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 for the final part of the review.
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 eight 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. Part eight focused on The Day Watch and The Twilight Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin, The City And The City by China Miéville, The Quiet War by Paul McAuley and Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts.
I’ve recently started re-reading the Harry Potter series in order, for a number of articles on this website, and what’s struck me all the way through is just how disappointing the finale was. Bloated, directionless, and full of poor characterisation, it read like a bad fanfic at times, and many plot points emphasised through the previous six books seemed diminished to the point where I felt a bit misdirected. A sad ending to what was, until then, a great series.
Permanently embedded in the matrix of pop culture, HP Lovecraft’s books have inspired millions and touched nearly every aspect of entertainment. This collection contains his most famous stories, my favourites of which were, predictably, ‘The Call Of Cthulhu’ and ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’. While Lovecraft has a knack for creating atmosphere, tension and dread in his prose, his frequent references to the indescribable smacked more of lazy prose than a visionary imagination, while the slight undertones of malicious racism, which go beyond him being ‘a product of his time’ as so many apologists claim, put me off a lot.
Arguably the most famous horror writer of all time, Poe’s writing is timeless and consistently eerie. From ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’ to ‘The Raven’, nobody has quite managed, with such a deft hand and an eye for both structure and elegiac prose, to come quite so close to true mastery of the form as Poe did. I’d highly recommend picking up his work, not necessarily in this collection, but any will probably do.
Mike Resnick’s Ivory is easily one of my favourite novels, and Resnick himself one of my favourite authors, so I was particularly excited when his imaginative Tonight series came along. Stalking The Vampire is the sequel to Stalking The Unicorn, and continues the same humorous and effective mix of hardboild detective fiction with urban fantasy tropes. Resnick has won five Hugo awards for a reason, and his writing is always a treat to read.
Despite theories of Ender being an apologia for Hitler, or of various morality issues within the narrative, Ender’s Game is an enjoyable book. I’ve explored it in-depth twice in the last few years, once for an essay assignment at university, and in another essay for an earlier issue of SciFiNow. Whatever my personal opinions of its attitude, it’s impossible for me to deny the book its well deserved reputation as a ripping SF yarn. I’d advise against reading too deeply into it if you’re determined to enjoy the book (and also against reading most of its later sequels, aside from Speaker For The Dead), but if you want a full appreciation of modern SF then you need to read it.
Probably my favourite of Carey’s Felix Castor series, The Naming Of The Beasts follows on from Thicker Than Water, and it’s a real punch to the jaw of a novel. Carey’s pacing is expert throughout and his characterisation flooring, proving that he’s still one of the best authors working within the sub-genre these days. It also delivers a great sense of satisfaction in terms of plot resolution toward the end – something that I’m finding hard to come by more and more these days. You’ll need to have read what goes on before, really, but if you already have then chances are you won’t be reading this review anyway before deciding to go out and get it. I’ll have to agree with the sadly defunct Death Ray quote on the cover, Carey’s prose really is a joy to read.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed this series. I’ve left off the final bookcases in my flat as, with the odd exception, they mostly contain non-genre novels and books. Plus I don’t think that I’d be able to review every single one of my partner’s Douglas Adams books without going stir crazy. Don’t forget that SciFiNow offers unparalleled literary coverage in each issue’s dedicated Library section. To subscribe, order the latest issue or see our back issues in print or on iPhone/iPod/iPad, go to http://www.imagineshop.co.uk. Next week, I’ll start my countdown to the Harry Potter films by going through each book in depth, here on SciFiNow.co.uk.
Read the other entries in this series: