I’ve been reading a lot lately. I’ve blazed through months of slush. Some of which got rejected in the first three or four pages, some which held me until the end but didn’t quite tip the scale to being something I’d pick up. Some of the common problems have been; redundancy, black and white universes, and sloppy language use. Fortunately for me there are these wonderful things called books. Some, much like the slush is decent, some has a very bad case of meh, and some is anti-slush. Some of the latter category that I’ve been reading is detailed below. Mild Spoilers, i don’t expect that anything in the commentary takes place after the first 1/4 of the book.
First up was a YA novel that I’m pretty certain was in my WFC gift bag. Magic or Madness . Justine Larbalestier’s is an entertaining yarn about a young girl who had been raised by her slightly loopy mother and moved all over Australia never staying in one place for long. Reason, our young heroine finds herself in the clutches of the person her mother feared most. Reason’s Grandmother. All of Reason’s young life has been spent avoiding the woman she has been raised to believe is evil incarnate. There are one or two very minor things in this I could live with having been buffed down a bit, but then I’m not the intended audience. All in all this was an excellent read and held up better to a critical adult reader than most of the YA on the market.
Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey was something i wanted to read since the first time i saw the cover. While the main characters aren’t the sort of people some would ever give anything except a nervous glare, they are the right characters for the story and the setting. If you’re looking for a typical formulaic fantasy novel, go elsewhere. Butcher Bird is anything but another cookie cutter fantasy novel. Kadrey smoothly take your expectation and slaps you in the head with them in this twisted tale. Fun.
I got the immense pleasure of reading my first Elizabeth Bear book recently. Undertow is really a top notch novel. It has that dim, smoky aura thats right out of a prohibition era speakeasy that has all but gone by the wayside in todays science fiction. Undertow is set on a corporate colony. The levels of tech in the book are a very interesting mix, the culture is very solidly drawn and despite never drawing a single parallel to our world today has relevant things to say and better still relevant questions to ask. One of the things I like best about this book is that Elizabeth wastes not even a single sentence. Undertow, like the dangerous pull under the surface of the water will suck you in so smoothly you won’t know it’s even happened until its too late.
The last of todays books was C.E. Murphy’s Heart of Stone. I was almost afraid to read this book, and its certainly the one I had the highest expectations and hence the largest worries about. Having read all three of the books in Catie’s The Walking Papers series, and having read the first three chapters before interviewing her at Pi-Con last August, I knew this was going to be very different. I knew Margrit was unlike Joanne, and that she wasn’t gifted with a octogenarian cab driver to remind her to either look before she leaped or sprout wings. The differences between the two ladies were stark, as was the tone. To me, the Walker Papers all have a lighter tone.Heart of Stone is by no means dark, but for those of you who haven’t yet read it (go do so) expecting a carbon copy of the other series will lead straight to disappointment. On the other hand this book clearly demonstrates the breadth of Murphy’s story telling ability. Magrit is fun in a completely different way than Jo is. The internal monologues are different, the women have no physical resemblance, and lead different types of lives. But the important thing isn’t what separates them, its what binds the two together. That tie is simply the exquisite way they are written. This is an excellent read in and of itself and will make Murphy many new fans.