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Winter/Spring Reading

25 March, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned anything that I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d just point out a few that have particularly captured my interest.

The Steel Remains – Richard Morgan. There’s been a lot of talk online recently about the darkness, grittiness and violence creeping into epic fantasy. I suppose The Steel Remains falls into that category but, whilst I’ve become a bit fed up with much of the genre, I really enjoyed this one – mostly, I think, because I found the characters fascinating, Ringil and Archeth in particular. I had two main quibbles: one, that blow-by-blow fight scenes just aren’t interesting (to me, at least) so I more or less skipped them. Two, and perhaps more importantly, I just couldn’t work out where the Ringil/Seethlaw relationship was going. Or, rather, I couldn’t work out why Morgan had included it at all. [Big spoilers coming up.] Was Ringil sleeping with Seethlaw, only to chop his head off at the end, meant to show how ruthless Ringil could be? To show the ambiguity of his morality? His lack of self-restraint? Was the simple inclusion of gay sex on the page supposed to be as shocking as the violence? Or maybe the fact that there wasn’t a point to it was, er, the point. Because sometimes people do things for no good reason, due to impulsiveness, or lack of thoughtfulness, or self-destructive motives. I really don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll be looking for the sequel when it comes out, which I think is recommendation enough in a genre that frequently disappoints me.

Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock.  A real classic, this one. Evocative and beautiful, and a great reminder of how much I want to write a fantasy not set in a city. I would have liked more of the book to have been set in the wood itself, and I found the male characters’ reactions to Guiwenneth a bit overdone at times, but this was otherwise a fantastic read. And genuinely fantastical too.

Zoo City – Lauren Beukes.  I bought this one in ebook, a rare event for me, because Angry Robot were selling it on a £1 special offer. I’m incredibly glad I did buy it too, because this is the best book I’ve read this year. Fantastical elements aside, Johannesburg comes across as both very familiar and very alien. More importantly, Zinzi is the most real character I’ve read in a long time. This is the sort of thing I want when I read urban fantasy, with its darkness, modernity, edginess and humour. I loved it.

Ok, that’s going to do it for now. I might have a few thoughts on The Third God and Retribution Falls coming up, but I’ve got to finish reading them first.

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