels in a planned quadrilogy succeeded on all accounts. Not the greatest stories I've ever read, but decent, entertaining reads that I doubtless will re-read in the near future.

4. Alan Campbell, Iron Angel (2008) - This sequel to Scar Night (2006) was an improvement on the characterizations and plotting. Campbell still is developing as an author and his writing does not always match his ambitions, but what I read was enough for me to continue on with this series.

5. Barth Anderson, The Magician and the Fool (2008) - Excellent mystery/thriller regarding tarot cards, Romulus and Remus, and ancient Troy. Anderson toes a fine line between winking at his readers and making the story outlandishly exciting. A fun, fast-paced novel that makes me curious about his first novel.

6. James Braziel, Birmingham, 35 Miles (2008) - Excellent debut novel about a post-apocalyptic event in the early 21st century, when the ozone layer dissolves above Alabama and living conditions there become harsh. Told via letters and personal communication between a husband and wife, Braziel has created sympathetic characters who tell their stories plainly and yet eloquently. One of my favorite debut novels read this year.

7. Maurice Dantec, Cosmos Incorporated (2008 English translation from the French) - This novel was slow for me at first, detailing a fractured world in which the US has split apart into several nations. The mysterious stealthy assassin whose PoV dominates the novel didn't really appeal to me until the final half of the novel. However, once I reached that point, the story took off in an unexpected direction that made for a much more interesting story than I had expected after 200 pages.

8. Sarah Hall, Daughters of the North (published in the UK in 2007 as The Carhullan Army; 2008 US release). This Clarke Award finalist contains the bones of a really good feminist critique of modern society and how women's bodies are viewed (among a great many other matters). However much I enjoyed it, I was left with the impression that if Hall had fleshed out the relationships a bit more, had explored the totalitarian society a tad bit more in detail, that this would have been on par with Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. It falls just a bit shy of that, but even so, it was a very good read.


Mihai A. said...

I have D.M. Cornish's books and until I start reading them I will enjoy the art, a great one.

Ben said...

I thought I was the only one who had read "Birmingham, 35 Miles." I love post-apocalyptic tales and was born in Birmingham so I thought this would be great. I did not like it as much as you though.

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