Friday, July 21, 2017

Five SFF books written collaboratively

Andrew Neil Gray and J. S. Herbison are partners in life as well as in writing. The Ghost Line is their first fiction collaboration. One of their five best SFF books written collaboratively, as shared at Tor.com:
The Difference Engine by Bruce Sterling and William Gibson

What happens when two masters of the cyberpunk genre put their heads together? Surprisingly, not more cyberpunk. Instead, what emerged was this unusual novel that posited an alternate version of Victorian England. Here, experiments by Charles Babbage resulted in a successful early mechanical computer and a very different industrial revolution. Starring airships, spies, courtesans and even Ada Lovelace, the dense and complex story revolves around the search for a set of powerful computer punch cards.

Sound familiar? Not surprising: this collaboration helped bring the relatively obscure steampunk genre to wider popular notice and launched a thousand steam-powered airships and clockwork monsters.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Six robots too smart for their own good

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog Nicole Hill tagged six robots too smart for their own good, including:
Murderbot (All Systems Red, by Martha Wells)

Despite its chosen appellation, Murderbot is not actually a mass-murdering mechanical psychopath. No, it’s a security bot with a binge-watching addiction and a wit as dry as the Sahara. Who among us, after deftly hacking our governor modules, wouldn’t use our newfound freedom to endlessly stream soap operas? That’s the biggest evidence of sentience there is. That Murderbot holds humans at arm’s length—and would frankly prefer to be left alone—doesn’t stop it from protecting the humans in its charge when a threat strikes their scientific research outpost. It just makes their interactions awkward and complex in ways no episode of Sanctuary Moon could quite capture.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Top ten opening scenes in books

Catherine Lacey's most recent novel is The Answers.

One of her ten top opening scenes in books, as shared at The Guardian:
We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

“We are on our way to Budapest. Bastard and Chipo and Godknows and Sbho and Stina and me. We are going even though we are not allowed to cross Mizilikazi Road, even though Bastard is supposed to be watching his sister Fraction, even though Mother would kill me dead if she found out; we are just going.”

All I thought when I read this was, I’m going too.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fifty of the funniest books ever written

Whitney Collins is the author of The Hamster Won't Die: A Treasury of Feral Humor, creator of the website The Zen of Gen X. At B&N Reads she tagged fifty of the funniest books ever written:
Under the Frog, by Tibor Fischer

An audacious and daring black comedy that was the first debut novel ever to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog tells the dark but surprisingly funny story of two Hungarian basketball players, Pataki and Gyuri, between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. Determined to flee their pointless factory work, the two athletes travel to every corner of Hungary, oftentimes in the nude, on an epic search for food, women, and meaning.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Five books that resemble science fiction

Karen Heuler’s stories have appeared in over 100 literary and speculative magazines and anthologies. She has published four novels and three story collections with university and small presses, and a recent collection was chosen for Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2013 list. She has received an O. Henry award, been shortlisted for a Pushcart prize, for the Iowa short fiction award, the Bellwether award, and twice for the Shirley Jackson award for short fiction. Her new novella, In Search of Lost Time, is about a woman who can steal time.

One of Heuler's five favorite books that "stand at the doorway between realistic and speculative," as shared at Tor.com:
The Chess Garden by Brooks Hansen

Ostensibly a story about a doctor who went off to the Boer War and wrote back to his family describing what he saw, it amounts to a fantastic journey to a land where the Platonic ideals of things exist, and where if you destroy the original spoon, then spoons themselves cease to have any meaning. In fact, the journey is about enlightenment and death. The stories that are important to me are, indeed, all about journeys, whether interior or exterior, and the best ones unite these aspects. The Platonic spoon, the ability to destroy the idea of an object, has stayed with me a long time. We understand things only on the basis of the ideas we have about them. Give me something out of context and what will I do with it? Take away context, that’s what interests me. There’s a one- or two-page scene in this book where someone opens up the spigot of darkness, and can’t turn it off. Journeys in fantastic fiction turn the obstacles into metaphors, and in many cases, the goal as well.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, July 17, 2017

Six top books with remote settings

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer, her journal in two volumes (ed. Rob Neufeld). She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Godwin's new novel is Grief Cottage.

One of the author's six favorite books with remote settings, as shared at The Week magazine:
Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

A compressed, intensified masterpiece about living in extreme poverty on a London houseboat. When the novel won 1979's Booker Prize, the literary establishment was livid.
Read about the other entries on the list.

My Book, The Movie: Grief Cottage.

The Page 69 Test: Grief Cottage.

Writers Read: Gail Godwin.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels

Karen Runge is an author and visual artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is the author of the short story collection Seven Sins and the novel Seeing Double. One of her five (damn-near) perfect (dark) novels:
PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, by Patrick Süskind

“And suddenly solitude fell across his heart like a dusty reflection. He closed his eyes. The dark doors within him opened and he entered. The next performance in the theater of Grenouille’s soul was beginning.”

This is a story about a serial killer such as it has never been told before. What’s so magic about it is that the protagonist is utterly despicable, but… we like him? Despite his sad beginnings, he has exactly zero redeeming features—and yet… and yet… we admire him? Alright, we don’t like him—but we root for him. We don’t understand him—but we feel for him. It’s like falling in love with a narcissist. He makes us furious and desperate and sometimes downright disgusted, but we follow him around like a tortured puppy anyway.

I still cannot figure how Süskind got that right.

Grenouille is a hideous little creature with an extraordinarily refined sense of smell. There is no beauty in his world except for that gifted by fragrance, which he pursues heartlessly, almost in direct contrast to the beauty of the scents themselves. There is nothing admirable in him, except for his keen intelligence (he’s no fool) and this remarkable gift of his. When he discovers a way to capture the scent of human, feminine beauty, he goes from sociopath to psychopath, and there are no limits to what he’ll do to achieve his goal: create the greatest perfume the world has ever known.

I won’t embarrass myself by trying to pick this apart any further. It’s just too layered, too intense, too intricate. This novel stands alone, and has to be experienced first-hand by the reader.

Kudos to the translator. It can’t have been easy, working with words as full and dense as this.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Perfume is among Lara Feigel's top ten smelly books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Eight books about the horrors of adolescence

Sam Reader is a writer and conventions editor for The Geek Initiative. He also writes literary criticism and reviews at strangelibrary.com. One of eight books about the horrors of adolescence he tagged at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog:
Boy’s Life, by Robert McCammon

The best novel by that other ’80s horror headliner, Boy’s Life is as much an exercise in mourning the end of that nostalgic period of sun-drenched boyhood as it is a supernatural thriller about murder and monsters in a tiny Alabama town. In 1964, during a steamy summer feeling the heat of simmering racial tension and the awakening Civil Rights Movement, Cory Mackenson is living the life of a regular 12-year-old boy…until the lonely morning he and his father witness a car careening into a lake, their attempt to rescue the driver from drowning foiled by the fact that he’s already dead, and handcuffed to the steering wheel. That terrible incident marks the start to what turns out to be a quite literally magical summer for Cory—magic both wonderful and terrible, from unquiet ghosts, to bayou sorcery, to the possible appearance of a dinosaur at the local fair. It’s a book that speaks to that part of childhood that is willing to see the strange magic in the everyday—a part of us that rarely survives to adulthood, save in the minds of fantastic storytellers who strive to recapture it and put it down on paper.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, July 14, 2017

Five books with ambitious birds

Nancy Kress’s SF has won six Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the John W. Campbell Award. Her most recent book is Tomorrow's Kin, an expansion of the Nebula-winning novella “Yesterday’s Kin,” which takes the story forward several generations.

One of Kress's five favorite "birds that are more than warm-blooded bipeds—birds with ambition," as shared at Tor.com:
Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick

Here birds not only know more than us, they are us. Or, at least, our replacements as the dominant and most intelligent species on a far-, far-future Earth. A time travel novel that scrupulously, and ingeniously, accounts for all the paradoxes of bouncing around through huge numbers of millennia, Bones of the Earth creates sentient bird-descendants that live in nests (and messy ones at that), have irritable personalities, and don’t think much of us, who didn’t use our regency over the Earth to much good effect. Birds as scolding Oxford dons.
Read about the other books on the list.

Follow Nancy Kress on Twitter and Facebook.

--Marshal Zeringue

The fifty best works of historical fiction

At B&N Reads Tara Sonin tagged the fifty best works of historical fiction, including:
Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

This classic children’s novel won the coveted Newbery award for telling the story of two girls of different faiths during World War I who form an unbreakable bond and risk everything to save one another from the costs of war.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Coffee with a Canine: Lois Lowry & Alfie.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Top ten secrets in fiction

Eli Goldstone's debut novel is Strange Heart Beating. One of her ten top secrets in fiction, as shared at the Guardian:
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

A masterclass in spare horror. Claustrophobic and beautifully funny, it is a book to stay up all night with. Constance and Merricat are doyennes of the American gothic for good reason – agoraphobic, paranoid and homicidal. The villagers suspect Constance of murder, but there is more to these strange sisters than meets the eye. Jackson herself was a mysterious and solitary figure, accused of being a communist witch by her neighbours and apparently revelling like Merricat in a truly filthy house. Inspirational.
Read about the other entries on the list.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is among Stephanie Feldman's ten best creepy books, Lauren Passell's five top Gothic novels, and Will Eaves's top ten siblings' stories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eight top fantasy books about the end of magic

At the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog Jeff Somers tagged eight books that "assert that magic was real, but has faded or been destroyed," including:
The Magic Goes Away, by Larry Niven

The stories in this collection pivot on a simple but effective idea, straight out of a role playing video game: magic is fueled by a very real and very finite resource, known as mana. As magical spells are cast, mana is consumed—and as mana runs out, magic dwindles. As the energy crises in the real world made headlines, Niven returned to this concept and made the parallels more explicit, but the stories set in this universe all center on the basic problem: managing a limited resource on which the entire world depends for its normal functioning—an idea Piers Anthony, er, borrowed for his Apprentice Adept universe.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue