I’m back at Strange Horizons with a new review. The Liquid Land by Raphaela Edelbauer (translated from German by Jen Calleja) concerns a woman who goes in search of her parents’ birthplace and finds a quaint little town in its own bubble of reality – with a giant hole in the middle, where the secrets of the past can be conveniently lost. Eddelbauer’s novel is a striking metaphorical exploration of how people may seek to ignore the past, and how it may catch up with them. Published by Scribe UK.
Today’s post is rounding up a few reviews I’ve had published elsewhere. First off is an Irish novel from Tramp Press, Where I End by Sophie White, which I’ve reviewed here for Strange Horizons. This is the tale of Aoileann, who lives an isolated existence looking after her bedridden mother. It’s not until an artist and her baby son visit Aoileann’s island that she realises what she’s been missing in terms of human connection. What particularly struck me about White’s novel is the way it creates its own little fairytale horror world without ever invoking the supernatural. Aoileann becomes both a source and victim of horror in an intimate piece of work.
The European Literature Network has recently launched The Spanish Riveter, the latest issue of its occasional magazine on European writing. This one has almost 300 pages of articles, extracts and reviews of translated literature from Spain – including a review of mine. I’m looking at a Catalan novel from 3TimesRebel Press: The Carnivorous Plant by Andrea Mayo (tr. Laura McGloughlin). It tells of an abusive relationship, and challenges the reader to understand what it was like for the protagonist, and why she stayed in that situation. The Spanish Riveter is available as a PDF here; you’ll find my review on page 91.
My last stop is Denmark, and Awake by Harald Voetmann (tr. Joanne Sorgenfri Ottosen, pub. Lolli Editions). This is a novel about Pliny the Elder, and his attempt to catalogue the world and its knowledge in his Naturalis Historia. Voetmann brings Pliny’s world to life, and explores the limits of what he could achieve. I’ve reviewed this one for European Literature Network in their regular review section here.
I enjoyed J.O. Morgan’s debut novel Pupa earlier in the year. Now he’s back with Appliance, which I think is even better. It’s about the development of technology and how this can run away before people have a handle on the ramifications. Morgan’s new technology of choice is teleportation, but it could really stand in for any form of tech. The way Appliance moves from the specific to the general helps give the novel its power.
I’ve reviewed Appliance for Strange Horizons. You can read my review here.
Appliance is published by Jonathan Cape.
Composite Creatures is set in a future where nature has mostly been replaced by artificial substitutes. Norah and Art are learning to live together with Nut, their “perfect little bundle of fur”, and Norah feels she’s presenting different versions of herself to the world.
I found that reading Composite Creatures felt like peeling back successive layers of the novel, so that’s how I structured my review.
Here we are, then: my top 5 reading memories from the last decade. I knew how this countdown would end before I started compiling the list. The reading experiences I’m talking about here… more than anything, this is why I read.Continue reading
Today I’m rounding up three reviews that I’ve had published on other websites in the last few months. I would recommend all of these books…
First, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa (translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder). It’s one of my favourite books from this year’s International Booker Prize, a tale of loss set on an island where things disappear from living memory without warning. I’ve reviewed it for Strange Horizons.
The second book is Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin (translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins). The narrator is a young woman working at a guest house in the South Korean tourist town of Sokcho, who’s ill at ease with her life. The novel is a quiet exploration of a moment when that might be about to change. I’ve reviewed Winter in Sokcho for Shiny New Books.
Finally, we have Four by Four by Sara Mesa (translated from the Spanish by Katie Whittemore). This is a novel about the use and abuse of power, set in an exclusive college. I’ve reviewed the book for European Literature Network.
Nina is a long-time friend of this blog, and one of the authors I’ve written about most often – but never quite at this length. It was a pleasure to spend time thinking through The Dollmaker: on the surface, the novel is about a maker and collector of dolls paying a surprise visit to a correspondent, but it also explores how lives lived beside each other can be as distant as parallel worlds.
I haven’t been posting links to my external reviews lately, so here’s a round-up of the most recent four: all books that are worth your time.
The Winterlings by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade (tr. Samuel Rutter). Twenty-five years after being evacuated to England, two sisters return to the Galician parish of their childhood. The place is otherworldly to them, but they also have a glamour of their own – and so mystery encroaches on the reader from all sides. Reviewed for European Literature Network.
Beast by Paul Kingsnorth. Second part of the thematic trilogy that began with The Wake. This volume is set in the present day, and focuses on an Englishman in search of his place in the landscape. A strange creature haunts the corner of his eye, and his language grows more primal as he heads further into hallucination. Reviewed for Shiny New Books.
The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome by Serge Brussolo (tr. Edward Gauvin). A tantalising slice of weirdness set in a reality where art is retrieved from the depths of dreams. One man believes that the dream realm has its own objective existence – and he’ll risk his very self to prove it. Reviewed for Strange Horizons.
The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler (tr. Charlotte Collins). A new novel in English from the author of A Whole Life. The tale of a young man who becomes a tobacconist’s apprentice in 1930s Vienna and strikes up a friendship with Sigmund Freud. Love begins to stir, just as the shadow of the Nazis grows. Reviewed for European Literature Network.
Over the last few weeks, I have been moderating a discussion for the Strange Horizons book club about a classic Japanese SF novel: Ryu Mitsuse’s Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights, sees Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha, and the demigod Asura travelling far into the future, to witness the end of all worlds. Taking part in the discussion were regular Strange Horizons reviewers Benjamin Gabriel and K. Kamo; and Kathryn Hemmann, who lectures and blogs on Japanese literature. Interesting book, fascinating discussion; do take a look.
Book details (publisher link)
Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights by (1967) by Ryu Mitsuse, tr. Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander (2011), Haikasoru paperback
Strange Horizons have my review of Saint Rebor, the latest short story collection from Adam Roberts (published as part of Newcon Press’s Imaginings series). I wanted to say a few words on my approach to this review, because it grew out of a sense of dissatisfaction with the other reviews that were out there.
Saint Rebor itself hadn’t garnered much commentary at the time I was putting together my review, but the book’s opening story, ‘What Did Tessimond Tell You?’, had several reviews following its appearance in a year’s-best anthology . The story is about a scientist who discovers why the members of her project team are quitting even though they’re on the verge of winning the Nobel. Generally, the reviews I read revolved around the plausibility of the science, and didn’t go much further than that.
This approach wouldn’t do for me because I had a very different sense of what was interesting about the story. To me, the issue of scientific plausibility was simply not important in terms of what Roberts was actually doing – in my experience of his fiction, it rarely is. I wanted to write a review that offered a different way of looking at the stories in Saint Rebor.
I was a little daunted by the prospect: Roberts’s style can be dense and allusive, and I know that his references are often beyond my own sphere of experience. I may well not have been the best person to engage with what I saw in Roberts’s stories – but it looked as though if I didn’t, no one else would, and I felt strongly that it needed to be done. (This, incidentally, is one of the impulses behind book blogging: that you feel something has to be said about a book, and nobody else is saying it.)
So I have a review which focuses in on a few of Saint Rebor‘s stories and (taking a cue from Roberts’s introduction) attempts to examine how – on the structural and linguistic levels – they exploit the tensions between ‘science’ and ‘fiction’. I hope you find it interesting.