Recommended Reads for January 2014

2 Feb

Recommended Reads is a monthly feature in which the Skiffy and Fanty crew tell you about one thing they recently read that they think you might like too.  (Note:  this is a tad late; sowwies)

Here are our picks:

Shaun

Shadow Ops -- Breach Zone by Myke Cole

Special Ops:  Breach Zone by Myke Cole (Ace:  January 28th, 2014)

If you’re not familiar with the previous two books in the series, Control Point and Fortress Frontier, then you need to go read those right now.  And then listen to the two interviews we’ve conducted with the author about those books.  And then listen to our interview with Myke about Breach Zone.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll understand why Jen and I have had Myke on the show for every single book he’s released to date.  Breach Zone is what I’d describe as a war and politics book.  Scylla, who has spent most of the last two novels locked up in a special prison, has forged an alliance with goblins and other nasty creatures from the Source (an alternate “dimension” from which magic derives).  Her mission?  To put Latent (those who develop magical abilities) in charge of the world.  That’s the stage.  And what follows is one part war novel, one part military adventure, one part political theater, one part tragic love story, and nine parts excitement.  It’s hard to describe the book in its entirety without writing a review, so you’ll have to base your decision to buy your book on the fact that it’s intriguing and a lot of fun at the same time (a combination that doesn’t always occur).  It’s definitely one of my favorite 2014 releases so far.

Mike

Fairyland cover

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (Feiwel & Friends:  May 10th, 2011)

There are many aspects of the first Fairyland book to recommend it. I could mention the fact that it was originally serialized on Valente’s website, or that it was a Locus Award winner, An Andre Norton Award winner, a Kirkus best book of the year selection, as well as other accolades.

But the main reason I want to recommend it is because it was so delightful that it took me back, as a reader, to when books were new and marvelous. Reminiscent in the best ways of works like The Phantom Tollbooth, Alice in Wonderland, and The Wizard of Oz, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is, simply, delightful. A girl named September meets a Green Wind, who invites her to come visit Fairyland. The story that follows is bizarre, delightful, and inventive. Valente displays a compelling narrative voice, with a narrator who is not only telling the story, but is, to a degree, in the story, making asides, going back to explain things, and generally getting away with omniscient POV where so many other books fail to.

Fairyland is a book comprised of Storytelling, with the capital S. The kind of Storytelling that I associate with the oral cultural roots of literature. The first stories told, in all likelihood, were told out loud, and some contemporary writers still manage to capture that feel, such as Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and other luminaries of the field. Catherynne M. Valente is one of the acknowledged rising stars in the SF/F genre, and the Fairyland series has cemented that position.

So if you’re like me and hadn’t gotten around to it already, treat yourself to a lovely afternoon, evening, or morning with September and company.

David

violent-century-lavie-tidhar

The Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar (Hodder & Stoughton:  October 24, 2013)

This recommendation probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given our recent interview with the author, but I did want to go on record and state how much I enjoyed it. When is an alternate history not an alternate history? When the introduction of a radical element — in this case, superheroes — turns out not to be so radical after all, and the grim history of the 20th Century plays out unchanged. Tidhar thus gives us the opportunity to view the events of the century through a new filter, while at the same time engaging in gripping, moving deconstruction of the superhero. Unlike in Watchmen, the advent of superhumans changes nothing, and these powerful beings are in every way that counts (especially the emotional ones) as powerless as the rest of us. The fragmented narrative, which flashes back and forth in time, is never confusing, its pace is propulsive, and this form is a perfect match with the themes of the heavy weight of the past on the present. A marvellous read.

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What about you, dear readers?  What are you enjoying?

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