slow-river-cover

I can’t shake the impression I have that science fiction is going to be dry (or that fantasy is going to be some pseudo-medieval Royalty with magic). I know better. I’ve read so many books that aren’t those things and I keep waiting to be proved right. I think you’ll agree this is madness.

The only reason I mention it is because Slow River is anything but dry and dusty. It’s complex, emotive, and daring. It leaves a mark, which is one that I want from the SF Masterworks collection. I do want them to leave a lasting impression after I’ve read them as much as I’d like them to be worthy of being put on a pedestal. Obviously, the reasons for elevation vary, historical importance being one, but impact for me is the thing that keeps me exploring and Griffith definitely has that.

Lore’s troubled life is presented through three different timelines: childhood, recent past and present. The present is told in the first person and the flashbacks are told in the third. Actually, it’s unfair to call them flashbacks as they are threads that weave to let the reader know how Lore Van Oesterling, daughter of one of the world’s most powerful families, ends up with a thief and predator like Spanner.

It raises one big question: What would you do to survive? Lore’s new life with Spanner does make for uncomfortable reading. The depths that Lore descents to in order to pay off the debts owed to Spanner, who rescued her when she was dropped naked and injured in the street after her kidnaping, is a long way to fall.

Lore’s first meeting with Spanner is described in the recent past thread and in the present she starts a job, which is several levels below her knowledge and skill, but is also safe from scrutiny, that is until she has to out herself to her suspicious boss or risk the lives of her co-workers.

Getting to know Lore at these differing points, her childhood being probably the saddest, makes for a powerful exploration of who she was and who she has to potential to be. The ease in which Griffith presents the rightful normality of the same-sex relationship that Lore and Spanner share is to be commended, though if it wasn’t as self-destructive then there would be no drama. It’s the dynamic of their relationship, rather than the sexuality of it, which makes it dangerous.

There is a under-representation LGBT characters in speculative fiction in general and having Slow River as a SF Masterworks is a confidence boost especially as Griffith doesn’t shy away from the the darkness which Spanner subjects Lore to, there is romantic sex and depraved acts (due to their impact on Lore rather than the acts themselves), but all are shown with the same respect to the characters and the story that Griffith has set out to tell.

Part of me is jaded by stories of impossibly rich people because it removes layers of reality and replaces them with an easy fantasy but this story used that difference to good effect as even in those scenes where the ‘reality’ of wealth is too distorting Griffith keeps it raw. She shows the ways  Lore’s parents use their children as pawns and how naivety can obscure the reality of the situation. If you’re wondering why doesn’t Lore just leave or go back to her family? Well that gets explained and, as in this life, going back isn’t that simple.

Griffith leaves the ‘best’ revelation until last and makes it the most gut-wrenching moment though that’s not the only one you’ll have. This story has several moments where facts shift your understanding. I’m tiptoeing around so much of what makes it a powerful and essential read but I really don’t want to say to much more.

Slow River deserves its place on the SF Masterworks and needs a slightly higher pedestal just to make sure it’s not overlooked.

Read it.

Inspired by Books That I’ve Bought of Late on Savidge Reads

Simon’s post is a rundown of books he’s bought recently with a commentary of why he bought them. It gives a different side of him as a reader.

He rightly points out that ‘book blogging’ and ‘free books’ are seen by some as synonymous, which is unfair and slightly insulting to lots of book bloggers who have never had a ‘free book’ from a publisher.

‘Free books’ aka ‘advance reading copies’, as I understand it, come out of an author’s marketing budget so they won’t receive royalties on the copies that are sent out to create awareness of that book.

The point really of review copies is they aren’t ‘free’ but they are given in exchange for raising awareness of a book’s existence. This is why some bloggers get more books than others and as I said in my last post, I’m very privileged.

The books publishers send out are part of a pre-publication marketing cycle. People get selected to receive certain books at a certain time, which often make book blogs look very generic.

Now, I have no problem with that. I like a lot of the books I get sent and would happily recommend reading them. I’m a third into The Rhesus Chart and on prior performance I’m hoping I’ll be shouting about how good it is. But I also have my own tastes and whims, which is satisfied by buying books in one form or another.

And there are good reasons for me doing it – I like browsing and finding books, paying means that both the author and shop get revenue so they can write and sell more books in future (I’m a lover of short fiction and try to buy a lot of it because I want to add to sales numbers and have more to buy in future). And most importantly, paying dispels any obligation (publishers large or small are professionals I try and treat them as such) implied or otherwise – like I said the advance reading copies aren’t ‘free’.

And with that out of the way look at this pile of joy (I’ll be listing some ebooks in a Part Two):

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Charlaine Harris’s Dead Until Dark, Lilly Bard Mysteries Omnibus & Harper Connelly Omnibus. I’ve read some of Harris’s Teagarden Mysteries and recently enjoyed Midnight Crossroad. There is something about her writing style which is soothing and enjoyable, so I thought I’d stock up (that’s a theme in my book buying) and as Midnight Crossroad has a lot of intertextually it seemed like a good reason to explore her other works. When I’m thinking of buying books a level of OCD kicks in. Here it looked like the Lilly Bard Omnibus was on the verge of being OOP (it was published a while ago and is now out as single volumes). I got the last copy from Waterstones online. The Book People have been selling the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries as a bundle of ten for £9.99 (I think) for ages. That leaves Harper so why not complete the set?

Votan and other novels: this one is easy as it’s the next in the new Fantasy Masterworks series (see precious post on historical speculative fiction) and I’ve got the aim of collecting and reading them all.

Unquenchable Fire, Ammonite and Sarah Canary: The obvious reason is they are all SF Masterworks (again see previous post) but also they are from the under-represented group: women. I’m trying to balance my SFM collection as best I can to have a high percentage of women’s SF, which is hard as they don’t make up a high percentage of what’s published. As for why I chose each author, Rachel Pollack (who is also a trans-women and even less represented in SF) has a new book out, The Child Eater, and it’s about time I read UF. Nicola Griffin also has a new book out, Hild, but I bought Ammonite when I  was about 1/3 into Slow River because I found her writing remarkable. Karen Joy Fowler, again, has a new book out (until I wrote this I didn’t actually make that connection between all three), We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which I picked up as an ebook. I’ve been put off by the blurb of Sarah Canary for ages. Somehow I came across another blurb which completely changed my mind.

Bear Grylls A Surval Guide to Life: I should have photographed Your Life – Train For It as they go hand in hand. Put this down in the ‘life challenging’ category as on a personal note I’ve been trying to improve different aspects of my personal life and his fitness book is helping with that so why not try his thoughts on life?

About Writing by Samuel Delany: This blog started as an offshoot of my writing blog when I was studying for my Creative and Professional Writing degree a few years ago and my passion with reading feeds my writing side and my passion for writing feeds the blog – though I don’t want to be seen as an ‘aspiring’ writer who blogs. No hidden agenda here just sharing good books. But the opening essay has completely changed by focus on my own writing and the struggles I’ve been having with it. It also, quite funnily, contradicts a huge aspect of Slow River’s construction, proving every rule has an exemption.

Don’t Point That Thing At Me: Completely new to me but reminded me of The Act of Roger Murgatroyd by Gilbert Adair, which was a fun take on existing crimey tropes.

Mystery Mile: I’m slow reading around the contemporaries of  Gladys Mitchell and Campion seems like a good direction to go in.

Gladys Mitchell: Vintage as releasing the Mrs Bradley Mysteries as a mix of normal print and  POD, as well as ebook, and I’m going to slowly collect all the series so why not keep going as and when?

Reach for Infinity/The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Anthology editor Jonathan Strahan has the most room on my book shelves, including the other two books in the Infinity series and the other seven Best of books. He has me covered in trying to keep up. The other reason is that I’ve bought the majority of Solaris’ anthology output as I want them to keep doing it.

Blythe Spirit by Nöel Coward: This is a keepsake from seeing Angela Lansbury’s performance being the text – and an ending I wasn’t expecting from my memory of the film.

Big Mamma Stories: I’ve probably had this too long to be here but it’s worth pointing it out as it’s from a small press and it’s collection of shorts. It came to my attention being part of this year’s James Tiptree Award honours .

Dead Man’s Hand: Joe R Lansdale’s ‘Dead in the West’ is the only Weird Wild West story I remember reading and this contains a new tale featuring its protagonist Reverend Jebediah Mercer. Plus, I’m exploring the Weird and this linked in a roundabout way to the Western-related ebooks that I’ll be mentioning in Part Two.

The City’s Son by Tom Pollack: I confess to having an early reading copy of this book but when it’s placed next to the next two in the series (The Lady of the Streets is out best month) it didn’t look right – and now it does it.

Fearful Symmetries: Ellen Datlow has the second amount of anthology space on my shelves at home so I try and keep that topped up when I can – plus it’s a small press book that came originally from Kickstarter.

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: it’s one of my favourite childhood films and this is a re-release of the novelisation with extras.

You’ll be glad to know that’s it until Part Two next weekend. I’m a little scared by how many books I’ve bought over the last few months but it was fun trying to figure out why I bought them.

So, what was the last book you bought and why did you buy it.

The_SF_Gateway

This post was inspired by reading Benchmarks by Algis Budrys and being impressed by how many of the mentioned works were so readily available on SF Gateway

As I mentioned a couple of days ago I’m exploring more and more of SF’s (Speculative Fiction’s) history, which is something I’ve been doing it off and on for ages (see Grass, The Stars My Destination,  Blood Music and The Body Snatchers along with shorts, ‘The Eyes Have It’ from Lord Darcy by Randall Garrett andThe Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaulefrom The Dragon Griaule by Lucius Shepard )I’ve also got a review of Slow River I need to finish writing.

I’ve been reading The Weird off and on since it came out (Published on 8 May 2012, it contains 110 short stories, novellas and short novels. At 1,152 pages in the hardcover edition [though the UK is 1111], it is probably the largest single volume of fantastic fiction ever published, according to Locus.[1]). It contains over 100 years of weird fiction and I’m currently reading Bruno Schulz’s ‘Sanatorium at the Sign of the Hourglass‘, 1937 (translation, Poland), which is very strange, as you’d expect.

I’ve been trying to make some headway with Michael Moorcock – seeing as I read the last one in  September after mentioning it in May  headway might be an optimistic way of saying it. Though, I’m almost done with Elric: The Fortress of the Pearl, so that is some kind of progress. I think I was put off by the bitty nature of Elric of Melniboné but The Fortress of the Pearl is ripping along at wondrous page. Proper old school adventure though I think that one that only Moorecock can tell.

I’m note sure why I want to try and cover more areas with my reading as I’m already trying to read more classic crime (cracking on with Mitchell’s Mrs Bradley. Crispin’s Gervase Fen, Allingham’s Campion, Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey and Bonfiglioli’s Charlie Mortdecai to name a few).

All this and keeping up with the SF present and trying to read more short fiction and that SF criticism. I’m  a little crazy.

Anyway SF Gateway’s Big Number, as of 29th May 2014, they’ve published 2599 classic SF titles. let me say that again: TWO THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND NINETY NINE titles.

I knew it was going to be lot as I’ve ben following their grow but they release a spreadsheet every now and again giving an update. That’s a scary number. It’s more than the average reader would ever read but it contains a back catalogue that you can dive into with a huge range of award-winning fantasy. SF Gateway have even provided lists of  BSFA, Arthur C. Clarke, Hugo and John W. Campbell awards-winners for easy access (which I’ve included at the end of this post).

It’s honestly impressive but also an illustration of how much of a multi-dimnesional-iceberg SF is. Whichever way your approach it it’s yours as Jared kindly pointed out the other day:

No denying it, I do. It’s a struggle to keep diving backwards with the all the new books coming out keeping you current. Or at least I think it is but YMMV. And being as unlimited as it is there really is something for everyone.

What older SF have you read recently?

And if you’re looking for a place to start with some SF here list a long list of   award winners:

 SF Gateway: The BSFA Award-Winners

A staggering 33 of the 43 winners to date are published by Gollancz or SF Gateway. Some have always been Gollancz titles, while others were first published by other imprints but are Gollancz or SF Gateway now. Take a look . . .

SF Gateway:

1970 Stand on ZanzibarJohn Brunner
1971 The Jagged OrbitJohn Brunner
1974 Rendezvous with RamaArthur C. Clarke
1975 Inverted WorldChristopher Priest
1976 OrbitsvilleBob Shaw
1977 Brontomek!, Michael G. Coney
1978 The Jonah KitIan Watson
1979 A Scanner DarklyPhilip K. Dick
1981 TimescapeGregory Benford
1982 The Shadow of the TorturerGene Wolfe
1983 Helliconia SpringBrian W. Aldiss
1984 Tik-TokJohn Sladek
1985 Mythago WoodRobert Holdstock
1986 Helliconia WinterBrian W. Aldiss
1987 The Ragged AstronautsBob Shaw
1988 GráinneKeith Roberts
1989 LavondyssRobert Holdstock
1991 Take Back PlentyColin Greenland
1992 The Fall of HyperionDan Simmons
1994 Aztec CenturyChristopher Evans
1999 The ExtremesChristopher Priest
2001 Ash: A Secret HistoryMary Gentle
2003 The SeparationChristopher Priest

Gollancz:

1990 PyramidsTerry Pratchett
2002 Chasm CityAlastair Reynolds
2004 Felaheen: The Third ArabeskJon Courtenay Grimwood
2005 River of GodsIan McDonald
2006 AirGeoff Ryman
2007 End of the World BluesJon Courtenay Grimwood
2008 BrasylIan McDonald
2011 The Dervish HouseIan McDonald
2012 The IslandersChristopher Priest
2013 Jack GlassAdam Roberts

 SF Gateway: The Arthur C. Clarke Award-Winners

1988 The Sea and SummerGeorge Turner (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1989 Unquenchable FireRachel Pollock (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1990 The Child Garden, Geoff Ryman (SF Masterworks paperback)
1991 Take Back PlentyColin Greenland (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1992 SynnersPat Cadigan (SF Gateway eBook | SF Masterworks paperback)
1992 FoolsPat Cadigan (SF Gateway eBook)
1996 FairylandPaul McAuley (SF Gateway eBook |Gollancz paperback)
1999 Dreaming in SmokeTricia Sullivan (SF Gateway eBook)
2003 The SeparationChristopher Priest (Gollancz eBook |Gollancz paperback)
2007 Nova Swing, M. John Harrison (Gollancz eBook |Gollancz paperback)
2008 Black ManRichard Morgan (Gollancz eBook |Gollancz paperback)

 SF Gateway: The Hugo Winners

Following our posts celebrating Gollancz and SF Gateway’s BSFAArthur C. Clarke and Nebula Award-winning novels . . . it’s the Hugo Awards!  And we’re delighted to say we have a very creditable 30 out of 62 winners, including the first and (for another couple of months, at least) most recent winners. Look:

1953 The Demolished ManAlfred Bester (SF Masterworks paperback)
1956 Double StarRobert A. Heinlein (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1958 The Big TimeFritz Leiber (SF Gateway eBook)
1959 A Case of ConscienceJames Blish (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1961 A Canticle for LeibowitzWalter M. Miller, Jr. (SF Masterworks hardback)
1963 The Man in the High CastlePhilip K. Dick (SF Masterworks hardback)
1964 Way StationClifford D. Simak (contained in SF Gateway Omnibus | SF Gateway eBook)
1965 The WandererFritz Leiber (SF Gateway eBook)
1966 DuneFrank Herbert (SF Masterworks hardback | SF Gateway eBook)
1967 The Moon Is a Harsh MistressRobert A. Heinlein (SF Masterworks hardback)
1968 Lord of LightRoger Zelazny (SF Masterworks paperback)
1969 Stand on ZanzibarJohn Brunner (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1971 Ringworld, Larry Niven (SF Masterworks paperback)
1972 To Your Scattered Bodies GoPhilip José Farmer (SF Gateway eBook)
1973 The Gods ThemselvesIsaac Asimov (SF Masterworks paperback)
1974 Rendezvous with RamaArthur C. Clarke (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1975 The DispossessedUrsula K. Le Guin (SF Masterworks paperback)
1976 The Forever WarJoe Haldeman (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1977 Where Late the Sweet Birds SangKate Wilhelm (SF Masterworks paperback)
1978 GatewayFrederik Pohl (SF Masterworks paperback)
1980 The Fountains of ParadiseArthur C. Clarke (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1990 Hyperion, Dan Simmons (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1993 (tie) Doomsday BookConnie Willis (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1993 (tie) A Fire Upon the DeepVernor Vinge (In Zones of Thought omnibus | SF Gateway eBook)
1998 Forever PeaceJoe Haldeman (Gollancz omnibus paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
1999 To Say Nothing of the DogConnie Willis (SF Masterworks paperback | SF Gateway eBook)
2000 A Deepness in the SkyVernor Vinge (In Zones of Thought omnibus | SF Gateway eBook)
2006 SpinRobert Charles Wilson (SF Gateway eBook)
2011 Blackout/All ClearConnie Willis (Gollancz paperbacks | SF Gateway eBooks)
2013 RedshirtsJohn Scalzi (Gollancz paperback | Gollancz eBook)

SF Gateway & Gollancz: The John W. Campbell Award-Winners

1974 (tie) Rendezvous with RamaArthur C. Clarke
1975 Flow My Tears, the Policeman SaidPhilip K. Dick
1978 GatewayFrederik Pohl
1979 GlorianaMichael Moorcock
1981 TimescapeGregory Benford
1982 Riddley WalkerRussell Hoban
1983 Helliconia SpringBrian W. Aldiss
1984 The Citadel of the AutarchGene Wolfe
1988 Lincoln’s DreamsConnie Willis
1990 The Child GardenGeoff Ryman
1993 Brother to DragonsCharles Sheffield
1995 Permutation CityGreg Egan
1997 FairylandPaul J. McAuley
1998 Forever PeaceJoe Haldeman
1999 Brute OrbitsGeorge Zebrowski
2000 A Deepness in the SkyVernor Vinge
2001 GenesisPoul Anderson
2002 (tie) Terraforming EarthJack Williamson
2002 (tie) The ChronolithsRobert Charles Wilson
2005 Market ForcesRichard Morgan
2011 The Dervish HouseIan McDonald
2012 (tie) The IslandersChristopher Priest
2013 Jack GlassAdam Roberts

Being ‘well read’ is an illusion. It has to be. I’ve just started reading Benchmarks by by Algis Budrys, who I know has written the SF Masterwork Rouge Moon but I’ve not read it. I’m trying to read John Clute’s Canary Fever: Reviews for fun or at least to try and broaden my knowledge of both SF (speculative fiction) and criticism.

Because I have Benchmarks as an ebook I can shop for other ebooks while I’m reading, which lead to me grabbing In Search of Wonder by Damon Knight and I’m waiting for More Issues At Hand by James Blish to come out (though I don’t why SF Gateway haven’t put out Issues at Hand first ). And I have a feeling that that’s going to lead to more SF Gateway purchases. In fact I almost bought Trader to the Stars by
Poul Anderson because it was mentioned in the introduction.

My focus at the minute is  buying (I wish I could have read them too) the new Fantasy Masterworks and gathering a lot of the SF Masterworks, as I’m trying explore SF’s history, which means I’ve read and loved Nicola’s Griffith’s Slow River. 

I’m also reading for Hear… Read This! and I’d never have read or enjoyed  A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr, which was this times’ choice.

I’m currently reading The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross, which has his take on vampires – and exciting they are too.

My current TBR includes The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher, The House of War and Witness by Mike, Linda, and Louis Carey (by they wrote excellent The City of Silk and Steel), Mother Island by Bethan Roberts, The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack and a new book from an author whose last book was 14 years ago.

Oh and the lovely Rob from Adventures with Words was sent on a successful mission around London Film and Comic Con to win a copy of this for me:

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I’m so excited and very privileged.

So to go back to the title of this post.

You see Dear Author, I’m a little overwhelmed and sorry that my chances of reading your book aren’t looking good (unless you’re mentioned elsewhere here and even then things can change in a mood swing).

What are you reading?

Oh, speaking of moods I’m checking this before posting and I’m reading Elric: The Fortress of the Pearl. I’m so fickle.

Newman, Sandra  headshot c Charles HopkinsonWhen I started to write about Ice Cream Star, I knew I wanted her to be a hero. She would be an ideal hero – brave, selfless, wild, funny, and honest. Like a proper hero, she would come from humble origins, and pass through a series of amazing adventures to eventually save the world. But she should also be a real person, not a fairy tale character or a Hollywood product. I’ve never been interested in writing about characters who don’t feel like actual human beings.

Last but not least, she does all this at fifteen. That isn’t so strange; in medieval times, the sons of lords led armies before they had begun to grow beards; Joan of Arc was sixteen when she first put on armour and rode to war. In fact, young people are both more fearless and more idealistic than adults. If the world is poor in adventure nowadays, it’s at least partly because we shut our teenagers away in schools.

Maybe the world is a safer place, without so many adventures. But I often think I’d rather live in the America of Ice Cream Star – a place without police or even parents, where terrible things can happen to you – but where you can also ride out on your horse in a fearless mood, and conquer the world.

The Country of Ice Cream StarThe Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman is out now in hard back.

The language, moving between comedy and sorrow, makes it far more sophisticated than the norm, slowing us down even as religion and Cold War politics charge her quest with action.

Amanda Craig  - The Independent 

 

There are many story forms on this planet that lie beneath the Western cultural radar. Wouldn’t it be cool to discover them? Wouldn’t it be cool to invent new ones.

Blue sky mining

As a reader I fall into this trap a lot.  I tend to read similar things over and over.  Comfort is part of it and processing something new is the other. I’m sure there are some amazing ‘alternative’ reads out there though I dip my toes that often in the other waters. I’m afraid I’ll drown rather than swim. Anyone else feel like that? Don’t get me wrote I enjoy myself and it’s not a negative but sometimes you have to try for change.

Any recommendations for writers who don’t feel like you’re reading something on repeat?

McClellan_CrimsonCampaign

Just to get this out of the way, Brian is a client of mine and I’ve been typesetting/ebooking the  novellas and short stories he’s written in the same Powder Mage universe so this review has some bias. Saying that though, this is still an honest review otherwise there would be little point in writing it. Luckily I really liked it.

Speaking of being honest, military fantasy is not my go-to genre, and traditional medieval-eurocentric fantasy is something I can take or leave (shock horror), which makes me a hard sell. The first book in this series, Promise of Blood, was one of the most enjoyable books I read last year but it also left me the most conflicted because of its ‘conventional’ use of female characters.

At the end of the first book I wasn’t sure the direction this series was headed but now it’s obvious that this is a full-on war story, if Promise of Blood laid down the battle lines, The Crimson Campaign digs the trenches and sets the stage for the bigger battle to come in The Autumn Republic.

McClellan has carved his niche in this saturated market by focusing in gunpowder. He has Powder Mages, military men and women, who use gunpowder to give themselves superhuman strength and speed. They can also control bullets and explode gunpowder at will.

There are other magics like those with a  ‘knack’  like never needing sleep or a photographic memory, though these are minor compared with Privileged who can destroy a building with a wave of a hand. Power Mages fall somewhere in middle of that scale. And then there is also Ka-poel, with her ‘savage’ magics.

By the opening of the first book Field Marshal Tamas killed almost the entire of the Royal Cabal of Privileged. This is important because there is an incident early on here which isolates Tamas and his Powder Mages from the rest of his army, and in doing so losing Adro the tactical advantage with their war with the Kez.

And here is where my stamina for military fiction shows. There was a point about a third in were we keep going from Tamas marching through enemy lands to his son, Taniel Two-Shots, who is trying to keep the battle lines form falling back  as the Kez press forward. I honestly thought of putting it down. There is only so much marching and fighting I can take.

And to be honest as I saw this was turning into big battle war story I imagined it was going to continue with an unending descriptions of fighting and marching but as we (Tamas, Taniel and I) push past that section it turns again and from then on I was again hooked.

There are three threads here. In addition to the two already mentioned Inspector Adamat is focused on saving his wife but to do so he has to investigate the mysterious Lord Vetus. These threads are picked up from the first book but unlike the first one, where all three really had the same goal, here we see them separate into their own stories.

McCellan keeps his chapters short and tightly focused so it’s not long before you’re catching up with what each of the three is doing and apart from that one section the pace keeps moving at good speed. Our author likes to keep the reader on their toes with twists and turns and revelations. He likes surprises as well and the build-up towards the end has an enjoyable reveal, which also sets a different the scene for the last book. And I like the main characters hadn’t seen it coming.

There are a couple odd moments where my enjoyment of the main characters overrode a nagging disbelief in the scenario but I was having too much fun to let that spoil anything. And without spoiling things for you the part I felt it the most is an escape scene where the lack of people being around is too odd not feel strange. But that’s a minor niggle.

As I said at the beginning I enjoyed The Crimson Campaign. Brian seems to have tried to address the issues with the female characters within the boundaries of his world and, as the middle book of a tilogy, it’s made me eager to find out what he has planned for his characters.

Bring on The Autumn Republic!

Every 6 months or so Simon (of SavidgeReads) and I select twelve books each that we are looking forward to  coming out over the following six months and share them on The Readers podcast.

I got to stand in for Thomas who is on holiday and as he doesn’t like ‘new’ books I had the fun of flipping through the various catalogues (though some publishers make finding them an unrewarding treasure hunt).

To get it down to 12 I had to choose from my unscientific list of 50+. I deliberately chose books that could appeal to the mixed listeners of The Readers though I left in the book in November as I can’t wait to listen to Simon Vance reading it’s 240,000 words.

When I’ve had a bit more time to think I’ll share some others but here is my ‘official’ list:

July

Jani and the Greater Game by Eric Brown

Hild by Nicola Griffith

After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry

The Child Eater by Rachel Pollack

Mother Island by Bethan Roberts

Aug

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Sep

How to be Both by Ali Smith.

Rooms by Lauren Oliver

Oct

Death Sentences: Stories of Deathly Books, Murderous Booksellers and Lethal Literature

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz

Nov

The Dark Defiles by Richard Morgan

If you pop over to The Readers website it also lists Simon’s choices along with the blurbs. And if you listen to the show we’ve slipped in a few more choices.

We’ll you’ve seen mine. What’s yours?

The last time I did a crowdsource of book suggestion it was for good Western set stories and I created a goodreads shelf. I ended up buying Blood Meridian,  All the Pretty Horses, and  Leonard’s  The Complete Western Stories as I’ve not read that many ‘straight’ Western novels though I’ve been dipping into the Weird Wild West, which is fun, I thought I’d find a good place to start.

Last night, I asked twitter this:

This was partly a result about thinking of the post detailing the  reaction to a sex-bot in a SF novel representing the good writing of women and a post by someone else asking for SF to ‘level-up’. I mention this in passing as the source and the discussion was the seed to this idea but not directly related to it.

I was really pleased to see all the tweets flowing in. I ended up creating a goodreads’ shelf with 39 suggestions. I didn’t want a random list I wanted books that were worth reading. And I’m really pleased that’s what I got.

My personal favourite LGBT-friendly novels are Stalking Tender Prey by Storm Constantine, Blood by Poppy Z Brite and The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan.

Honestly, twitter and the power of crowdsourcing never ceases to amaze me. So thanks everyone.

If you’d like to add to the goodreads’ shelf please leave a comment and I’ll update it.