Friday, 21 April 2017

Dark Tales

(April 2017)
  


A new collection of short stories from Shirley Jackson, most of which have previously been printed in other collections, and I think all of them first appeared in various periodicals during the 1950’s. Annoyingly, I think the latter form of publishing does more for them than anthologizing them together like this, as en mass it becomes clear that the writing, or more specifically the plotting, can be fairly formulaic. In many ways the biggest weakness of this collection is the collection.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Hotel Iris

Yoko Ogawa, 1996 [Stephen Snyder, 2010]
(March 2017)



Odd little Lolita-esque novella about a bored and repressed high school dropout getting into a sadomasochistic relationship with an elderly man. Divertingly uncomfortable in and of itself, but to be honest the thing that sticks in my mind the most is how the blurb on the back gives away plot points that don’t occur until three pages before the end. I get that the constant cry of “Spoilers!” can be pretty tedious, but really. Three pages from the end.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Three Parts Dead / Two Serpents Rise

Max Gladstone, 2012/2013
(March 2017)
  


Welcome to the Craft Sequence, I guess. Good, solid secondary (?) world urban fantasy, featuring lawyer-wizards, gods, and disaffected wage slaves. It’s kind of addictive, so I’m probably going to work my way through the first five books in fairly short order (the sixth is due out this autumn). More thoughts on the deeper meanings of this blend of High Fantasy and Late Capitalism when I’ve got it all under my belt, as I’m not entirely sure it’s all working quite as it should just yet. Short term, however, I’ll merely state that Three Parts Dead is a better book than Two Serpents Rise: the central character is more compelling, the philosophical editorializing is less intrusive, and the story is less reliant on a fairly predictable face-heel turn. As I write this I’m partway through Full Fathom Five, and while some of these flaws are still evident, I’m pleased to report that for the most part things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Record of a Night Too Brief

Hiromi Kawakami, 1996 [Lucy North, 2017]
(March 2017)



On the one hand, I loved this, on the other, I found myself in a broadly grudging agreement with Ishihara Shintaro, which those of you who know me (and him) will understand is not a position I ever really wanted to find myself in.

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Moor’s Account

(March 2017)
  


A tale of imperial hubris gone awry, as it inevitably will. Reminds me in many ways of Dan Simmons’s The Terror, if that book had been written without the supernatural elements.

Monday, 3 April 2017

A Grain of Wheat

(March 2017)
  


Set in and around the Mau Mau Rebellion which preceded Kenyan independence, an incident I’d previously heard of but know shamefully little about. Political dimensions aside, what’s surprising about this book is just how much it sweeps, despite its relatively short length (barely 240 pages). I was expecting the politics, I wasn’t expecting the melodrama, nor was I expecting them to mesh quite as well as they did.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life

(March 2017)



I am, once more, rendered incoherent by Li's writing. I genuinely can't fathom how anyone is capable of producing anything simultaneously so precise yet so supple, so pitiless yet so profoundly humane. Just extraordinary.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Viriconium

(March 2017)
  


A full compendium of M. John Harrison’s Viriconium stories, originally published separately (as three short novels and a short story collection) between 1971 and 1985. I’ve previously written about how superb Harrison is as a stylist, and while that’s clearly evident here, I also suspect that reading all these stories together like this didn’t really do them many favours.