I’ve bought so many books in the past few months, going back to a Thanksgiving trip to Lincoln City, I couldn’t begin to list them all. So much great stuff, though. Even more than usual, my reading has been fragmented. A bit of this, a bit of that. Two or three novels at a time, maybe a non-fiction book on the iPad, and multiple short story collections going all at once. Plus, I usually listen to an audiobook during my commute, generally something “light” or pop-fiction-ish, because it’s too hard to listen to complex, literary or multi-threaded stuff while driving. Some current and recent items of note include:
Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand
This is my “main read” at the moment, a fascinating and strange novel, but not strange in the usual Elizabeth Hand way. This feels creepy, disjointed and somewhat horror-like, despite the apparent absence of any supernatural or “speculative” element. It’s basically the story of a very troubled woman who used to be a photographer, but whose life has degenerated in various ways to a point where she not only can’t practice her art any more, but can’t relate to or interact with people in any kind of functional way any more. She gets an offer to go interview one of her heroes, a reclusive and strange, and also somewhat broken and unproductive, photographic artist on an island in Maine. As I said, though this is published by Small Beer Press (Kelly Link’s own imprint) there seems to be nothing fantastic, unreal or supernatural going on. Just a lot of weird, troubled people in interesting circumstances. I’m enjoying this as much as any novel I’ve read in the last few years.
Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Another “top recent novel” experience for me, this one I stretched out over a long period of time, though it’s not long. I’ve read some other things, such as John Scalzi’s novel Old Man’s War, which obviously derive from this, and yet Forever War was so well-done, strongly characterized and confidently executed, it felt completely fresh to me. So often as I go back through classics of science fiction and fantasy, I find the quality of the writing to be very poor. It’s wonderful to find someone writing clear, expressive prose. When I read Joe Haldeman, I never find myself second-guessing the way he does things. He’s a writer I’ll definitely continue to explore in the future.
The Autopsy and Other Stories by Michael Shea
I saw Michael Shea read at the HP Lovecraft festival, and in fact my first exposure to his work was in Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound anthology, not long before the festival. I think I heard about this particular book, the beautiful Centipede Press collection, on Laird Barron’s blog, when he mentioned writing the foreword for this edition. When one of my own favorite new writers calls out one of his own influences and favorites, it grabs my attention. I almost didn’t go for this book because it’s very expensive, but I had some Amazon.com gift cards from Christmas and they were offering the book cheaper. I normally try to buy direct and support smaller presses, but nobody gave me a $125 gift certificate to Centipede Press. This is a beautiful book, so much that I’ll definitely give consideration to Centipede editions in the future. Well-bound, beautiful paper, very nice illustrations, enough that I really feel the book is worth the high price. What I’ve read so far leads me to believe I’ll really enjoy the rest of it. Shea writes with a strong, poetic voice, and the stories display a wild, energetic inventiveness. I’m holding off on reading the title story, for now. I’ve heard so many good things about it, and I want to save it.
There are many more (even just counting the highlights) so I’ll post this now, and do another installment or two soon.