Catching Up On More Fiction Reviews

More stuff from the Free Press from this past year, all fiction. It’s been long enough since I’ve done an update I think it’s worth highlighting a couple. In fact, almost all of these titles come from favourite authors of mine (a couple newbies in there as well), but Death’s End, the final book in the trilogy by Cixin Liu (my new favourite foreign-language writer), is a must-read, along with its predecessors. Seriously, one of the all-time best science fiction trilogies, even in translation. You simply cannot skip it.

Also, Kelly Link, if you haven’t read her, do it. She’s so busy as an editor and rarely releases a collection, but she is one of the great short story writers. Get In Trouble meets the high bar set by her earlier work and I very much enjoyed it.

Get In Trouble

Death’s End


Last Year

Invisible Planets

The Collapsing Empire

The Last Neanderthal


Book Review: Get In Trouble

Link writes magical realism, many-layered tales of complex, fully realized human beings in settings and situations far less constrained to reality than traditional mainstream works. The marriage of literary style and character depth with the surrealist plots and settings traditional to fantasists dates at least as far back as the adjectival German-language writer Franz Kafka.

Read my full review at the Winnipeg Free Press.

Book Review: My Real Children

What if a person could live two lives — not a dual life, but two full, separate and irreconcilable life histories? In her old age, could she look back and ask herself which was true and which a fantasy? Who were her real children?

Read my full review of Jo Walton’s latest at the Winnipeg Free Press.

Skip the Book?

Today on AE, five books you can forgo in favour of the film. I’m a die-hard bookworm, so when I say the movie’s better, well, opinion is still opinion, but you might pay a little closer attention. Of course, the films in question are all genre (with Fight Club perhaps straddling the line a bit). Here’s one more that wouldn’t have fit on the list at AE:

Non-genre Bonus Example!

Into the Wild. The film is a dramatized version of the true story of Christopher McCandless, a thoughtful, adventurous young man with an inspiring zest for life. The book is a stunning example of long-form journalism by a master of the craft. Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction account of the McCandless story grew out of an article he wrote for Outside magazine. The book is a mix of narrative, interviews, the history of adventure travel, and some of Krakauer’s personal anecdotes.

In fine journalistic fashion, speculations are clearly labelled as such, multiple theories are floated and batted around. But in the movie version, a single interpretation is taken, a single cohesive narrative emerges, and it really feels like we see things from Chris’ perspective. In the film, we have a protagonist. In the book we have a subject. Most of us would choose the former.

Book Review: The Golem and the Jinni

These are the opening chapters of Helene Wecker’s literary debut, and they’re doozies. Perhaps the most famous beast of Jewish folklore is paired with a creature right out of the Arabian Nights. And they’re re-imagined as developed, human-like characters. It’s an unusual combination, to say the least.

Read my review at the Free Press.

James Clavell and SF

Any James Clavell or Harold Lamb fans out there? I have an essay up on AE, on the relationship between historical fiction and certain works and sub-genres with SF (alternate history is something I didn’t even get into). It’s entitled “Bleeding of Genres: Historical Fiction and SF“, and just possibly, if inspiration strikes, I’ll write more on the topic of cross-genre influences in the future.

Best of 2012

Sleeping Hedgehog, like most art and culture mags everywhere, has been talking about the best of 2012 (with most of the entries running New Year’s Day). I wouldn’t say there were a lot of huge stand-outs this year. What’s perhaps interesting is that a lot of my reading did not come from the usual suspects, or perhaps even that I may not even have any current usual suspects. I did say, and I’ll quote:

As far as brand-new works go, 2012 saw worthy follow-ups to a couple of individuals with very strong debuts in previous years. I’ve quite enjoyed both Hannu Rajaniemi’s and Howard Andrew Jones’ series continuations. But I’d have to give the nod to Jones for best new title for Bones of the Old Ones.

But as good as my best new book of the year was, it didn’t manage to surpass its predecessor, The Desert of Souls, in my mind, which was all the stronger for coming completely out of nowhere from an author I hadn’t previously heard of. In other words, it’s tougher when there are already high expectations of you.

So that’s new titles, of which, despite my myriad review gigs, I haven’t read that many this year. Most of my reviews at AE, for example, were re-releases of Canadian-written SF originally published as much as a decade ago. What of the “new to me” stuff? I’ll quote myself again;

Best new old title? I’ve read a lot of back-listed material that has seen new editions this year. This has included one of the all-time fantasy classics, T.H. White’s Arthurian work,The Once and Future King, which has to take the prize. Runner-up: Robert Charles Wilson’s excellent 2001 novel, The Chronoliths, was a happy discovery.

Besides several from Wilson, this was also the year I discovered (via my editor at AE) Geoff Ryman (whose short stories I soon realized I had read and enjoyed previously). I also finally got around to reading Peter Watts, though only in the last few days of the calendar year (the catalyst being an upcoming essay for AE, which will probably be this month since I’ve already handed in my first draft).

And we can’t forget the non-fiction, of which I’ve ready plenty, but I won’t single anything out at the moment. I’ll do another round-up of my Library Journal science reviews in another month or so, as I’ve already written a couple since the last posting.

Film: I wasn’t really thinking of this, but someone did ask me recently. After a moment’s thought, I cited The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises as my favourites this year. And I think I’ll stick with that gut, on-the-spot assessment.