Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me GoI wasn’t going to recommend this book, but there are a few things that have led me to change my mind and this recommendation will be a bit different that any of my previous ones.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is not like anything I’ve really read before. In a way, it seems like a combination of several books I’ve read but with a little something extra (or omitted). This book was released in 2005 and was later adapted into a 2010 film.

Kazuo Ishiguro is a name that came onto my radar several years ago but I had never read any of his work. I can’t recall exactly how I came across his name. It could have been from others talking about his books or the fact he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, but now that I’m actually trying to recall how his name came to my memory I think it was some association with Neil Gaiman.

However it happened, I knew of him as a respected author and therefore picked up Never Let Me Go from a library book sale simply because I wanted to eventually read some of his work. Ironically enough, I recently finished a book of nonfiction by Margaret Atwood where she actually discussed this very book. I realized I had it on my shelf and it became my next read.

I enjoyed the book because it was well written and it held an underlying mystery throughout that kept you interested in the story. The book technically would fall into a science fiction dystopia category considering the subject matter, but I will get into that a bit later. For now, I will supply a brief summary adapted from the book itself:

As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at an exclusive English boarding school called Hailsham. It was a place of mysterious rules. Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman and Ruth and Tommy have re-entered her life. She begins to look back at their time at Hailsham and comes to understand how they were special.

As I said, the story is written well and there is enough mystery to keep interest, but it can be considered a bit slow story-wise despite being a fairly quick read being just shy of 300 pages. Here is where this book recommendation goes off my regular pattern. After this paragraph, I will include spoilers so if you want to stop here and enjoy the book yourself, please do so and I bid you happy reading. If you have already read the book or don’t care much about spoilers, then feel free to read ahead. Continue reading

In Other Worlds

In Other WorldsIn Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood includes three previously unpublished lectures, several book reviews, and a few miscellaneous discussions. I would state the core theme of this collection, aside from the obvious one of SF, would be Utopia/Dystopia. These are often labeled as sub-genre of SF and Atwood gives them a unifying name of Ustopia as she argues that every dystopia has elements of utopia and vice-versa.

Her lecture “Dire Cartographies: The Roads to Ustopia” focuses on these themes and goes in depth into her thoughts on them as well as the history of how they became such a popular way of storytelling. Many people consider her novel The Handmaid’s Tale a dystopia. She neither agrees or disagrees, because she argues that everything within the novel could have been found in the world at the time she wrote it in 1984-85.

As with collections like these, and perhaps one of my favorite parts of reading collections, is that I discover books I had never heard of before and which were influential to authors I respect and admire. There were several in this collection I was glad to discover and have added to my ever-growing to-read list. Interestingly enough, many of the books mentioned in this collection that I hadn’t known were written in the late 1800s. She also has a few, fun sections about H.G. Wells.

Atwood discusses how she first became a fan of SF, which started as a young, voracious reader who would read anything and everything she could when such materials were sparse during the second World War. She often created her own fictional characters and adventures during this time. Thus begins the life of a writer.

There are a few shorter discussions near the end of this collection that comment on the covers of the SF magazine Weird Tales during the 1930s and beyond. She lightly delves into the known history of SF using stereotypical male and female images and plots. Many of which are the stories that failed to endure. Speaking of covers, the cover of this book surprised me a bit. The more I look at it the more confused/intrigued I become.

This book is dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin, who has argued that Atwood actively tried to not label her works as SF despite the fact they contain primarily SF elements. I don’t think this is a dig or critique by either author. It seems like they had a large amount of respect for each other. I honestly wonder what type of relationship they had, if they had a personal relationship at all or if it was merely professional. I may look into this at some point as they are both talented authors who have created amazing works while persevering through a time when SF wasn’t considered literature (the argument is still ongoing) and when there were little-to-no women who were writing SF. I believe they have both become larger-than-life figures and an inspiration to many people around the world.

I know collections such as these aren’t usually a typical read for many people, but I think this one would be fun for anyone interested in the subject of SF or are fans of Atwood. The nice thing about collections is the ease of reading. You can pick them up and read one or several and put it down. Perhaps you’ll give this one a try.

Happy Reading.

Who Said You Should Never Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Yeah, yeah, there is that old saying (which is true), but I thought I’d list books whose covers I think are beautiful, made me pick the book up initially, or I simply like. There are often several variants to book covers based on editions, reprints, etc. The cover is meant to entice you or else they wouldn’t spruce them up. I’m a sucker for cool artwork too. Here are several that I enjoy.

The Sword of Angels

Sword of AngelsThis cover is actually the reason I picked up this trilogy by John Marco. I saw this cover, thought it looked cool, found out it was the third book in the series, and went on to buy the first book. I need to re-read this series since it has been (I believe) over ten years since I first read it and a fourth book has been released since then that continues the story of one of the main characters.

Exhalation

ExhalationAnother simplistic cover that goes along with an equally simplistic yet mysterious title. This collection of short stories, and one novella, by Ted Chiang is a great read for any SFF fans or if you like stories that make you think.

The Faded Sun Trilogy

The Faded Sun TrilogyI picked up a copy of this trilogy in one volume a long time ago. The cover was of course a factor. I had no idea who C.J. Cherryh was but she has become an author whose work I really need to look into, which of course means I have yet to read this trilogy. I have a lot of books on my TBR and I will get to them eventually. I’ve been trying to read through the books I have and purchase fewer books.

Memories of Ice

Memories of IceMemories of Ice is actually book three of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. This is the first on this list of books I picked up because of the cover but have not yet read. The Malazan series is a larger series and I currently have the first five books. I plan to read them some day, but I just haven’t gotten around to it just yet.

Norse Mythology

Norse MythologyOkay. There are a lot of different versions, retellings, and of course covers of the Norse Myths. The cover I refer to specifically is a recent retelling by Neil Gaiman. I think the cover is fantastic and we get a few versions of it. One for hardback and one for paperback. I have a copy of both mainly because I happened to get an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the paperback, which honestly is the cover I like best. I think there are a few other variants of the hardback cover (which is different from the paperback version you see here) but they are different color backgrounds including black, white, and red.

Fahrenheit 451

FahrenheitFahrenheit 451There are a lot of different covers for Fahrenheit 451 as it has become a classic and is taught in schools. I particularly enjoy the simplistic 60th anniversary cover as well as the Folio Society version which I recently acquired.

A Memory of Light

The final installment of The Wheel of Time. This cover actually holds more significance because it comes at the end of a long journey and holds the fates of many beloved characters, which makes this cover perhaps the only one on this list linked directly to the story it tells. I’m sure there will be many new covers for the books in this series as time goes on and as the television series releases, but the original (to me) will always have a certain appeal.A Memory of Light

Too Like The Lightning

Too Like The LightningI purchased this book from a big sale my local library puts on every year so I was able to get it really cheap. I picked this one up for two reasons. The cover, and the fact that it made a bit of a wave when it first released however many years ago that was (it was 2016). I believe this is the first of a four-book series by Ada Palmer with the first three currently available, which is a good reason for me to wait a bit longer to read this book as I prefer to read series that are complete since I often need to re-read the first books when a new installment comes out if it has been a while since the initial read.

The Stormcaller

The StormcallerLike The Magician, this cover is for the first of a series that caught my eye. I think the artwork on all the covers is great, but this one made me give the book a try. I read the first three of the series by Tom Lloyd and then stopped as the final two books had not yet released. I plan to return and re-read the entire series some time.

The Magician

Magician Raymond E FeistI remember this one distinctly. I was in high school and about to go on a small trip to visit family when I picked this one up. The version I bought was actually two books in one and was my introduction to Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga. I have read the saga but have not read much beyond the core books and into the ever expansive world(s) contained in the larger Riftwar Cycle. I picked up the book for my trip because the cover did interest me, especially at the age of 15 with the image of the wizard, and I always enjoy magic.

All Systems Red

Last but not least, The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I absolutely adore this series and have also loved the cover art for each book. Network Effect is the fifth installment that was released earlier this year, and we will get the sixth book, Fugitive Telemetry, next year.

Murderbot Series

The Demolished Man

The Demolished ManThe Demolished Man by Alfred Bester was the winner of the first Hugo Award for best novel in 1953. I first discovered this novel when taking David Mamet’s Masterclass so I added it to my list and recently got around to reading it. I read it in a few days. This book is a fairly quick read and is between 200-250 pages depending on the edition you choose. The writing and story entice you to keep reading.

To put it simply, this book is a futuristic crime novel that takes place in the 25th(?) century where humanity has colonized Venus, Mars, and a few moons of Jupiter. Part of the population can read minds which is considered common within the story. The development of reading minds is the reason has been zero acts of murder in over 70 years, but the main character, Ben Reich, plans to commit this crime.

The pacing is excellent. The language reads fairly modern despite the 70 years that have passed since it was written. There were several times where I read some dialogue in the the trope-like way of speaking attributed to that era (“Listen here, see..”), which is likely attributed to the few slang words used. However, this book has held up incredibly well and doesn’t quite have that nostalgia feel you can get from older science fiction stories.

There are a few other elements of the time that I believe impact the story which some readers may find unpopular today. I won’t detail anything here since it could skew your impression of the book and I would hate for that to happen, but I will say that I understand when this book was written so I let a few things slide as part of those times. Just know that the things I’m referring to are not blatant and shouldn’t impact your enjoyment of the story.

I’ll definitely be looking into Bester’s other novels. The Stars My Destination will likely be the next I read. I’m also interested to check out his short stories as well. I may never have discovered Alfred Bester if I hadn’t made a note of it from Mamet’s class. I’m glad I did. I find I often learn of great books from small comments or references like that. Which may be the reason I started recommending books on this blog, so that you may discover some of your favorite stories.

Happy Reading.

Wanderers

WanderersSo……Wanderers by Chuck Wendig is a great book, but I probably should not have read it in May of 2020 (though it was first published in July of last year). Simply because the state of the world is kind of shit right now. Though I am recommending this book, I am also recommending that you put it on your TBR list and read it when the world gets back to some form of normal (especially if you live in the United States). I will, as always, keep this spoiler free. Here is a look at the back cover:

“Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange illness. She appears to be sleepwalking. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. Soon Shana and her sister are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And, like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family. As the sleepwalking epidemic awakens terror and violence, and as civilization collapses, the secret behind this phenomenon will either tear society apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.”

On V.E. Schwab’s No Write Way interview series, Chuck Wendig called this novel his love letter to Stephen King’s The StandWanderers was often compared to The Stand since its publication and I can see why. (I have not yet read The Stand but will likely read it at some point. I started it once and gave up after about 70 pages. Apparently the first 150 pages are character introductions and I kept waiting for things to kick off. Granted, the book is 1200 pages. I just couldn’t get into at that time.)

One little warning though: this book does take a bit of a dark turn. It was somewhat expected to happen, but a certain scene really rattled me. A friend of mine really likes Stephen King, he has read The Stand and he did state it also gets really dark, and I’ve already recommended this book to him. Because despite the dark times, there is a lot of great things happening and the story is worth the read.

Wanderers is a large book at 800 pages, but the pacing is extremely well done and the writing, much like Stephen King’s, is easy to read. Not simplistic, just easy to dive into and keep going (the true mark of a master of the craft). Of course, I liked some characters more than others and at times didn’t much care about one or two story-lines, but they all wrap together to make one overarching, impelling story. The characters are also not all introduced at once, but brought in at various stages and without creating a overwhelmingly large cast. Again, this ties back to the great pacing and intrigue of the story.

You can tell Chuck put a lot of research into making this story plausibly realistic in regards to how diseases spread, impact the world, and how organizations like the CDC combat and investigate such threats. It’s always crazy to be reminded that a tiny virus or disease can threaten a species, including the human race (even while we are living it, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic though of course the book’s disease is much worse). I can almost guarantee you will not be able to predict what happens throughout this book, which is a good thing.

My uncle actually bought me a copy of this book, of which I am thankful, and I read it in about a week and a half (the story/writing will pull you in). My reading speed has really increased this past year. If you are up for an epic, apocalyptic-esque mystery, then pick up Wanderers. Maybe just wait until the current pandemic has passed.

Happy Reading.