The Zone are now carrying my review of David Logan‘s first novel, Half-Sick of Shadows. The book was one of the joint winners of the inaugural Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Award. The curious thing about it is that, for a work of the fantastic, Half-Sick of Shadows is at its best in realist mode: Logan’s portrait of childhood in a remote part of Ireland is excellent; but, when time travel elements kick in properly at about halfway through, the novel starts to falter.
Today, The Zone have published my review of Robert Jackson Bennett‘s second novel, The Company Man, a tale of murder and corporate intrigue set in a version of early 20th century America dominated by strange, advanced technology. Bennett’s debut, Mr Shivers, was one of my favourite books of 2010; his latest does not quite reach the same heights, but at its best shows the same refreshing and distinctive imagination. I’ve given The Company Man 3 stars.
Now online at The Zone is my review of Loss of Separation, the latest novel by Conrad Williams. I think Williams is one of the smartest and best horror writers around at the moment; this time he’s produced a sharp psychological study of a former pilot trying to rebuild his life after a car accident, whilst dark secrets wait in the wings. I’d say Loss of Separation is a fine introduction to Williams’ work, and also a good book to try if you think you don’t like horror.
Conrad Williams’ website
Now online at The Zone is my review of Ian McDonald’s excellent new novel The Dervish House, a chronicle of six interlocking lives in an Istanbul of seventeen years hence. When readers of science fiction talk about the Booker’s lack of interest in sf, it’s because there are books like this in the world. The Dervish House is beautifully conceived, written, and executed — easily one of the best books I have read all year. Put it on your reading list.
The Zone website is now carrying my review of Jonathan L. Howard’s debut novel, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. It’s a comedy in which Johannes Cabal seeks to get his soul back from the Devil, who demands a hundred other souls in return. Cabal has a carnival at his disposal to assist with this, but, of course, it’s not that straightforward.
I found Johannes Cabal the Necromancer to be moderately successful, and gave it 3 stars. You can read the full review (which includes some more general thoughts on comic fantasy) by clicking on the link below.
Now, here’s a book where I’d urge you to look beyond the synopsis – not because it doesn’t necessarily sound like much, but because no plot synopsis can capture what’s great about Robert Jackson Bennett’s Mr Shivers (the subject of my latest review for The Zone). It’s a novel about a man trekking across the 1930s USA in search of the mysterious scarred man who killed his daughter. This would in itself be an interesting twist on the usual fantasy quest, but the subtext turns the novel into something greater. If you’re at all interested in fantastic literature, Mr Shivers should be on your reading list.
My latest review at The Zone is of Jesse Bullington‘s interesting-but-flawed medieval fantasy The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart. This tells the story of twin graverobbers who have run-ins with various entities, both natural and otherwise, on their travels. When magic intersects with the narrative, the results are fascinating; at other times, the novel doesn’t work quite so well.
I first read Garry Kilworth as a teenager, and he’s written some fabulous stories, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to review him at last. Unfortunately, The Hundred-Towered City is not one of his best books. It’s a jolly time travel romp set in Prague of 1903: fun, yes, but not much more than fun — which is why I’ve given it 3 stars over at The Zone.
A detective novel with a narcoleptic PI. Sounds gimmicky, I know, but Tremblay mostly (though not entirely) avoids the pitfalls that might be associated with that device. The prose and narrative voice are great, the plot less so; which is why I gave the book 3 stars over at The Zone.
Read the review in full here.