Goodreads winners and other good reads

What does it say about a writer who has read only one nominated book out of all the nominees in the categories of science fiction, fantasy and horror on the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2016? I read all the time, yet this list seems to indicate I am seriously out of step with the reading public. How did I miss Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which won for best horror? I admit I hadn’t heard anything about the winner in the science fiction category–Morning Star, by Pierce Brown, and I have nothing to add to the conversation about the winner for best fantasy novel in 2016,  J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Maybe there’s just so much great material out there I can plausibly argue that I read the “other” good books and stories that didn’t make the Goodreads’ list. I’m going with that theory.

In addition to my reviews here, you can find two “other” good reads I recommend on The Speculative Herald, where I’ve started contributing. First is Feedback by Mira Grant, a part of the Newsflesh series, and second is Josh Malerman’s novella The House at the Bottom of a Lake. This one truly is one of my favorites of the year. Read the ending carefully. Oh, and about that book I did read among the Goodreads’ nominees: it was The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, which is an outstanding second novel in a trilogy. My review here.

 

Passionate complications of love and hate elevate N.K. Jemisin’s novel The Obelisk Gate

obelisk_When I reviewed The Fifth Season, the first novel in N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, I focused on what the violence in the novel was telling us and how the idea of violence shaped the story and the reader. The second novel in the series, The Obelisk Gate, is about love and hate, the fundamental motivations for all actions. So, if you’re up for a conversation about that, read on–just know that there will be spoilers.

Our hero from the first novel, Essun, is still in the underground community of Castrima where we left her at the end of the first novel. She’s a bit lost herself because she lost her daughter’s trail and doesn’t know how to find her, but she also has found a few people (and others) who care for her, and a place in a community that knows she is an orogene and tolerates her presence nonetheless. Her old love Alabaster has made it to Castrima as well. He is dying after having caused the rift that has brought on a season of destruction, but he tries in his impatient, imperfect way to teach her what she needs to know to finish what he started. No, the objective is not destruction of the world. The objective is an end to the seasons and re-establishing the planetary balance that will make it possible for humans (and others) to thrive again.

The novel also follows Nassun, Essun’s only daughter and surviving child, on her journey south with her homicidal father. Nassun is just leaving childhood, physically, mentally and emotionally, and Jemisin does an outstanding job of portraying the capacities and vulnerabilities of a girl that age. We see her navigate the unstable terrain that is her father’s mind–a man who could bludgeon her three-year-old brother to death because he discovered the boy was an orogene, yet tenuously hangs on to Nassun to take her somewhere he’s heard she can be cured. Why? Love. Twisted, damaged and smashed love. Nassun valiantly attempts to keep the image of her father in her heart and mind despite what she knows about him. Why? Love. The other parent, Essun–the one who pushed her as a child, hurt her so she would know how to protect herself, the one who is not there–becomes an object of hate, though the child does not clearly acknowledge this as her fear and desperation turns her in that direction. Continue reading

Dip into the weird with The Fisherman by John Langan / Sumérgete en lo extraño con The Fisherman de John Langan

tf-cov300John Langan’s dark, despairing world in The Fisherman is full of ugly things you don’t want to find on the end of your fishing line. It’s weird fiction that stretches toward the literary with its rich descriptions, psychological underpinnings and complex narrative structure, but horror is its terrible (and fascinating) heart. It will keep you turning pages far longer than you planned.

The story is set in the dark mountains of the Catskills, and whenever I hear that word I think of Rip Van Winkle and the strange men he found in there, so my mind was already primed for weird things to happen in places where old Dutch place names are still thick. Langan certainly plays with these associations, but our protagonist Abe doesn’t go into these wild places to sleep. He goes to fish.

Abe lives in a small town and works for IBM. Because of his grief for his dead wife he is barely functioning and continues to sleep through his life until he takes up fishing. Catching fish and venturing into streams in the mountains seems to provide him the comfort he needs to try to pull it together. He casts his grief into the water like he casts his line–with patience and with curiosity to see what might take the bait. Be careful what you wish for! The adventure that ensues, eventually, forces Abe to wake up and shake off his grief or pay the steepest price.  Continue reading

A good season for second person POV: Of Sight, of Mind, of Heart by Samantha Murray

It’s been really hard for me to keep posting recently because I’ve been caught up with living, you know, and processing the political times we live in. Any time that I am too consumed with thoughts and actions in the here and now, my writing suffers, and because of my vow to never let the WIP work suffer, I had to leave the blog for a while. I’m not sure whether other writers (and readers) have this experience, but I am very conscious of how reality affects my thinking, my moods, and ultimately my writing. I am still wrestling with all of this turbulence, but I ran across a short story that inspired me to try writing something in second person point of view (POV) and, if you’re writing, you might find you want to try it, too.

There’s a fantastic little short story, only 2500 plus words, in Clarkesworld this month that inspired me both as a writer and a reader. “Of Sight, of Mind, of Heart” by Samantha Murray is a tender story of a mother reflecting on her firstborn child’s first year. The child’s development is spectacularly rapid. The reader realizes some unspecified deal has been struck between the mother and unseen authorities that has resulted in the birth of this child. There is a war. The world is threatened. The mother’s voice is laden with guilt, and love. Continue reading