Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun book coverShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe is a collection of short stories by various authors who have been influenced, professionally or personally, by the literary master that is Gene Wolfe. The collection also includes two short stories not previously published by Gene Wolfe himself. This collection was released in 2013 and several of those who contributed are authors I really enjoy, and there were many I had never read before but will likely look into their work after reading their stories in this collection.

What I really enjoyed about this collection, ironically enough, were the unintended stories. Each author who contributed a short story also provided a short commentary about Gene himself, which really gave this collection its intended purpose. Yes, each story was inspired by or related to Gene’s work with several even taking place within a world Gene created or included characters he imagined, but it was amazing to see how Gene influenced each storyteller. Many knew Gene personally and had fun stories to tell about him or something he did whereas a few had never met him in person but had an anecdote to share nonetheless.

To my knowledge, there currently are no biographies about Gene Wolfe, though I hope one does come out as I would love to know more about him. Gene passed away in 2019 at the age of 87. I wish I had discovered his work before his passing, but that is the great thing about books. You can discover and be greatly influenced by works written years, decades, or even centuries before. Some say history has a way of filtering the mass amounts of art and only allow the best to persist through the ages. I would not be surprised if Gene Wolfe is read for centuries to come. His work has found me and will persist at least throughout my lifetime as I will continue to read everything of his I can find. I chanced upon this collection at my local library’s annual book sale. Some of the best books are those you find by chance. In fact, many authors in this collection found Gene’s work by chance, and they recognized it as uniquely masterful upon discovery. I had the same experience and his books quickly became treasured tomes on my shelf.

If you have yet to find Gene’s work, perhaps this can be your reason to give it a chance. I hope you like it if you do.

Happy Reading.

8 More Short Story Collections

I recently started a short story collection and thought it might be a good time to provide a list of several collections I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’m not sure why, but with fall coming up, I feel like it is a good time for short stories. Perhaps it is because I am starting my final few classes of (probably) my final academic degree, and short story collections are excellent for busier times. You can focus on coursework, or work-work if your job gets busier this time of year, but still fit in some reading and try new stories. They are also great because you can pick them up and put them down easily without losing your place. You can slowly go through a collection over months or years, or read them all in a weekend. You may love some but not like others, but there always another new one on the next page. So here is a shoutout to an underappreciated form with several collections I enjoy.

This is “eight more” list because I posted “8 Short Story Collections” earlier last year. Feel free to look at that list as well.

Shadows of the New Sun book coverFirst, the collection I just started is Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe. I found this gem at my library’s annual book sale having never known it existed before. I am a big fan of Gene Wolfe and this collection features two short stories of his and stories written by other writers who were influenced or had personally known Gene Wolfe. Each story has a short description of how the author knew Gene and how he influenced their writing careers or personal lives. I’m only a few stories in, but several other authors I like have stories in this collection including Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, and Timothy Zahn to name a few.

Neil GaimanSpeaking of Neil Gaiman, who has several collections of stories, he also had The Neil Gaiman Reader come out roughly a year ago which contains many of his shorter works and excerpts of several of his novels. It is a great collection especially for those who have not yet read his work and want to try it out.

Stories of Your LifeNext, and I’m sure I’ve recommended this before, is The Story of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Chiang has become one of my favorite, recent science fiction writers. As far as I am aware, he only has two short fiction collections currently published, but I eagerly look forward to more of his work.

Philip K Dick Classic StoriesI feel somewhat obliged to add Philip K. Dick in this list as well since I’ve read several collections of short stories by him. Some are absolutely absurd and others fall more into classic pulp fiction, but many are fantastic and make you think of the world in a different light. For this one, I will choose The Eye of the Sybil and Other Classic Stories

Cathedral book coverNext is another author known more for his short fiction than his other work, Raymond Carver. Though I really like “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” which is the title story of a collection, I’ve already recommended that collection before, so I’m recommending the collection Cathedral whose title story is also a great read.

In the Garden of North American Martyrs book coverAlso known for his shorter form is Tobias Wolff, who is one of my favorite short story writers. I am recommending his collection In the Garden of North American Martyrs. I like almost every story by Wolff and the title story of this collection is definitely near the top of the list if I had to rank his stories in order.

Interpreter of Maladies book coverThe Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is the next in the list. It has a been a long time since I’ve read this collection and my memory does not serve me well outside of the fact that it was a great read. I am even beginning to doubt I finished the entire collection but that only means I need to re-read it soon to better appreciate it.

The Best of Gene Wolfe Book CoverLastly, and returning to Gene Wolfe, is The Best of Gene Wolfe which is a great collection that exhibits many of his “best” works. I enjoyed most of these stories and it was definitely fun to read more of his work.

I hope that you give some of these a chance if you are not a regular short story reader. At the very least, I hope you go out and read a short story sometime soon. You can find many online for free, including my own which you can find here on my blog (I recommend Children of Changyang Mountain).

The Other Side of the Whale Road

The Other Side of the Whale Road Promotion BannerI’m happy to be part of the blog tour featuring The Other Side of the Whale Road by K.A. Hayton. Below is the official blurb for the book, and below that are my thoughts which are kept at a minimum to avoid spoilers but hopefully give you enough information about the book to help you decide if you would like to read it yourself.

When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a sleepy Suffolk village. The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to an Anglo-Saxon village. That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty invaders. Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time? And will he ever get home?

I think there are many good things happening in this book. A juxtaposition of different ways of life (present and across time), a troubled teen struggling to find his place in the world after being through the ringer of social services and a debilitated mother, and expectations fostered both internally and externally that are influenced by society. Overall, it is an adventure that touches on a lot of interesting points, a few I feel could have been explored further or in greater detail.

There were many things I liked about this book, but unfortunately several things I did not like about it, which was a bummer because I had high hopes for this story. Perhaps my expectations got the better of me this time around. The overall plot is good and it is easy to read. The time travel element is cool and interesting. I just had trouble personally connecting with the main character. This simply means that I didn’t enjoy the book as much as others will, and have, and that is okay. It could simply have been the fact that I was unable to connect with the sixteen-year-old Joss since I am now a crotchety old man at 30 years old (this is a joke…I think), or it could have been my perception that Joss never seemed at risk despite being placed in dangerous situations, or perhaps I don’t read enough young adult fiction to properly appreciate this story.

To put it bluntly, I think the real reason was simply how Joss treated the women he supposedly cares for within the story and the, albeit somewhat justified, chip on his shoulder. You might find Joss more interesting though and possibly enjoy this story much more than I did. I hope so.

The Other Side of the Whale Road releases on September 2nd.

Happy Reading.

House of Many Ways

House of Many Ways Book CoverHouse of Many Ways is Diana Wynne Jones’s sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle. However, much like the companion novel Castle in the Air, this book spends the first half following a new character without any connection to the world of Howl’s except where magic is involved. It is really just before the halfway point that we get to see the connection, which is primarily Sophie.

Our main character for this book is Charmain Baker, who I must admit is not a very likeable character (despite the fact she is an avid reader herself). She is tasked with watching over her great uncle’s magical house while he is away receiving medical treatment from the elves. She does grow throughout the book, as good characters should, but she is a bit self-centered in a way that doesn’t leave much room to connect. The overall story and magic are fun much like the previous novels so it is definitely worth a read, and it is always good to see more of Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer.

I am glad I decided to read the three Howl books in order of publication because the events of Castle in the Air take place roughly two years prior to House of Many Ways and a few characters show up in this final installment. Though it is not necessary to read Castle in the Air to understand what occurs in House of Many Ways, the experience is enhanced having read the companion novel first. In all honesty, I would dare to call this book a companion novel as well instead of a true sequel because it focuses on new characters and events quite outside that of Howl’s Moving Castle. Some of the locations and the magic are similar, but the same could be said of Castle in the Air. They are all linked but none are truly cohesive in a way you would expect of a continuous story. Howl, Sophie, and Calcifer are more support characters and the overall story has little to do with the first book.

House of Many Ways was first published in 2008. This is 18 years after Castle in the Air and 22 years after Howl’s Moving Castle (and 4 years after the Howl’s Moving Castle film). Despite the time between publications, these stories are all magical in their own way and read as if they could have all been written at the same time. Diana Wynne Jones was truly a gifted and magical writer.

Happy Reading.

Castle in the Air

Castle in the Air Book CoverCastle in the Air is another magical, wholesome story by Diana Wynne Jones. It was published in 1990 and is considered a companion novel (not a sequel) to her book Howl’s Moving Castle which was published in 1986. I wasn’t sure how it related to Howl’s because it had no real connection until about halfway through the book. The entire story has elements that reminded me of Aladdin, with a flying carpet and a genie, but then the second half enters a realm similar to Howl’s Moving Castle. Fans of both will likely love this book, as I did.

Overall, it is a fun read that gets better as you go along. I felt there was a slower period in the middle when things begin to transition, but the action ramps up and all the pieces fall together in the end. This is one thing I really enjoyed about this book. Things that occur in the first few chapters either persist or reappear in the end to show their impact on the overall story. Some of it is whimsical, sure, but there is never anything superfluous, out of place, or unexplained in a Diana Wynne Jones novel (at least from my experience). Though I expected this book to be entertaining, I was yet again surprised how much I enjoy Diana Wynne Jones’s work.

I must admit that I plan to read this book, and many others, to my kids as they get older. I think Diana Wynne Jones weaves incredible stories that children will love and us adults (aka physically grown children) also enjoy. I will be reading the true sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle shortly to complete the Howl’s “trilogy” and I will discuss that book here as well.

Happy Reading.