Saturday, 27 May 2017

Human Acts

(May 2017)
  


Despite the facts that South Korea is just across the water from the island I currently call home, and that aspects of its history loom (disproportionately?) large in the realm of Japan’s diplomatic efforts, I understand its recent past in only the broadest of strokes.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Full Fathom Five / Last First Snow

Max Gladstone, 2014/2015
(April 2017)
  


OK, so I’m aware that there’s a sixth installment of the Craft Sequence coming out later this year, but I think I’m going to hold off on the rest for the immediate future. I think Gladstone is better at ending books than beginning them.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Gone to the Forest

(April 2017)
  


Bouncing into this straight off The North Water is not something I’d necessarily advise to anyone else, as both are short but well crafted stories about unpleasant people in unpleasant places doing unpleasant things. I’m also not entirely sure what either book was trying to say.
  

Friday, 21 April 2017

Dark Tales

(April 2017)
  


A new collection of short stories from Shirley Jackson, most of which have previously been printed in other collections, and I think all of them first appeared in various periodicals during the 1950’s. Annoyingly, I think the latter form of publishing does more for them than anthologizing them together like this, as en mass it becomes clear that the writing, or more specifically the plotting, can be fairly formulaic. In many ways the biggest weakness of this collection is the collection.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Hotel Iris

Yoko Ogawa, 1996 [Stephen Snyder, 2010]
(March 2017)



Odd little Lolita-esque novella about a bored and repressed high school dropout getting into a sadomasochistic relationship with an elderly man. Divertingly uncomfortable in and of itself, but to be honest the thing that sticks in my mind the most is how the blurb on the back gives away plot points that don’t occur until three pages before the end. I get that the constant cry of “Spoilers!” can be pretty tedious, but really. Three pages from the end.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Three Parts Dead / Two Serpents Rise

Max Gladstone, 2012/2013
(March 2017)
  


Welcome to the Craft Sequence, I guess. Good, solid secondary (?) world urban fantasy, featuring lawyer-wizards, gods, and disaffected wage slaves. It’s kind of addictive, so I’m probably going to work my way through the first five books in fairly short order (the sixth is due out this autumn). More thoughts on the deeper meanings of this blend of High Fantasy and Late Capitalism when I’ve got it all under my belt, as I’m not entirely sure it’s all working quite as it should just yet. Short term, however, I’ll merely state that Three Parts Dead is a better book than Two Serpents Rise: the central character is more compelling, the philosophical editorializing is less intrusive, and the story is less reliant on a fairly predictable face-heel turn. As I write this I’m partway through Full Fathom Five, and while some of these flaws are still evident, I’m pleased to report that for the most part things are definitely moving in the right direction.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Record of a Night Too Brief

Hiromi Kawakami, 1996 [Lucy North, 2017]
(March 2017)



On the one hand, I loved this, on the other, I found myself in a broadly grudging agreement with Ishihara Shintaro, which those of you who know me (and him) will understand is not a position I ever really wanted to find myself in.