As I seem to have moved from a book-buying phase into a book-reading one, and as I haven't posted anything about books for a while, I thought I ought to do so. I have recently started reading William Dalrymple's 'Age of Kali', and am thoroughly enjoying it, even if the subject matter can be a more than a little harrowing at time. A collection of articles and essays exploring the cultural, social,l political and economic nature of (1997) India it highlights Dalrymple's willingness to explore the less savoury side of the country's gestalt. A superb read so far, without pulling punches or being overly biased in delivery.
A recent conversation (in this blog) with @Eyoki regarding train travel led me to read Paul Theroux's 'Great Railway Bazaar', a book that has been sitting alongside Kali for some months. Whilst initially enjoying it, Theroux's slightly superior and condescending tone towards his fellow travellers and the people he meets became a little off-putting and saddening; the book has gone back on the currently-reading-shelf. However his descriptions of the journey and what experiences make the book worth persevering with. Just not today.
My recent(ish) visit to the flat plains of Illinois has led me back to re-read 'Bad Land: An American Romance' by Jonathan Raban. A fascinating look at the badlands of Montana, where homesteaders were offered the chance to make their fortune in what would ultimately be the landscape of broken dreams. Amongst the many subjects explored is the endless quest by painters and photographers to capture the sheer unrelenting space evoked by land and sky, and their failure to do so. Raban visits many of the abandoned homes, many left as if the occupants had simply departed, often without seemingly packing their belongings.
As a science fiction and fantasy geek (I blame learning to read by way of The Phantom: The Ghost Who Walks comics) I have been reading a lot of those particular genres. The Mistborn Trilogy (Brandon Sanderson) has been a gem, with a very modern style of writing and a context that makes sense. The storytelling is enjoyable, and the main protagonists well realised. I am still stuck halfway through Dust of Dreams (book 9 of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen decology), having been left in emotional limbo by some of the extraordinary and unpleasant goings-on in what is probably the best fantasy series I have read in a long time. Filled with a complex interweaving of plots and subplots, remarkable characterisation and a willingness to challenge the conventions of the genre, the series is more than worth trying to get to grips with.
J.V. Jones' 'Sword of Shadows' series has become another firm favourite, with some of her writing containing hints of CJ Cherryh and Tanith Lee at their best. Great and appealing characterisation, a well thought plot and a remarkably strong context to base them in.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N Jemisin was very well written and surprisingly absorbing, its 400 pages read in one sitting, as was Michael Sullivan's The Crown Conspiracy (although a little unpolished a good read nonetheless). Another good read was Col Buchanan's 'Farlander', with the most unexpected of endings to compliment a tight and interesting plot.
Nicola Morgan's 'Fleshmarket', based in Edinburgh of the 1800s, is a wonderful book, capturing the essence of the times in much the same way James McGee's Matthew Hawkwood series does for Victorian England. The former follows the fortunes of Robbie, a young man who witnesses the death of his mother at the hands of a famous surgeon, and seeks revenge on said culprit and has one of the best starts to a novel I have ever read. The latter follows Matthew Hawkwood, soldier and Bow Street Runner, through Victorian London, as he deals with the sort of crimes that could only come from that era. Dark, gripping, wonderfully researched and full of action, this another series that is well worth a look.
Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky was a real find, and a fantastic read. In 2033 humanity survives in the metro system beneath Moscow, radiation creating new and dangerous life-forms in the world above. Artyom, one of the survivors, is sent through the dangerous metro system to warn of a growing danger threatening the safety of all.
Huraki Murakami's 'What I talk about when I talk about Running' is a fantastic read for runners and fans alike, and Pauline Stainer's poetry collection 'Crossing the Snowline' was another unexpectedly good find. Susan Sonntag's 'On Photography' poses interesting questions about the nature of photography and photographer, but is hard going at times.
As for future reads' Nicola Morgan's Wasted is due out soon, as is Steven Erikson's final Malazan book. Alistair Reynold's Terminal World, Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, Richard Dowden's Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, China Mieville's The City and The City and Michelle Paver's Ghost Hunter all await me, amongst many, many others.
Amazon links to the above books after the 'jump'.