For those of you unfamiliar with this series, I’m going through the various bookcases in my flat, micro-reviewing the contents. Partly as an excuse to revisit books that I’ve read a hundred times before, partly to justify why I’m keeping them as well. Hopefully, this will inspire some of you to do the same. Links to previous instalments are at the end of this article. This time, we move on to my second bookcase.
In part one, we covered We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan, and Armageddon’s Children, The Gypsy Morph, Running With The Demon, Knight Of The Word and Angel Fire East by Terry Brooks. Part two saw us tackle The Death Of Grass by John Christopher, Off On A Comet/Splinter by Jules Verne/Adam Roberts, Un Lun Dun by China Miéville , Star Wars: Allegiance by Timothy Zahn, and River Of Gods, Cyberabad Days and Brasyl by Ian McDonald. In part three, we covered The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein, The Collected Stories Of Vernor Vinge by Vernor Vinge, Stealing Light by Gary Gibson, The Forest Of Hands And Teeth by Carrie Ryan, the Star Trek Corps Of Engineers: Creative Couplings anthology, Second World by Eddy Shah, and Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. Part four included Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge, Necropath, Xenopath and Cosmopath by Eric Brown, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony and Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi. Part five featured Vurt by Jeff Noon, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, Matter by Iain M Banks, Market Forces, Altered Carbon, Broken Angels and Woken Furies by Richard Morgan. Part six went over Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Before The Gods by KS Turner, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, Kéthani and Helix by Eric Brown. Part seven contained Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, The Sweet Scent Of Blood and The Cold Kiss Of Death by Suzanne McLeod, Hater by David Moody, The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made by David Hughes, Peace And War by Joe Haldeman and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.
It is possible to read The Day Watch, the second part in Lukyanenko’s tetralogy, without reading its predecessor The Night Watch, but I’d highly recommend it. The action picks up where the first left off – two Others are drained of their powers, and amid rumblings of a coming Light messiah, plans are put into place. It’s not really much like the films, but it’s filled with interesting, if slow-moving ideas and a great level of characterisation. The translation is also uncommonly good – a challenging urban fantasy novel, but one of the better entries in the sub-genre.
Probably my favourite novel in the whole series, The Twilight Watch certainly needs the prior knowledge of the earlier entries in the series, and understandably so. The pacing is spot on in the book, combined with the textured and dense characters that we’ve already been introduced to and are invested in. It probably won’t be of much interest to those with a passing glance – you need to sit down and read the book properly rather than snatching chunks on the daily commute, but it does reward those who make the effort and stay with it until the end.
Writing as Kate Griffin, the Carnegie medal-winning author Catherine Webb ventured first into adult urban fantasy with A Madness Of Angels, a surprisingly decent book. The Midnight Mayor continues this, combining a gripping lead character with Matthew Swift and an equally engrossing cast of peripheral players. It’s unrelenting and brutal in parts, but that’s tempered by Griffin/Webb’s prose, which is quite frankly a joy to read and allow yourself to become absorbed in. Some of the paeans to London may give non-residents or frequent visitors to the Big Smoke pause, but otherwise, this deserves to be on your bookshelf, and shall be staying on mine.
My favourite book of last year, by far, and easily Miéville’s finest to date (yes, I thought Kraken was simply okay). The City And The City is a complex novel, one that demands a severe level of discipline to adequately portray and explore, not to mention a significant level of skill, which Miéville demonstrates in droves. Utterly engrossing, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve re-read it to date, and I do consider it to be one of those novels which will be looked back on as a great in this era’s science fiction, in years to come. If you haven’t read it, set aside time, and please do so.
Paul McAuley’s blistering deconstruction of the causes of war is an entertaining read, but one that failed to quite press all of the buttons for me. I’m not entirely sure why – it’s well-written, intelligent in the allegories and comparisons it draws, and I do love socially conscious SF, but it never quite managed to grab my attention in the way that similar novels have done in the past. That’s not to say it’s a bad book – it’s not, by any means, but it just didn’t do it for me. Still recommended.
Roberts’s Arthur C Clarke-nominated novel begins with a fascinating premise – a group of SF writers are called by Stalin to produce a scenario of alien invasion, only years later, it begins to come true. I wasn’t as in love with Yellow Blue Tibia as many of my colleagues and contemporaries were, I must admit. While the novel started out strongly, I felt as if it lost its narrative impetus at various points and I found myself struggling to keep attention. Again, not a bad novel, just one that I probably wouldn’t re-read any time soon.
Read the other entries in this series: