Today we turn the tables on our Mind Meld moderators and ask them the following question:
With “recent” being whatever they decided it meant. Here’s what they said!
the beer he’s drinking, you can follow him on Twitter: @RobHBedford.
I’ve long been a fan of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” so I was excited to see him launch a new series, “The Cinder Spires,” with The Aeronaut’s Windlass. This is a steampunk series with a fun magical backdrop including intelligent, talking cats. Although a Steampunk setting, there is also a feel of Epic Fantasy to the story. Sure to be a highlight of the year for me.
I was completely sucked into Cherie Priest’s Borden Dispatches. The first book, Maplecroft, published last year and the second/final book in the sequence Chapelwood published about a month ago. Priest takes the Lizzie Borden story and wraps it up in the Cthulhu mythos for a two book set that were damned near perfect. These are must read horror novels.
Another novel with a strong dose of Epic Fantasy, also a series launch, that blew me away was Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu. A stellar opening chapter and character introduction sets the tone for this fantastic, epic tale. .
I was also really impressed with Jason M. Hough’s Zero World, a high concept SF novel that takes the multiverse/parallel world theory to an ambitious, exaggerated degree.
I was a little late to the party with C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner since this is considered by many to be a modern SF classic. This was my third attempt reading Cherryh’s novel-length fiction and her writing finally clicked for me.
Two recent debuts really impressed me, too. Updraft and C.A. Higgins’s Lightless. Wilde’s novel is a fantasy set above the clouds along bone spires and Higgins’ novel is a space-based (I hesitate to call it a Space Opera) thriller that takes full advantage of the cramped, claustrophobic feel of a space vessel.
On the audio-book front, with my audible subscription, I’ve been doing about one per month. The only one of those over the past few months I haven’t reviewed or talked about elsewhere in great detail is Andy Weir’s The Martian, but it was a blast. A great Hard SF novel and great character study. I’ve yet to see the movie, but if Matt Damon captures the snark narrator R.C. Bray did for the character of Mark Watney, then the film will be a success. (Hint, I think it is a success, at least financially).
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – finally, a scifi story about hair, hair styles, judgment about hair. I’m serious. And it’s also a kick-ass space opera wrapped up in a little unsuspecting package. Tradition meets aliens, and an interstellar war avoided thanks to an ancient Earth practice. excerpt from my review: “A perfect dove-tailing of tribal and futuristic, of sentient space ships and ancient cultural traditions, Binti was a beautiful story to read. For some of you, this will just be a story that you read and forget about two days later. For others of you, it will be a door that opens and never closes. File me under “others of you”
China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh – gorgeously written, great characters, hard to describe plot. A perfect book for language geeks. an excerpt of my review – “There are no grand quests, or enemies to defeat, or betrayals or heroes or world changing events or any of that. What China Mountain Zhang does offer is intimacy and intense subtlety in an SFnal world. On the one hand, this is a quiet story of a man in hiding, who only lets the world see of him what they wish to see. If the safest thing for the public to see is a marriageable Asian with a decent job, that is what he will present to them. On the other hand, underneath the facade, underneath the social demands Rafael is crushed under, he is eternally screaming. This is a story about how the only way to find yourself is to lose yourself.”
“The Bone Swans of Amandale” by C.S.E Cooney – included in her collection Bone Swans, this story absolutely broke my heart. Unrequited love, dark magic, a fairy tale whose ending you already know mixed with one whose ending you might not know. If you run into me at a convention somewhere and want to see me burst into tears, just say the line “Let’s go swimming. Right now”. You know that smile a little kid gets on their face right as they get to the punchline of a joke they just learned? That smile – that is Cooney’s writing style.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson – hands down my favorite book of 2015. This book scratched all my itches. An excerpt from my review – “Dickinson responds to every single epic fantasy trope with “it’s more complicated than that”, and then he shows you why those complications are needed, and that every fantasy you’ve ever read leading up until right now has been sorely deficient in exploring complications. Culture, ambition, politics, conquest, morals, colonization, loyalty, rebellion, romance. Shouldn’t they be more complicated than your standard fantasy novel make them out to be? Yes, yes they should. Because they are.”
When you’re in grad school and working full-time it can be difficult to find time for pleasure reading… Unless you sneak it in instead of finishing all your required reading for class. But I would never do that, nope, never.
Here are a few of the books I read recently I adored. And when I say “adored” I mean I read them in one sitting, even if it meant stating up all night.
Planetfall by Emma Newman
SF Signal’s own Rob Bedford recently reviewed Planetfall and he nailed it. I loved the characters and the depth you feel without having chapters and chapters of backstory and science. I had the same qualm as Rob in that I felt it ended rather abruptly but that didn’t stop me from loving the hell out of this book. Renata “Ren” Ghali was my favorite character by far and Newman is flawless in her execution of creating a character with layers and human issues.
The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
I have to admit, when I first sat down to read this book I did not realize it was the first in a duology. I only learned that after the fact but the book ended neatly enough I don’t have to fly to France to sit outside Bodard’s house until she is finished with the second one. She is probably pretty thankful for that as well. One of my favorite things about this book is the way Bodard weaves in multiple cultures and mythology. This book is part history, part fantasy, part suspense/mystery, and all kinds of awesome. I got hooked on Bodard’s writing with her Xuya stories and will always make what she writes a priority.
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
This book. Whew. I kept seeing people on Twitter push this book. People with book opinions I hold in the highest regard. So, I thought I’d just start it one night before bed. Fast forward to five a.m. and I’d finished the book and wanted to put it in everyone’s hands so they could read it too! This book is a mind-bending book. Not quite horror, not quite science fiction or fantasy, and yet it contains a bit of everything. The book has multiple twists and turns and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. I particularly loved the dialogue and could picture myself saying some of the same things. Do not miss this book.
After reading the first Sandman Slim book earlier this year I was instantly hooked. Richard Kadrey is the man when it comes to dark, humorous urban fantasy. I’ve described the Sandman Slim books as Raymond Chandler and Quentin Tarantino crossed with Dante. So if you’re into that type of thing, check out the latest Sandman Slim book, Killing Pretty (which came out a few months ago). The story follows the former hit man from Hell as he plumbs the depths of L.A.’s paranormal underbelly, encountering talent agencies that cater to celebrity ghosts, Nazi-inspired mystical societies, supernatural fight clubs, and a (literally) heartless Angel of Death. How can you pass that up?
I’m stretching the meaning of “recent” here, but I only just read Ready Player One, so it was new to me. The novel was a total blast. It was the most fun I had reading in a long time. If you grew up in the ’80s, you have to read this book. And with the movie adaptation coming soon, you’ll want to get acquainted with the story. I also read Ernest Cline’s most recent book, Armada. I wish I could say it was as good as Ready Player One or nearly as good. But, alas, I cannot. It reads like a novelization of Pixels, albeit a much, much better one. It’s not a great book, but it does have its moments.