I don’t have proper internet access in my new flat yet, and won’t have until mid-January; so blogging here will still be intermittent for the time being. But I have still been reading: this post is a quick catch-up of the last few weeks.
Lavie Tidhar, Osama (2011). The latest novel to win the World Fantasy Award, this details a private detective’s search for the author of a series of pulp novels featuring “Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante”, in a version of history without global terrorism. Tidhar makes a comparison between ‘real-world’ terrorism and pulp fiction, which I found to be very powerful; but I suspect I’m not familiar enough with the other works with which Osama is in dialogue to fully appreciate the book.
M. John Harrison, Light (2002). I’m planning to read all of Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy before Empty Space makes its likely appearance on next year’s Clarke Award shortlist. I actually find myself unsure what to say about this first volume in isolation, and feeling that I’ll get more from it once I’ve read the whole series. I am struck, though, by Light‘s general movement towards possibilities being realised and mysteries starting to be solved, which stands in marked opposition to what I’ve come to expect from Harrison’s work. Of course, that movement may yet be subverted – we shall see.
Helen FitzGerald, The Donor (2011). A father faces the dilemma of being the only suitable organ match when both his daughters suffer kidney failure. I read this for Fiction Uncovered, so a longer review is forthcoming.
Samit Basu, Turbulence (2012). The passengers on a flight from London to Delhi wake from a dream to find that they each have a super-power based on what they most desire. A few of them try to make a difference to the world, but others have their own agendas. Turbulence starts out well, with a sharp wit and a welcome suggestion that powerful individuals may not find it as easy to change the world as they imagine. But then a sense of spectacle comes to dominate, and the novel as a whole ends up too frothy.
Stendhal, Roman Tales (2012). A new translation (by Susan Ashe), of three of Stendhal’s later works, all based on trials from the 16th and 17th centuries. I suspect that readers who already know Stendhal’s work and style will get more from this book than I did. Sometimes I found the detail engaging; at other times, it came across as a little dry.
Christopher Brookmyre, Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks (2007). Sceptical journalist Jack Parlabane may have met his match in the person of Gabriel Lafayette, a conduit for apparently incontrovertible paranormal phenomena. Certainly more is going on than meets the eye, as Parbalane is narrating while dead. This was my first Brookmyre novel, and I gather it’s less humorous than is his typical style. The book took a while to get going, but I did appreciate its twists and turns. I do want to sample Brookmyre’s more typical work, though.
Kate Atkinson, Human Croquet (1997). The tale of the present and past of the Fairfax family, seen mainly through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Isobel, who finds herself occasionally slipping through time. The timeslip aspect of the book is what works best for me, with Atkinson giving it a wonderfully matter-of-fact quality. But I found the family drama side of Human Croquet less engaging, which left me unsatisfied with the novel as a whole.
K.T. Davies, The Red Knight (2012). This first novel from small publisher Anachron Press is a fantasy set in a kingdom facing civil war, centring particularly on the character of Captain Alyda Stenna, who returns from a successful campaign to find that her battles are far from over. Though the plotting isn’t always as clear as it might be, there’s a real exuberance to Davies’s storytelling which keeps things interesting.
Laurent Binet, HHhH (2009/12). A novel about a real-life plot to assassinate Reinard Heydrich in 1942, interwoven with the author’s reflections on writing fiction from history. I read this for Bookmunch, so once again, there’s a longer review in the works.