Posts Tagged ‘speculative fiction’

1st March
written by Steph
By now apologies about sporadic postings here seem to be rule rather than the exception, which I truly am sorry about. It was really exciting to hear from so many of you regarding my last post where I outlined our plans for our RTW trip (and I promise I will respond to all of your comments and will certainly be emailing some of you too!), so even though reading has been somewhat sketchy around these parts of late, I am definitely hoping to cobble together some more pre-trip posts where I go into more detail about the various countries we plan hope to visit, as well as keep you all abreast of the less theoretical/research-based elements of trip planning as well. But of course, I know all of your are book-lovers at heart, so when I do have bookish content to post, I certainly will do that too! Now, is one such instance, because even though I have hardly read anything in the past three months, my gig reviewing things over at BookPage has made it so that I still read at least one book a month. In the case of March's issue, two books were simply irresistible to me, so I pulled double duty and covered something for both the fiction and the non-fiction section (a first for me!).

Look! A book! And I read it!

On the fiction front, I read and wrote about Heidi Julavits' trippy new novel called The Vanishers, which you can read here. This was my first Julavits novel, and boy was it weird! Given that I knew it revolved around psychics and astral adventures, I don't know why I ever would have thought otherwise, but this book really did surprise me at every turn. I think I really hit the proverbial nail on its head when I compared this book to the films of David Lynch, so if unusual, mindbending stories that question the limits of reality are your thing, this is the book for you.

I read this one too!

The Vanishers was a very good book, but my other read, I absolutely loved. I absolutely use nepotism to my advantage and put in a personal plea to the non-fiction editor to let me cover Jeanette Winterson's memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? and I have absolutely no regrets on that front. At a time where reading has often felt like a chore, this is a book I could not stop reading. Even though I was reading a completely unfancy galley copy of this book, I would cradle it like it was the most precious thing whenever I picked it up because there were times when I felt like I was staring into the very contents of someone's soul (perhaps my own?) as I read it. I seriously cannot say enough positive things about this book (if I could have its babies, I would!), but if you want to read some of my adulatory thoughts on it, you can check those out here. Ultimately, I may not read very many books this year, but I kind of think 2012 will be known as the year I read this book no matter how many other books I wind up finishing, so there is that. Hurrah for books! I'm desperately trying out many different books on a daily basis hoping to find one that sticks, so fingers crossed that one of these days you see me posting about something that I read for personal, not professional, reasons!
27th October
written by Steph

We don't feature a lot of sci-fi or fantasy novels on this site, which is kind of weird because Tony is something of a sci-fi aficionado. I, on the other hand, don't care for the genre very much. I don't know why, because I like science and I like fiction, but put the two together and it's like they repulse one another (or at least me!) and I want nothing to do with what you're offering. I have no idea why this is, because I like Fantasy well enough, so flights of fancy obviously don't bother me. But if your book involves outerspace or aliens, I will likely give it a wide berth. I do not, however, have an official stance regarding time travel: sometimes I like it (e.g., Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban) and other times, I hate it (e.g. The Time Traveler's Wife... though to be fair, the time travel was perhaps the thing I disliked least about that book!). So although I did not read and review Thomas Mullen's The Revisionists, Tony did, and I have to admit it actually sounds kind of cool. And since it seems to fall into the nebulous "speculative fiction" genre which, as Margaret Atwood informed us, is NOT the same thing as science fiction, nary a spaceship or alien is in sight! Huzzah! The Revisionists is one of those books that had a lot of pre-pub buzz, but I've not read many reviews of it since it's release, so if you were one of those people who was intrigued by the premise of one man being tasked to travel through time to ensure that the events of world history as we know them to have occurred (even the bad ones) do in fact happen the way they are supposed to, all so that we can one day reach a utopian future, then you'll want to check out Tony's review. Heck, this one sounds good enough that even if it had a laser or two, I would probably still read it! For a more in-depth review from someone who has actually read the book, check out Tony's review at BookPage here!
16th June
written by Steph

If I told you that while reading The Brief History of the Dead I had flashbacks to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road AND Jose Saramago’s Blindness, would that intrigue you or make you go running for the hills? I think my instinct would be to flee, since both of those books are so harrowing, thus those two allusions might not be the best, and yet there is no denying that I kept thinking of them as I read. I suppose that on the surface there are some similarities between the two and so the vague sense of déja vu that I experienced is not so ridiculous, but I will say that to those of you who are thinking of hightailing it out of here and reading about some fluffy beach reads instead, despite the company The Brief History of the Dead might keep, it’s really not a scary/super sad/depressing/horrifying read at all. Promise! In this book, Kevin Brockmeier takes the oft-proclaimed platitude that those who die are not truly dead so long as they can live on in the memories of others and makes it real. The world that he envisions is actually split into two: there is the plain of existence that we all know, populated with those who live and breathe; and then there is another place, the City, that is filled with all the people who once walked among us but have since departed. So long as there is at least one person on Earth who harbors a memory of them, even if it is lodged in the darkest recess of the mind, these “souls” will live on in the City. Rumor has it that a place exists beyond the City, but one only transitions to that place after all who knew them has died, and no one has ever returned to report back, and besides, the City churns with new arrivals each and every day so it is hard to keep track of where everyone winds up. Suddenly, however, the City begins to shrink, its population vanishing, people disappearing never to be seen again. As the City begins to tighten its perimeters and the populace dwindles, rumors begin to emerge of a worldwide plague back on Earth… (more…)