Random, messy, personal thoughts and links
Estd. 1999 by Joelle Nebbe-Mornod aka Iphigenie / Superiphi, old style netizen, digital native, enthusuastic reader, walker, photographer, web entrepreneur, ecommerce consultant, wine merchant and openly curious mind
I’m a fiction reader, and my favorite reading genres tend cluster in the “speculative fiction” genres - science fiction (in all its facets but with a preference for full on “anticipation” and space opera), magical realism, alternate history, mythical and interstitial fiction, surrealism, cyberpunk, steampunk and fantasy. Don’t take my word for it, look at my library http://www.librarything.com/catalog/iphigenie
Out of these, the fantasy, steampunk and related genres are the ones where I have the most mixed feelings, because so much of it ends up feeling formulaic. Clever idea somewhere in the world building or plot, sweeping epic detail, but the same stale and rigid pseudo medieval societies with our simplified projections of what it must have been (one religion, rigid gender roles and clicheed personalities)... usually in 900 page monsters. I get bored. I get annoyed. I swear fantasy off for a while.
But in 2011 there has been a whole pile of fantasy books that have captured this cynical, jaded reader’s attention and imagination - for being fresh, fun to read, and have mythical substance that, well, worked for me.
First there has been Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Shadows of the Apt series, starting with Empire in Black and Gold. Not new but it was new to me. Borrowed from the library at first but purchased since in order to be able to lend them and make R read them. Grew on me over the books, I had an absolute blast reading them and cannot wait to see where he takes it next. Fantasy with a very clever idea to give instant texture to the world and cultures, a new take on the magic versus industrial revolution idea that is both smart, believable and fresh. And great characters all over the place. Worked for me.
Then there is Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series - again, not new, but it takes me time to discover things sometimes. Napoleon era naval adventures - except with dragons, not ship. Aubrey and Maturin meet Pern. As much fun as it sounds, 6 books in.
J.M. McDermott “Never Knew Another”. Fascinating book which - for me - starts by puzzling (borderline confusing) you, but grows on you and grabs you. Hard to describe - demon hunting plot, but strange, and you’re not sure who’s right or wrong… I still ponder it months on, and am looking forward to the next episode. I bought this one as an ebook from baen online store, and very glad I did
The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. What a find! Can’t remember when a fantasy book last felt this deeply mythological to me. About geopolitics, change, gods and mortals and their relationship. It all feels both familiar and alien and utterly fresh - with a strange poetic feel in the language. This mythology rocks. I have read “The hundred thousand kingdoms” and “broken kingdom”.
Aliette de Bodard’s Obsidian and Blood books - starting with Servant of the Underworld - one of the best finds for me this year, another one discovered thanks to Angry Robot. I probably never would have found it except for my self imposed ebook policy (no DRM) which forces me to look around. This is another one about gods and humans, politics and their relationships and interplay, but it couldnt be more different. Fantasy but in a pre-contact Aztek setting, where the mythology is real, where blood matters and boundaries between worlds need to be guarded and managed - and human politics can create a dangerous mess. Add a detective story in each. Great idea, and wonderfully executed. It worked, I bought the setting and idea - no need for active suspension of disbelief.
On a more classic note, this past year we managed to move forward both on the Game of Thrones and the Wheel of Time - wasnt that bliss?
There’s more but this will be for another post.
The Baen Free Library offers one of my favorite reads ever!
I enjoy the adventure of Miles (and his parents before him) so much I actually own 2 copies of “Young Miles” so I can lend one and not be without. There are very few books that I have ever done that with. It is Trickster Space Opera and you don’t need to be a SF reader to have fun with it.
Available in more formats than is sensible, too. No excuse!