My To Be Read pile count match the leaning Tower of Pizza – though I think mine wobbles more. To bring it to some sort of order as well as to bring some focus here are my choices for Summer Reads 2009.
I’ve organised them into batches and I have to complete each batch before I move on. At least that’s the plan right now.
Though saying that a couple of novels has to take priority namely Destroyer of Worlds and Lord of Silence as I’m off to see the author Mark Chadbourn on Thursday as he’s signing with James Lovegrove plus I’ve got a couple of books that I’ve been asked to guest review that I need to read as well.
But with all that said here is my selection of books that I really really want to read over the summer and the aim is to get half done by the end of August. It helps that I have two weeks holiday that month as well
In Ashes Lie by Marie Brennan (Orbit)
September, 1666 – The mortal civil war is over. But the war among the fae is still raging, and London is its battleground. There are forces that despise the Onyx Court, and will do anything to destroy it. But now a greater threat has come, one that could destroy everything. In the house of a sleeping baker, a spark leaps free of the oven – and ignites a blaze that will burn London to the ground. For three harrowing days, the mortals and fae of the city will fight to save their home. While the humans struggle to halt the conflagration that is devouring London street by street, the fae pit themselves against a less tangible foe: the spirit of the fire itself, powerful enough to annihilate everything in its path. Neither side can win on its own – but can they find a way to fight together?
I read and loved Midnight Never Come, the first book in this series and I’ve read the first few chapters of this one. It’s a slightly different beast but none the less fascinating. I had a chance to to meet Marie when she was on a research trip for the third one and I’m hoping to get an interview sorted as soon as finished this one.
The Devil’s Paintbrush by Jake Arnott (Sceptre_
Paris, 1903. Major-General Sir Hector Macdonald, one of the greatest heroes of the British Empire, is facing ruin in a shocking homosexual scandal when he meets the notorious occultist, Aleister Crowley. As they set out into the night on a wild journey through the sinful city, the story of Macdonald’s tragedy begins to unfold – with startling revelations both for the General and the aspiring magician.
I’m quite a good chuck into this one. I’m reading it because I have an interest in Crowley and Occult history. I’m not in black magic or anything though I have been known to whip out a set of Tarot Cards once in a while. It’s amazing how Arnott is leaving a tale around fixed points in history. I’m wondering how much artistic licence he’s using?
The Last Colony by John Scalzi (UK Tor)
John Perry has at last found peace in a violent universe, living quietly with his family in one of humanity’s many colonies. It’s a good life, yet there’s something …missing. When John and his wife Jane are asked to lead a new colony world, he jumps at the chance to explore the universe once more. But they soon find out that nothing is what it seems, for his new colony is merely pawns in an interstellar game of war and diplomacy between humanity’s Colonial Union and a new, seemingly unstoppable alien alliance that is dedicated to ending all human colonization. As this contest rages above, Perry struggles to keep his terrified colonists alive in the face of threats both alien and familiar, on a planet yet to reveal its own fatal secrets.
I read The Ghost Brigades, which was a great emotionally as well as action packed SF story and The Last Colony is set in the same Universe. After I’ve read this one Zoe’s Tale is out this month, which tells the story of one the characters of the The Ghost Brigades. Heard nothing but good things about them all.
Wireless by Charles Stross (Orbit)
It has been said that the natural state of science fiction is the short story. If that is so, you won’t find a better exploration of that state than Charles Stross’s new collection. Centred around an original and previously unpublished novella, ‘Palimpsest’, WIRELESS is a showcase of some of the best short SF of the 21st century. With an introduction from the author and containing hitherto uncollected works such as ‘Missile Gap’, ‘Trunk and Disorderly’ and ‘Rogue Farm’, and some gems previously available only in small press publications…
I’ve only so far encountered Charles Stross fighting Lovecraftian Horrors with the two Laundry Service titles – The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue – so him doing Sci-Fi is a bit of a departure for me. I’’ll admit that I’m a little confused by the opening novella so far. Aliens seem to have peeled the earth and put it on a flat disc but I’m looking forward these different aspects of his imagination.
Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard (Headline)
Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero of any kind.
There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, stealing occult volumes, and being on nodding terms with demons. His purpose, however, is noble. His researches are all directed to raising the dead. Not as monstrosities but as people, just as they were when they lived: physically, mentally, and spiritually. For such a prize, some sacrifices are necessary.
One such sacrifice
s his own soul, but he now sees that was a mistake – it’s not just that he needs it for his research to have validity, but now he realises he needs it to be himself. Unfortunately, his soul now rests within the festering bureaucracy of Hell. Satan may be cruel and capricious but, most dangerously, he is bored. It is Cabal’s unhappy lot to provide him with amusement.
In short, a wager: in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others. Placed in control of a diabolical carnival – created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but one may also win coconuts – and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year.
One year to beat the Devil at his own game. And isn’t that perhaps just a little heroic?
How can you not like the sound of that?
The Hurricane Party by Klas Ostergren (Cannongate)
Hanck Orn’s son is dead. When they come to the door they tell him it was a heart attack, but he knows they are lying. So he travels to the outermost reaches of the land to find out what really happened. When he lands on the island he is met by a young woman, hair streaked with blood, raving like a lunatic. She is one of the sisters, who tell him the story of how his son died in the great hall of the Clan, the Norse gods, who were holding a party. But the festivities soon got out of hand, the guests began to argue with one another, and the mischievous shapeshifter Loki dealt a deadly blow.
Not out until August but I’ve got a copy to read early. Norse gods who can resist? Last time I read about them was American Gods by Neil Gaiman, which was an interesting twist on the whole ancient gods story.
The Good Plain Cook by Bethan Roberts (Serpent’s Tail)
It’s summer 1936, and the world is on the cusp of change, but there’s little sign of this in rural Sussex. So when Kitty Allen answers an advert looking for ‘a good plain cook’, she has no idea what she’s in for. For starters, her employer is an American called Ellen Steinberg who believes in having the staff call her by her first name and sunbathing in the nude. Then there’s Ellen’s eleven-year-old daughter, Geenie, a bright, unhappy little thing, and Mrs Steinberg’s gentleman friend, Mr Crane, who’s said to be a poet — even though he doesn’t have a beard and doesn’t actually write much poetry. Rich bohemians imagining themselves as communists, Steinberg and Crane see themselves as champions of ‘the people’ — not that they know the first thing about how the people actually live. Kitty is in no position to criticise — after all she claimed to be a good plain cook, despite hardly knowing how to boil an egg. Utterly out of her depth, she is relieved to have the gardener, Arthur, to talk to. Otherwise she’d never last a summer in this madhouse. Ellen Steinberg wants life to run as smoothly as the love story she imagines her lover George Crane to be writing. But as Kitty arrives, the dream is on the edge of falling apart.
This one is a curious choice I know, but I read The Pools, her debut and that showed an interesting understanding of the human condition. Plus this is something different.
Reheated Cabbage by Irvine Welsh (Jonathan Cape)
In these pages you can enjoy Christmas dinner with Begbie, and see how warmly Franco greets his sister’s boyfriend and the news of their engagement. You will discover, in ‘The Rosewell Incident’, how aliens addicted to Embassy Regal have Midlothian under surveillance, and plan to install the local casuals as the new governors of Planet Earth. You will not be surprised to read that a televised Hibs v. Hearts game might matter more to one character than the life of his wife, or that two guys fighting over a beautiful girl might agree – on reflection, and after a few pills and many pints of lager – that their friendship is actually more important.And you will be delighted to welcome back ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson, and to watch what happens when he meets his old nemesis, retired schoolmaster Albert Black, under the strobe-lights of a Miami Beach nightclub. Most of the stories in "Reheated Cabbage" originally appeared in fugitive form in magazines and long-out-of-print anthologies in the 1990s. Finally collected together, they show all Irvine Welsh’s trademark skills – vaulting imagination, a brilliant vernacular ear, dark, scabrous humor and the ability to create some of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction.
I’m trying to read more short fiction, an area I quite like but needs a certain shift in thinking and a certain dedication. I have a bit of a guilt thing for Irvine Welsh having been recommended The Acid House when I was in Uni and I never read it. If I had I wonder if I’d have got a first?
Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theorin (Black Swan)
Can you ever come to terms with a missing child? Julia Davidsson has not. Her five-year-old son disappeared twenty years previously on the Swedish island of Oland. No trace of him has ever been found. Until his shoe arrives in the post. It has been sent to Julia’s father, a retired sea-captain still living on the island. Soon he and Julia are piecing together fragments of the past: fragments that point inexorably to a local man called Nils Kant, known to delight in the pain of others. But Nils Kant died during the 1960s. So who is the stranger seen wandering across the fields as darkness falls? It soon becomes clear that someone wants to stop Julia’s search for the truth. And that he’s much, much closer than she thinks…
Continuing with my new found love of euro-crime in translation. He got awarded The Glass Key for best Nordic / Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year for The Darkest Room, which is the book right after this one.
Lord of Silence by Mark Chadbourn (Solaris)
When the great hero of the city of Idriss is murdered, Vidar, the Lord of Silence, must take his place as chief defender against the mysterious terrors lurking in the dense forest beyond the city’s walls. But Vidar is a man tormented — by a lost memory and a vampiric jewel that demands the life energy of others. Now, with a killer loose within Idriss, and the threat from without mounting, Vidar must solve a three thousand year-old religious mystery to unlock the terrifying secrets of his own past.
A departure for my favourite every fantasy series writer. This is a must read for me.
Little Stranger by Sarah Walters (Little, Brown)
In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonry crumbling, its gardens choked with weeds, the clock in its stable yard permanently fixed at twenty to nine. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his. Prepare yourself. From this wonderful writer who continues to astonish us, now comes a chilling ghost story.
I’ve read Sarah Walters before and failed to be captured though I think that’s more down to my expectations than the work itself – this though has a ghost story combined with Walters story telling style. I’m hoping I’m going to get chilled from this one.
Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology Edited by Nick Gevers (Solaris)
Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology assembles original stories by some of the genre’s foremost writers. Edited by Nick Gevers, this collection includes brand new stories by Stephen Baxter, Eric Brown, Paul Di Filippo, Hal Duncan, Jeffrey Ford, Jay Lake, Ian R. MacLeod, Michael Moorcock, Robert Reed, Lucius Shepard, Brian Stableford, Jeff VanderMeer and more.
More short stories. I’ve been holding on to this one for a while but after reading the delightful The Affinity Bridge by George Mann I’m keen for more Steampunk.
The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas (Gollancz)
The Adamantine Palace lies at the centre of an empire that grew out of ashes. Once dragons ruled the world and man was little more than prey. Then a way of subduing the dragons alchemicly was discovered and now the dragons are bred to be little more than mounts for knights and highly valued tokens in the diplomatic power-players that underpin the rule of the competing aristocratic houses. The Empire has grown fat. And now one man wants it for himself. A man prepared to poison the king just as he has poisoned his own father. A man prepared to murder his lover and bed her daughter. A man fit to be king? But uknown to him there are flames on the way. A single dragon has gone missing. And even one dragon on the loose, unsubdued, returned to its full intelligence, its full fury, could spell disaster for the Empire. But because of the actions of one unscrupulous mercenary the rivals for the throne could soon be facing hundreds of dragons . . . Stephen Deas has written a fast moving and action-fuelled fantasy laced with irony, a razor sharp way with characters, dialogue to die for and dragons to die by.
I think it was the description of the Dragons that captured me, not that I can remember what review it was. Basically they were saying that dragons were a bit more beastly than you might imagine!
Orbus by Neal Asher (UK Tor)
In charge of an old cargo spaceship, the Old Captain Orbus flees a violent and sadistic past, but he doesn’t know that the lethal war drone, Sniper, is a stowaway, and that the past is rapidly catching up with him. His old enemy the Prador Vrell, mutated by the Spatterjay virus into something powerful and dangerous, has seized control of a Prador dreadnought, murdering its crew, and is now seeking to exact vengeance on those who tried to have him killed. Their courses inexorably converge in the Graveyard, the border realm lying between the Polity and the Prador Kingdom, a place filled with the ruins left by past genocides and interplanetary war. But this is the home of the Golgoloth, monster to a race of monsters, the place where a centuries-long cold war is being fought. Meanwhile, the terrifying Prador King is coming, prepared to do anything to ensure Vrell’s death and keep certain deadly secrets buried …and somewhere out there something that has annihilated civilizations is stirring from a slumber of five million years. The cold war is heating up, fast.
Not out until September but I’m getting in there early. I’m a mega-Neal Asher fan so this is a no brainer really. One of the best voices I’ve found in sci-fi!
Caligula by Douglas Jackson (Corgi Books)
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, the third Roman Emperor, is better known by another name: Caligula, a name synonymous with decadence, cruelty and madness. His reign was marked by excess, huge building projects, the largest gladiatorial battles Rome was ever to see – men and animals killed in their hundreds – conspiracies, assassination attempts and sexual scandal. Rufus as a young slave grows up far from the corruption of the imperial court. His master is a trainer of animals for the gladiatorial arena.Rufus discovers that he has a natural ability with animals, a t
alent for controlling
and schooling them. It is at the arenas that Rufus meets his great friend Cupido, one of Rome’s greatest gladiators. It is his growing reputation as an animal trainer and his friendship with Cupido that attracts the cruel gaze of the Emperor. Caligula wants a keeper for the imperial elephant and Rufus is bought from his master and taken to the imperial palace. Life here is dictated by Caligula’s ever shifting moods. Caligula is as generous as he is cruel, he is a megalomaniac who declares himself a living god and simultaneously lives in constant fear of the plots against his life. But his paranoia is not misplaced, intrigue permeates his court, and Rufus and Cupido find themselves unwittingly placed at the centre of a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor.
I’ll admit this is a challenge from the publisher. I’m not really sure about historical fiction but I’ve been told this is an thriller with a historical setting so I’m going to give it a go!
Poe edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
Compiled by multi-award winning editor, Ellen Datlow, this collection commemorates the second centenary of Edgar Allen Poe’s birth. It features Poe-inspired tales by some of the finest talents in the field, including Kim Newman, Pat Cadigan, Sharyn MCCrumb, Lucius Sheppard, Laird Barron, Suzy McKee Chamas and others. This all-star line-up has several Hugo, Edgar, Tipptree and British Fantasy Award winners.
More short fiction and this time with Poe inspired fiction. This is going to be interesting. I’ve been dipping into Poe so I’m looking forward to seeing what influence he’s had.
Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger (Serpent’s Tail)
Lady Duff Gordon is the toast of Victorian London. But when her debilitating tuberculosis means exile, she and her devoted lady’s maid, Sally, set sail for Egypt. It is Sally who describes, with a mixture of wonder and trepidation, the odd ménage marshalled by the resourceful Omar, which travels down the Nile to a new life in Luxor. When Lady Duff Gordon undoes her stays and takes to native dress, throwing herself into weekly salons; language lessons; excursions to the tombs; Sally too adapts to a new world, affording her heady and heartfelt freedoms never known before. But freedom is a luxury that a maid can ill-afford, and when Sally grasps more than her status entitles her to, she is brutally reminded that she is mistress of nothing.
More historical fiction but I do have an love of things Egyptian and I love idea of this one.
Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk (Jonathan Cape)
‘Begins here first account of operative me, agent number 67 on arrival mid-western American airport greater _______ area. Flight ____. Date ______. Priority mission top success to complete. Code name. Operation Havoc. Fellow operatives already pass immigrant control, through secure doors and to embrace own other host family people. Operative Tibor, agent 23; operative Magda, agent 36; operative Ling, agent 19. All violate United States secure port of entry having success. Each now embedded among middle-income corrupt American family, all other homes, other schools, and neighbours of same city. By not after next today, strategy of web of operatives to be established’. Agent Number 67, nicknamed Pygmy for his diminutive size, arrives in the United States from his totalitarian homeland (a mash-up of North Korea, Cuba, Communist-era China, and Nazi-era Germany), as an ‘exchange student’ into the welcoming arms of his Simpsons-spinoff Midwestern host family. Host cow father (he works in the biological weapons complex outside of town), chicken neck mother, pig dog brother, and the disconcertingly self-possessed cat sister introduce Pygmy into the rituals of postmodern American life, which he views with utter contempt. Along with his fellow operatives, all indoctrinated into the mindset of the totalitarian state, he is planning something big, something truly, truly awful, that will bring this big dumb country and its fat, dumb inhabitants to their knees.
I was introduced to Chuck with Rant, a strange but touching tale. I didn’t get on with Porno but I’m up for giving him another go.
The Highwayman by R.A. Salvatore (UK Tor)
Long ago, in a distant land, a lonely young man struggles to discover who he is and where he belongs. He carries the blood and magic of two peoples, a sword of unimaginable power, and a staggering potential for great good …or greater evil. In the land of Corona, the roads are unsafe to travel, as goblins and bloodthirsty Powries seek out human prey; and, in this savage world, princes feast while peasants starve, and two religions battle for control. A monk, Bran Dynard, returns from his mission in a far-off land with two prizes: a book of mystical knowledge and a new wife, the beautiful and mystical Sen Wi. But the world he left behind has changed, and Bran must now decide who he can trust, and where he should place his faith.
I’m blaming Aiden of A Dribble of Ink if I don’t like this one.
*that ends my first selection of batches*
There are some books that I might swap or read instead and just because they aren’t in the list above makes them no less worthy. In the end I just had to choose!
Iron Angel (Deepgate Codex Trilogy 2) by Alan Campbell (UK Tor)
Order has collapsed in Deepgate. The chained city is now in ruins, and the Deadsands beyond are full of fleeing refugees. Meanwhile, the Spine militia is trying to halt the exodus of panicking citizens through brutal force. Rachel and the young angel Dill are dragged off to the Temple torture chambers …but strange things start to happen as a foul red mist rises from the abyss beneath the city. F
or the god Ulcis’ de
ath has left the gates to Hell unguarded, and certain forces in the fathomless darkness beneath Deepgate have noticed an opportunity. Only the offspring of the dread goddess Ayen understand this new danger.Already, Cospinol, god of brine and fog, is coming to save his brother’s temple – and to hunt down Ulcis’ murderers. His foul, fog-wreathed skyship has already reached Sandport, bringing along its own version of hell. By now, Rachel just wants to keep her companion alive. Escaping their prison, and with enemies closing in on all sides, she is forced to undertake a perilous journey across the Deadsands towards the distant land of Pandemeria. But there the battlefield at Coreollis is fated to witness a clash of powers – a contest between men and gods and archons and slaves, all forced into desperate alliances.
I’ve read the opening chapter to Iron Angel, sequel to Scar Night and I got slightly hooked look for this one to appear sooner rather than later.
Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski (Gollancz)
For more than a hundred years humans, dwarves, gnomes and elves lived together in relative peace. But times have changed, the uneasy peace is over and now the races once again fight each other – and themselves: dwarves are killing their kinsmen, and elves are murdering humans and elves, at least those elves who are friendly to humans . . . Into this tumultuous time is born a child for whom the witchers of the world have been waiting. Ciri, the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe, the Lioness of Cintra, has strange powers and a stranger destiny, for prophecy names her the Flame, one with the power to change the world – for good, or for evil . . . Geralt, the witcher of Rivia, has taken Ciri to the relative safety of the Witchers’ Settlement, but it soon becomes clear that Ciri isn’t like the other witchers. As the political situation grows ever dimmer and the threat of war hangs almost palpably over the land, Geralt searches for someone to train Ciri’s unique powers. But someone else has an eye on the young girl, someone who understand exactly what the prophecy means – and exactly what Ciri’s power can do. This time Geralt may have met his match.
Speaking of books to read sooner. I choose most of this list before the Gemmell Awards were announced so it doesn’t get a higher ranking but again another book I’m keen to see what makes it a winner.
Missy by Chris Hannan (Vintage)
Dol McQueen, an irrepressible, opium-addicted ‘flash-girl’ from the Wild West is headed east for new adventures when she stops to save a man from killing himself, only to discover he is a murderous pimp who really didn’t want to be rescued. When the pimp then turns up at the saloon bar where she and her friends have found work – and plenty more – with a crate of stolen opium he wants her to hide, Dol sees a chance to change her life for good and goes on the run into the American wilderness. But the pimp is on her tail, along with a gang of mobsters and her crazy, self-obsessed mother; can Dol save her friends, her mother, and herself? Like her literary predecessors, Becky Sharpe and Moll Flanders, Dol is a flawed but irresistible anti-heroine, and "Missy" is an astounding debut.
A debut with a fun sense of play. Ok, will it a go.
Take Me to the Source: In Search of Water by Rupert Wright (Vintage)
Colourless, tasteless, odourless, and ageless: water is both the simplest thing on earth and the most complex. We cannot live without it yet it kills six thousand children a day. It is the ultimate renewable resource but we pollute it without thinking twice. Why, if water is so valuable does nobody want to pay for it unless it comes in a designer bottle? Is it really the oil of the twenty-first century? Will we all soon be fighting over it, or can it lead countries into co-operation rather than conflict? In this enthralling voyage of discovery, Rupert Wright sets out to discover exactly what water is and why it plays such an important role in history, culture, art and literature. Part reportage and part personal journey, "Take Me To the Source" is the fascinating story of the substance that makes life on earth possible.
I watched or was it read someone on the memory of water and how water is a stranger substance than it would first appear. This is the only non fiction on the list.
A Proper Education for Girls by Elaine Di Rollo (Vintage)
Set in 1857 between England and India, "A Proper Education for Girls" is a rollicking novel about feisty women, the devotion of sisters and the Victorian obsession with empire, experiments and photography. The peach growers of the title are 27 year-old twin sisters with a passion for botany. Lilian, in mysterious disgrace, has been married off to a dreary missionary. Alice is left at home, curator to her father’s monstrous collection of artifacts under the watchful eye of the malevolent Dr Cattermole. "A Proper Education for Girls" is a dazzling debut. Tongue-in-cheek and inventive, comic and horrifying, it illuminates the dark heart of Victorian hypocrisy and selfishness, yet at the same time is engaging and highly enjoyable. Readers will become completely involved with Alice and Lilian – and their hair-raising escapades.
Ok, last one for now. Again a fun read. Something I don’t do enough of.
Well that’s it. What do you think? Anything there for you? What are you going to be reading? Any bets on how many I’m actually going to be able to finish?