Michaele Jordan‘s novel, Blade Light, is a charming traditional fantasy that was serialized in Jim Baen’s Universe and is now available as an ebook at Amazon or at iBooks. Her newest novel, Mirror Maze, is available now.
When I was a child I read anything you put in front of me. I remember standing in the library with my very first card, looking around, utterly thrilled to see hundreds (or thousands, or millions) of books I hadn’t read yet. Enough to last my whole life! Back then it never crossed my mind I couldn’t read them all.
When my reading fell behind in college, I blamed my studies. After graduation, I blamed my job for the growing stacks of books I hadn’t gotten to yet. But I still read everything, from classics to trash, with-of course-a special, loving emphasis of SF/F. I was over fifty before I faced the horrible truth. I could not read it all. I figured I needed focus and started to read SF/F almost exclusively. And I discovered that I STILL could not read it all.
I got so depressed I just stopped reading. “It takes too much time from my writing,” I grumbled. But that wasn’t the reason. “Sturgeon was wrong about ninety percent,” I muttered bitterly. “It’s ALL crap.” But that wasn’t the reason. My heart was broken, and I was grieving for all those hundreds (or thousands, or millions) of books I hadn’t read-and never would. At best I could catch a few drops of spray from the waves of the sea.
Eventually I healed. I started over. The book wasn’t SF/F; since I was starting over, I started where I began, indiscriminately, with anything I stumbled upon. Finally I saw what the mystics had always said: it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
Long story short: the books I am recommending to you today are not SF/F. Not quite. But they all come close enough that I trust my friends in fandom will enjoy them.
Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler came out from H. Holt in 1991, long enough ago that you may have missed it. It is not fantasy. It is magic realism. Improbable, inexplicable things happen, but no magic. Lyrical and lonely, weird and full of unanswered questions, it is-like so many good books of any genre-an exploration of the human heart. It is worth a reminder that you look it up.
More recently (2007), Del Rey Books blessed us with Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. It, too, is not a fantasy, for all that it has been compared to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. But there isn’t any magic in it. One blurb called it, “swords and horses.” Chabon himself described it as “Jews with swords.” Whatever it’s not, it is a spirited, entertaining adventure tale, full of swash-bucklers and derring-do, beautifully set in the ancient, exotic kingdom of the Khazars. You could read it in a day.
Follow it up with Inherent Vice, Thomas Pynchon’s latest (Thorndike Press, 2010). Officially this book is a noir-style detective story. Except it is set in the early seventies, and laced thickly with surfboards, drugs and mystical visions, all of it kaleidoscopically twisted through Pynchon’s unique perceptions. It is truly wonderful.
My last recommendation today is Room by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown & Co., 2010), the most unclassifiable novel I have seen in years. Certainly it is not SF/F. It is set solidly in the here and now. It is not a thriller (although I couldn’t put it down). It is not a mystery; crime is involved but nothing needs solving. And it is way too chilling and abnormal to call main stream. It is an engrossing read. You do yourself a grave disservice if you miss it.
Perhaps I should not close by suggesting you buy my book, Mirror Maze; I already closed my last three posts that way. On the other hand, I’m proud of it so why not start a trend? So please, also read Mirror Maze, (Pyr Books, 2011) even if it is SF/F. You’ll love it.