For those of you who missed the first part of this series, it can be found here.
Essentially, in an effort to justify the ever-growing amount of SF and Fantasy books in my new flat, I’m going through my book cases and micro-reviewing genre-relevant material in them. Hopefully this will encourage a few of you to do the same as well. Last instalment, 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.
Writing as John Christopher, Samuel Yould presents his stark vision of the apocalypse, one that some have termed to be a response to the cosy catastrophe propounded by authors such as John Wyndham. Indeed, there’s nothing cosy about much here, being a poignant, searing and deathly empty world that the character find themselves in, and after a while, find themselves becoming. Highly recommended for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction.
If you consider that the translation by Roberts of Off On A Comet, the first serious attempt in over 100 years, is also bundled with Splinter, itself a riposte to the story, then you’d be forgiven for wondering if it’s a bit too academic to be enjoyable. Roberts, after all, has a PhD and works at Holloway’s English department in London. The book, however, is a joy. Roberts’ prose is loose and infectious, while his take on the material is fun to wade through. Some have found it slow, but for me, it’s a perfect Sunday novel.
London as a fantasy setting is nothing new for China Mieville. When he wrote this book, he already had a few attempts under his belt, and since then his latest release, Kraken, has returned to it. Un Lun Dun is a different beast, though, one that has garnered consistent comparisons to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere since publication, and on the whole deservedly so. It’s YA, which throws some readers of the author’s work, and while the writing contains a level of quality that’s hard to find elsewhere in modern writers, it never quite manages the creative impetus to really succeed where other similar creations have. A decent book, but flawed.
Timothy Zahn Star Wars novels are always fun to read – the man didn’t win a Hugo for being slack at his job, after all. This takes more of a common man approach to events as we follow five Stormtroopers forced into relative exile, and the way in which they cross paths with Mara Jade and the Rebel Alliance. The action is well paced and frenetic at the right points, and the characters amusing enough. However, there’s a sense of hollowness to it that means although you can enjoy the book for what it is, don’t expect it to leave you with strong impressions either way.
I’ll say this right now, and I don’t care how much it compromises me – I’m such a sucker for a book cover. With the exception of The Entire And The Rose series by Kay Kenyon (covers by Stephan Martiniere), I don’t think I’ve come across many that are as exquisite as Ian McDonald’s novels. Luckily, the book is excellent as well. Taking an in-depth, well-researched look at a cyberpunk India in the near future, the book’s scope and scale are as impressive as McDonald’s luxuriously intricate hand. It’s not one for the faint of heart, but it is rewarding.
McDonald returns to his India of the future with a series of short stories set in the same universe. While the release doesn’t have the same heft or longevity factor as River Of Gods, it’s a welcome return to the fictional environs that so defined the last book. The stories themselves are routinely enjoyable as well, stretching across a gamut of ideas from boys controlling mechanised war machines through to a man looking for love in Varanasi.
Brasyl’s cover is as bold as its content – three timelines and three stories that converge into one over the course of its narrative. The book itself is substantially slimmer than River Of Gods, but adds another chapter in McDonald’s worldwide quest to cyberpunk the globe. Brasyl’s reach is sometimes its problem in that it isn’t as tightly focused as we’ve come to expect from the author, but it still proves a satisfying and challenging read from start to finish.
Read the other entries in this series: