A Man of Shadows (2017) by Jeff Noon

“The initial idea behind the Nyquist mysteries was to have my private eye resident in a different weird city for each case, and to let the peculiar properties of that city create the case he has to solve.”

Jeff Noon, from an interview with The Forgotten Geek

 

“Weird city” indeed. If you are familiar with Jeff Noon’s writing, you will have an idea of what to expect in A Man of Shadows. This is no ordinary noir detective story. It is set in a bizarre city made up of two main districts: Dayzone and Nocturna. One is bathed in permanent light and the other filled with endless darkness. Time runs differently here, too. The city is fractured into individual time zones depending on location. It’s a cool concept that messes with your head as the citizens are forever adjusting their watches as they move from place to place.

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Our guide through this strange environment is world-weary Private Eye John Nyquist. He is replete with the common characteristics of a fictional hard-boiled P.I.: a disheveled appearance, a drinking habit, and a propensity to get involved with femme fatales. Nyquist is a well-realized protagonist but Noon makes no effort to write him as likable. It didn’t bother me but it is worth noting this detail. Does the leading character have to be likable to make the book an enjoyable reading experience? You decide. Continue reading

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Long Time No Review

My life

Help! I’ve lost my book review mojo. It’s been almost two months since my last post and it’s not just the blogging. I’m finding it really hard to stick with one book to the end. Since July, I’ve only manged to complete Jeff Noon’s A Man of Shadows and Safraz Manzoor’s Greetings from Bury Park. I’m working on my review for the Noon book but it’s taking far too long.

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The same thing happened during summer last year. I wrote a post called “Summer Meltdown” in an attempt to get some advice from fellow bloggers. It worked, jump-starting me back into reading and reviewing. So I thought I would try it again and ask the few of you still out there reading this blog to recommend a must-read book or short story. What has gripped you recently? Any genre is fine! Continue reading

A Feast for Crows (2005) by George R.R. Martin

Aemon’s blind white eyes came open. “Egg?” he said, as the rain streamed down his cheeks. “Egg, I dreamed that I was old.”

2005’s A Feast for Crows appears to divide opinion more than any of the previous three books in Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. One reason for this was the author’s decision to chop this fourth installment into two parts due to its excessive length. (The second part would eventually be released in 2011 as A Dance with Dragons). The author then upset fans even more by leaving the plot threads of his three most popular characters hanging until the following book. So readers had to wait six more years to discover what became of Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, and Danaerys Targaryan.

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US Hardcover (First edition)

A Feast for Crows continues the narrative from the point of view of twelve characters, both major and minor. Jaime Lannister, Brienne of Tarth, Sansa and Arya Stark get the majority of the chapters. It is notable that Martin takes us inside Cersei Lannister’s head for the first time in this book and we get to hear her first-person narration of events. Additionally, we are introduced to Aeron Greyjoy–a priest of the Drowned God–and discover more about the ways of the Iron Islands and their inhabitants. Continue reading

The City and the City (2009) by China Mieville

“There is no case,” he told her. “There’s a series of random and implausible crises that make no sense other than if you believe the most dramatic possible shit. And there’s a dead girl at the end of it all.”

 

Brief Synopsis

Inspector Tyador Borlu lives and works in the city of Beszel. As the story opens, he is investigating the murder of a woman found dead in a quiet Beszel street. She is identified as Mahalia Geary, a foreign student attending Beszel’s university. What starts out as a standard murder investigation quickly becomes more complex as Inspector Borlu’s inquiries lead him to the “neighboring” city of Ul Qoma. He joins forces with local Detective Quissim Dhatt and they attempt to unravel the truth about the murdered woman’s connections with both cities.

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2009 Del Ray edition. Cover by FWIS

Continue reading

Rosewater (2016) by Tade Thompson

‘I calm down. I do not know where I am, but I am not afraid of being lost. I am a finder, and the most basic skill of a finder is getting home.’

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater is the first book in his Wormwood Trilogy. It is set in near-future Nigeria where an alien biodome has appeared. The aliens remain a mystery but once a year the biodome opens. When this happens, some kind of energy is released which is rumoured to contain healing properties. People come from far and wide to visit the biodome hoping they will experience some of its benefits. Rosewater is the name of the town which has slowly formed around the biodome.

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Our guide to Rosewater is Kaaro. At the beginning of the story he is working for a bank. It is quickly revealed that Kaaro is gifted with extra-sensory abilities. He is labeled “a sensitive” and can read people to such an extent that he is able to find things they are hiding. Intrigued yet? To say more would be to reveal too much of the story so I will end my brief summary here. Continue reading

Witches Abroad (1991) by Terry Pratchett

‘Forever didn’t seem to last as long these days as once it did.’

My recent re-read of Pratchett & Gaiman’s sublime Good Omens (1990) led me to seek out the Discworld books that were published around the same time, (give or take a couple of years). Witches Abroad is the twelfth Discworld novel and the third featuring the Witches, preceded by Equal Rites (1987) and Wyrd Sisters (1988). It stars Pratchett’s holy trinity of Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and Magrat Garlik.

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Witches Abroad opens with a death. Desiderata Hollow, witch and fairy godmother, bequeaths her magic wand to Magrat Garlik before she passes on to the undiscovered country. This leads to Magrat becoming fairy godmother to Emberella, a young woman who lives in the land of Genua, far across the Disc. Now responsible for young Emberella, Magrat must journey to Genua and help her get out of an impending, unwanted wedding. Not trusting Magrat with the responsibility of her new role or her new wand, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg insist on accompanying her abroad. Continue reading

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume Twelve (2018) Edited by Jonathan Strahan

 

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Background

The Best SF&F Volume Twelve contains 29 short stories of genre fiction selected by Jonathan Strahan. I was so impressed with last year’s Volume Eleven that I didn’t hesitate to buy this new Volume Twelve when it was released in March 2018. It is another high-quality collection in which every story deserves to be read. Authors include Charlie Jane Anders, Samuel R. Delany, Greg Egan, Dave Hutchinson, Caitlin R Kiernan, Yoon Ha Lee, Max Gladstone, Alastair Reynolds, and many more.

In his introduction, Strahan offers some of his highlights of the year including the resurgence of “the novella,” which suggests that readers are keen to read more short fiction. Strahan recommends Tor.com for the regular “free” short stories it provides. He also comments on the continuing quality of such monthly publications as Lightspeed, Asimov’s, Interzone, Uncanny, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and more. Continue reading