Currently Reading, Or 5 Books You Need To Devour

I read. A lot. Constantly in fact. I’m more than a little picky in my tastes. I don’t generally read women’s fiction or chick lit, and I rarely read straight contemporary fiction. I’m the kind of person who walks straight through the fiction section to that lovely little corner of the book store labeled “Sci-Fi and Fantasy”, from that haven of printed glory I’ll read more or less anything- space opera, steampunk, alternate history, sword&sorcery, time travel, dragons, werewolves, zombies, seamonsters… I’ll even venture into the vampire section, though I draw the line at (and through) Stephanie Meyers and I swear I only read Charlaine Harris as the equivalent of reading the funny pages. That isn’t to say that I don’t read the classics, I fact my favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre, but usually I’ve have to hear a lot of good things about a non-scifi book before I’ll spend my hard earned cash on it. Even then I might not finish it, Catch 22 has been serving as a door stop for a few years now. So beware, my tastes may not be yours, but I think the following will appeal to a lot of different people on a variety of levels.

The Clockwork Century Series by Cherie Priest

“It was war, you dumb kid. Everybody I liked got killed, and most of the folks I’d just as soon have shot made it out with medals on their chests. It wasn’t fair and it sure as hell wasn’t any fun. And Jesus knows it’s been going on way too long.”

Set in an alternate history America, where the course of the Civil War has been very different and technologies have advanced far ahead of our reality, the Clockwork Century is populated by air pirates, zombies, gigantic war machines and a collection of gritty heroines with guns. Boneshaker is both a mystery and a traditional rescue from the zombie infested forbidden zone that was formerly known as Seattle. It deals with rather more mother/son emotional dynamic than I usually be willing to read, but the set pieces and the cast of supporting characters more than make up for that. On the other hand Dreadnought is the story of a voyage home. First through the battlelines of the civil war overshadowed by huge steam and diesel powered robots, then across a Midwest that’s filled with bandits and yet more zombies. Sadly I haven’t gotten hold of the second book in the series, Clementine, yet. But the richness of this universe will keep you wanting more and feeling disappointed when the books end.

The Mortal Engines Series by Philip Reeve

“It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.”

That is, for me, one of the best opening lines I’ve read in a very long time. It sucks you immediately. What happened to the North Sea to dry it out? And, wait a minute, what the hell do you mean, a city is CHASING a mining town?
The four book series (Mortal Engines, Predators Gold, Infernal Devices and Darkling Plain, and their prequels – A Web Of Air, Fever Crumb and Scrivener’s Moon) takes place in a post apocalyptic wasteland where cities and towns, on wheels or tracks or gas balloons, chase one another down for resources. It’s like Mad Max on an epic scale, with airships and robots thrown in. The series is aimed at teens so most the characters are children and young people, but like any good children’s book there are sill some adult characters and a good depth of storytelling to keep the interest of older or more advanced readers. Though if you’re considering these as a gift for children be aware that death, war and emotional conflict are major themes and can get a little graphic.

Burton & Swinburne in The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder

“The Government is the Empire’s brain. The Technologists are the Empire’s muscle. The Libertines are the Empire’s imagination. And I, God help me, must be the Empire’s conscience. – His Majesty, King Albert”

I found this hidden behind some other books in the local good book store and I have to admit that I bought it on the merits of its cover and its insanely long title. I love anything brave enough to have a complicated title (Philip K Dick for example) and its feel very keeping its chosen time period. Once again this is an alternative history piece but in this case it actually handles the effect of time travel, not only on history but on the traveller and those they encounter. To often time travellers shake of the initial shock of new times and take their adventures in their stride, but here for once culture shock and chaos theory have a much more profound influence on the story. The book is exceedingly clever, the appropriated historical characters are charming and well written, and the original characters are wonderfully believable. I am hugely excited about the release of The Curious Case Of The Clockwork Man at the end of March.

Mark Hodder @ SnowBooks

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts

“A realist writer might break his protagonist’s leg, or kill his fiancee; but a science fiction writer will immolate whole planets, and whilst doing so he will be more concerned with the placement of commas than the screams of the dying.”

Another alternate history book? Or is it? Yellow Blue Tibia has a lot to recommend it, excellent plot, razor sharp dry humour and characters you really care about, but the very best thing about it is the way it bends reality. Or doesn’t. By the final page you’re still not sure what is real, or what real even mean any more. Set in Soviet Russia, the story follows a science fiction writer who was once hired by Stalin to create a hugely detailed story of alien invasion, a story which is immediately hushed up, and the consequences of creating that story. Whilst the story deals with complex issues of personal perceptions of reality, you hardly notice thanks to the light tone and frequent laugh out loud moments.

Necronomicon: The Best Weird Tales of H.P. Lovecraft

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of the infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”

Hey, I never said I would be listing only new books did I? I would hope that most of the visitors to my site would at least have a passing knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft, his weird tales and, of course, the Cthulhu mythos for which he is best known. If you aren’t familiar with his work I recommend the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company’s audio productions as a good starting point, also, shame on you! Ahem… anyway, this is more about the edition of the book than anything else. There have been lots of collections over the years, but the selection of stories in them is often limited, such that to get a decent collection of all Lovecraft’s work you end up with a huge number of books and 12 copies of At The Mountains of Madness. This edition however gives one of the best collections I’ve seen in a single volume. A single GIGANTIC volume wrapped in faux leather and embossed in gold. The size means you’re unlikey to read it on the morning tram commute, but if you did you’d probably get a lot of empty seats around you. Often publishers choose to use covers depicting brightly coloured monstrous horrors for Lovecraft’s work, but this has style.


Filed under Books, Essay, Horror, Media, Review, Steampunk

3 responses to “Currently Reading, Or 5 Books You Need To Devour

  1. Spring Heeled Jack is such a fun book! I just adore Swinburne. Hodder has the next book in the series coming out later this month, I’m crossing my fingers that it’s just as good, if not better.

  2. Spring-Heeled Jack was stupendous. Boneshaker was if anything, even more stupendous, with more zombies. And arguably-hot babes. Well, if not hot, then not completely unattractive either.

    I will have to make it a point to acquire the Mortal Engines at my earliest convenience.

    • Oh, I enjoyed Boneshaker but it was a bit too emotional for my tastes, and my partner flatly refuses to read Dreadnought as a result, even though I’ve promised it doesn’t have any whiny teens in it :p

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