glen

Feb 062017
 

Poor Rupert Wong is in it deep: his Boss has him by the short-and-keeps-you-in-hell, the Dragon King can’t be denied, and he just keeps on dying. It’s a difficult life, caught between the powers that be in Kuala Lumpur. Khaw’s book takes on a world where pantheons live side by side – without comfort – and, it seems, everyone’s due a trip through Diyu. The writing is … look, Khaw makes funny, ridiculous, terrifying, and mashups look easy, when it’s not. It’s bloody good, and Khaw is a writer to watch. Especially if you’re poor Rupert Wong. Dying. Yet again.

Feb 022017
 

This is my favourite read from 2016, hands down. Lee has created the most inventive space opera universe… imaginable. The Hexarchate is an empire who can alter the laws of reality by enforcing belief on a population: altering the calendar. The Hexarchate is brutal, and its six factions don’t even trust each other. A calendrical crisis forces the Hexarchate to unearth a long-dead General, Shuos Jedao — frozen as a ghost after massacring his own army, as a last-ditch gambit to save a critical fortress. The story gets odder and, yet, most comforting. It’s a mind-blowing read – and contains kimchi.

Jan 302017
 

 

Cat Webb/Claire North is angry – a good thing. She’s written this book that’s a little bit about everything – the end of the world, the world going to shit, our fears and hopes and dreams, and not a little kidnapping.

This book is a serious level up from Webb/North. It’s a little abstract, sensitive, and almost completely unputdownable and unsatisfying in the most satisfying way – you’ll want to read it again immediately.

Charlie’s new job is as Harbinger of Death. He goes ahead of Death – sometimes as a courtesy, sometimes as a warning, & makes the world a little bit better.

Jan 272017
 


What would you do if you were forgotten, fading from everyone’s memory – your parents, friends, lovers? You’d become a thief, of course, and do pretty much whatever you want. The external trappings of the world give you nothing and you give nothing back to them.

It would take something significant to get your attention and draw you in. Something like Perfection. The social network that makes you level yourself up – towards a goal of perfection. Hope loses someone to perfection, and decides to take it on.

Claire North keeps getting better. Keep your eye on her. Go buy this book

Jan 262017
 

 

A Closed and Common Orbit is a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt awkward, out of place, didn’t know what to say, or didn’t feel quite human. Chambers weaves two parallel stories, twenty years apart, into a gripping, wonderful story posing the questions (and daring you to answer differently) what it means to be sentient and whether or not your feelings – silicon, engineered, or womb-born – have the right to exist. It’s yet another enjoyable romp that isn’t afraid to grapple with big important things without beating you over the head with them – and makes it look effortless. More, please.

Jan 232017
 

Moreno-García has done something amazing: She’s made vampires interesting again, and in 2017 no less. She blends myth and legend from vampires across a range of cultures with commentary on race, class, and mental illness inside of modern Mexico DF. This is a creepy tale of a young man living on the streets after suffering massive abuse who manages to use what little he has to help another person, and gets sucked into an adventure that will bring together blood-drinking Aztecs, ancient wealth, and detectives through a rubbish dump of a heady conclusion. Moreno-García is excellent as always. Read it.

Dec 312016
 

Do you ever wonder when reading history how people felt at critical times – the English Civil War, the tensions leading up to the Great War, or the local citizens watching Perry sail into Edo harbour? Foreshadowing? Doom? Gloom? Or were people caught up in the day-to-day. I’m a bit afraid that we’re currently finding out, but I hope that I’m wrong.

In the midst of the BrexitTrumpPopulistApocalypse that’s been happening, however, there’s been some good stuff. It’s actually been a pretty good year for me personally – assuming that the end of the world doesn’t ruin it.

My personal life & my relationship with my spouse is excellent and keeps getting better.

I managed to visit a big range of countries – the US, UK, Ireland, Franc,e Germany, Bangladesh, Jordan, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thailand, and Spain. Seeing the outpouring of grief of the Thai people at the death of King Bhumibol was deeply affecting. Climbing to a 2,600 metre pass in Bulgaria was exhilarating. Most of those trips were for work.

I (with some sadness) left Bethnal Green Ventures mid-year and started a new job at Nesta which is challenging and exciting and actually pretty amazing.

Art happened

I really should point out my minor publications this year- the alt.Sherlock anthology came out with my short story “Half There/All There” and the follow up novella The Power of Media, but there were other books that I should really point out, that I haven’t managed to blog with all the life upheaval since leaving BGV

Books

A few books that you should really be reading include:

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, which is by far one of the most original, amazing things that I’ve read. It looks at perception, the nature of reality, politics, and is a damned fine story full of explodey space explosions to boot.

Don’t let goodreads lie to you – Rupert Wong, Cannibal Chef by Cassandra Khaw is not urban fantasy. It’s dark and weird and backwards and full of blood and a poor detective chef who keeps dying but isn’t allowed to and it’s great fun.

I re-read The Grace of Kings which I loved and followed up with The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu. The second book is just as stylised as the first, full of soaring prose and big ideas, and is such a joy to read – you could almost call it the perfect antidote to the tyre fire of 2016. Personal sacrifice based on honour, ideals, and the good of the many versus the good of the few.

The other top read this year was The Obelisk Gate, follow-up to The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. I’m pretty over epic style fantasy but Jemisin’s world-building and “you don’t get to vote on who gets to be people” continually breaks me.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia managed to make vampires interesting again. I wouldn’t trust them with anyone else.

Television and film

I haven’t (quite) finished The Night Of but it’s pretty amazing – not only due to the casting of Riz Ahmed and Michael K Williams. Ditto Black Mirror. Game of Thrones seems to be doing better now that it’s unfettered by the confusion going on in the books. Other than that… television hasn’t done that much for me. I enjoyed Stranger Things and the current series of Mr. Robot and Orphan Black but none of them really blew me away. I mostly loved Luke Cage but was a little frustrated that I felt like Luke Cage was more Luke Cage in Jessica Jones and Daredevil than in his own series.

Film-wise was much the same – Arrival and Rogue One did what they were supposed to do. I was a little frustrated with the over-hollywoodisation of the romance in Arrival but enjoyed it immensely, but mostly watch films on aeroplanes which is fine for the Marvel and Star Trek universes, sadly.

So that’s the year that was. Marked. Maybe the 100 word reviews will kick off again.

 Posted by at 02:24
Aug 292016
 

In a drowned world, there are the landlockers – living on the few bits of land remaining – and the damplings, surviving completely at sea. They meet, from time to time, in tidal zones. Callanish is a Gracekeeper – she buries the dead under the water and tends the birds who sing them to their final rest. North is a dampling circus performer – who sails the world sea with her bear and the rest of her company, trading their sweat for whatever the landlockers will share with them. The book unpicks culture and class; it is a gorgeous read which will haunt you.

Aug 262016
 

On the one hand, this is a twisty-turny noir tale, complete with mistaken identity, possibly corrupt police, and shadowy mob-style figures. Our narrator is a psychiatrist Dr. David Manne, is called in to give an opinion on temporarily committing a patient. From there things get strange. The other side of this book could range anywhere from someone unstuck in time to an examination of the question of what it means to be sane. The craft of this book is enviable – short sentences, uncovering just enough information to keep the page turning, but the possibilities and questions provoke deep, reflective thought.

 Posted by at 01:00
Aug 242016
 

This won the Kitschies last year, which should be enough to sway you, but in case not…

In a word, batshit.

Charmaine & Stan are living in their car as the world collapses around them. It’s somewhere between The Road and The Walking Dead, but they hear about Consilience: a social experiment which takes private prisons to a new level. You get to live for a month in a perfectly safe, perfectly sane mid-20th century dream suburb but you have to go and live in a private prison for each other month.

You can never leave.

Then it gets weirder.

 Posted by at 01:00