Monday 12 December 2016

The Obelisk Gate

(September 2016)

Once more I find myself incapable of stringing together much in the way of coherent thought, though that's probably as much to do with the two-month gap between reading the book and writing this as much as anything else.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Heat, Flesh, Trash

Heat - Khairani Barokka & Ng Yi-Sheng (eds), 2016
Flesh - Cassandra Khaw & Angeline Woon (eds), 2016
Trash - Dean Francis Alfar & Marc de Faoite (eds), 2016
(July 2016)

Three 'urban anthologies' from Fixi Novo reviewed over at Strange Horizons.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Bookmark Five

Hello. It's been a while since we last spoke. Anything of note happen in the interim that we should be discussing? Geopolitically, like?

Wednesday 21 September 2016

The Kingdom of Speech

(September 2016)

Not a book so much as (very) long-form journalism, and exemplifying both the strengths and the weaknesses of the genre. I will refer you elsewhere for far more erudite refutations of Wolfe's linguistic scholarship than I could hope to manage. It should, however, be noted early that the concern of this book is only tangentially language; The Kingdom of Speech is really interested in how ideas are born, tested, and accepted or rejected. Almost by accident Wolfe gives us something far more interesting than his fatuously simplistic notions of linguistic evolution. Behold instead the 'Swinging Dick' theory of scientific advancement.

Monday 22 August 2016

United States of Japan

& The Man in the High Castle
Peter Tieryas, 2016
(August 2016)

The first time I read The Man in the High Castle was way back, before I ever imagined I might end up living in Japan. Reading it a second time, it became apparent that there was a hell of a lot I missed, in terms of both the Japan-related stuff and just as a side-effect of being younger and dumber. The plan, however, was merely to refresh my memory before moving on to United States of Japan, which is something of a tribute/homage/reimagining of Dick’s seminal work. I wasn’t really going to talk much about the latter, except to the degree it informs USJ.

Friday 19 August 2016

Voyage of the Basilisk & In the Labyrinth of Drakes

(August 2016)

I’ll refer you back to my previous comments about needing a bit of a breather after reading The Vegetarian, and what better way than with Marie Brennan’s Darwin genderswap mind candy? I mean, it’s a superior sort of mind candy, certainly, but it’s exactly the sort of world you can sink into without having to challenge yourself to analyse every detail, should you so wish. And I so wished.

Monday 15 August 2016

The Vegetarian

(August, 2016)

Neither a pleasant nor an easy read. Extraordinarily well written, but in many ways that just makes it worse.

Friday 12 August 2016

The Devourers

(July 2016)

Early (well, more like halfway through) contender for book of the year. There is so much going on here, so once I’ve given due prominence to the utterly raw and visceral nature of book as a whole, I’m going to retreat into a bit of philosophising while I try to get the rest of my thoughts in order.

Friday 29 July 2016

Saga & Sex Criminals

Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan, 2016
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
(July 2016)

I continue to love Saga. It is, as befits its name, now a sprawling soap opera of a thing with supremely engaging characters and at least two or three genuinely laugh out loud moments in each volume. Ghüs remains a joy every time he appears on the page, and god help me but Prince Robot is somehow hilarious, despite having proven to be an utter bastard.

Monday 25 July 2016


(July 2016)

The first of Womack’s Dryco series, or at least the first one he wrote. Ambient is the book to which Random Acts of Senseless Violence serves as a prequel, and while that story described polite society’s shockingly rapid descent into dystopia, the one we’re talking about here gives us the shit show already in full effect.

Friday 22 July 2016

Karen Memory

(July 2016)

A hugely enjoyable steampunk western, which inevitably leads me to draw comparisons with Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion, not least because that too was driven by a queer woman in her teens with a gloriously engaging narrative voice.

Friday 8 July 2016

City of the Iron Fish

(June 2016)

Gothic New Weird with a healthy dollop of bildungsroman and one of the most gratingly pretentious protagonists I’ve encountered since Catcher in the Rye. In fact, I’m not even sure it is a bildungsroman, but there’s such a strong connection in my mind between the annoyance I feel for both Holden Caulfield and Thomas Kemp, the narrator of this book, that maybe I’m just collapsing them both in to each other.

Monday 4 July 2016

The Book of the City of Ladies

(May 2016)

There is a woman who occasionally crops up on my twitter feed who spends a large part of her time responding to men with anime avatars asking “BUT WHAT HAVE THE WOMENZ EVER DONE FOR US?” by sending them explicit lists of accomplished women in science, politics, the arts, and such like. A service that is both valuable and depressing in its necessity. This book is basically the mediaeval version of that, made even more depressing because apparently we’re still having these arguments more than half a millennium later. Plus ça change.

Monday 27 June 2016

City of the Beasts

(May 2016)

Back when I was a teenager and still took rugby, or indeed anything other than childcare and the concomitant challenge of trying to fashion some sort of ‘me time’, seriously, the two best clubs in England were Bath and Leicester. Growing up near the latter, they were, and still are, my team of choice (indeed, I was briefly a member of their protozoan academy, in the brave new world of those immediately post-amateurism days). While the Underwood brothers were clearly the star attractions, the members of the ABC club (the world being neither brave nor as yet new enough to convince the Tigers to adopt numbers instead of letters on their shirts) were the kind of club stalwarts who inevitably rose to fan favourite status, and of whom none were more stalwarty than Darren ‘The Baron’ Garforth.

Sunday 26 June 2016

Love in a Fallen City

Eileen Chang, 1943-47 [Karen S. Kingsbury, 2007]
(April, 2016)

I read this straight after Occupied City, and to be honest I was expecting to get a bit more of a compare/contrast thing going. That I’m finding that harder to do than expected is, I guess, a function of the luxuries afforded by both time and distance, as well not living under an occupying military administration.

Monday 2 May 2016

City of Stairs

(March 2016)

In which I finally get around to one of last-year-but-one’s must-read books and it is every bit as good as everyone says it is. In lieu of anything approaching a reasonable amount of time to compose my thoughts, I’ll instead remind you all of the impromptu dance contest Pep and I held a few months back, and merely state that I concur with pretty much everything my more erudite and better informed friend had to say.

Saturday 30 April 2016

Occupied City

(April 2016)

The sequel to Tokyo Year Zero, and apparently the middle volume of a planned ‘Tokyo Trilogy’, though given the continued absence of a final volume it’s probably better if we don’t hold our collective breath on that score.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Open City

(March 2016)

A deceptively quick read, for all that this is a book that could never be accused of wearing its pretensions lightly. Never mind the quality, feel the research.

Thursday 14 April 2016

A Different City

(March 2016)

This was my first encounter with the extensive works of Tanith Lee, and was a slightly contradictory experience. There was a lot to like about the three slices of gothic horror in this slim volume, but by many of the metrics I’d usually apply when deciding if a book’s ‘good’ or not it comes up short. Of course, this also begs the question as to how reliable those metrics are.

Saturday 12 March 2016

A Tale of Two Cities

(March 2016)

I enjoyed this immensely, and am still rather surprised by that. Nothing like a bit of overwrought Victorian melodrama to stir the blood.

Monday 29 February 2016

No Ghosts in This City

(February 2016)

A slim and brutal volume of short stories in and about the Indian state of Assam. If, as I was, you are a little hazy on the details, Assam is in the North East of the country, in that strange island of India wedged above Bangladesh, and almost entirely sundered from the rest of the country except for a slim corridor along the Brahmaputra.

Saturday 27 February 2016

City of Illusions

(February 2016)

So then, Le Guin. The little corner of contemporary capital-C Culture I tend to most often inhabit might, for want of a better phrase, be designated as ‘Progressive Speculative Fiction’. A clumsy label, but you get the general idea. And within this niche the closest thing going to an unimpeachable godhead, a figure held in universal awe and reverence, is Ursula K. Le Guin.

Thursday 11 February 2016

Invisible Cities

(February 2016)

I’m just going to park this here, as another of the foundation texts for this month’s reading. Not going to do much more than that as, to be honest, I’m completely incapable of saying anything intelligent about it within the timeframe I’ve given myself. (Also, bronchitis). Let’s just say that, taking the project as a whole, I don’t think that will be a problem, so I’m just going to leave a space here for a link to the eventual summary where I’m clearly going to tie it all up nicely and we’ll all be able to bask in my powers of for-, and indeed in-, sight.

Wednesday 10 February 2016

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

(February 2016)

We’re going to kick off Arbitrary Theme Month with a couple of foundation texts, the cover blurb of the first of which informs us that it is “perhaps the single most influential work in the history of town planning.” Now, I realize that on first reading this sounds a little like being the most famous Belgian, but that in itself is a measure of how little thought we (still) seem to give one of the most important fields of human organization.

Saturday 30 January 2016

Native Speaker

(January 2016)

Kind of a novelty read this, in that I’ve just wrapped up almost a year’s worth of study on the Native Speaker Ideal and this seemed like an appropriate way to top things off. Also a great (by which I mean flimsy as all hell) excuse to start collecting these Penguin Drop Caps editions.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Forthcoming Attractions

Done! The deadlines are gone, dissertations submitted, and its all over bar the shouting/final marks. And what better way to celebrate than by catching up on all those books I've not been reading for the past three years? I'm pleased to announce that February will be Arbitrary Themed Reading Month here on this is how she fight start. Go on, guess what the theme is...

Monday 25 January 2016

The Sandman: Overture

(January 2016)

A surprisingly simple story told outstandingly well. Your sensawunda here in full effect, and more importantly it doesn’t feel spurious or unnecessary in the way a lot of the other outgrowths of the Sandman mythos have done. Beautiful stuff, even if I am unfortunately too far removed from the original series to pinpoint many, if not most, of the loose ends being tied up. Still, I suppose that’s the secret to good fan service, isn’t it? Throw it in in a way that doesn’t distract from the rest of the story or alienate the your less fanatical readers. Still disappointed by the relative absence of Death though, but then I always am.

Friday 22 January 2016


(January 2016)

Jackson! Hunt! Sixkiller! The adventures of our improbably monikered cyber-mystic park rangers continue apace, and I for one couldn’t be happier. 

Wednesday 20 January 2016

The Dark Defiles

(January 2016)

And so as winter sets in and the cold (theoretically) descends, I find myself yearning for the muscular embrace of a hefty slab of epic fantasy. Thus I finally get round to finishing Morgan’s A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy, which is clearly an explicit deconstruction of the genre so is all ever-so-slightly clever-clever, but also swords! and dragons! and blood oaths!

Monday 18 January 2016

A Room of One’s Own / We Should All Be Feminists

(December 2015)
(January 2016)

I read these and they were good and I sadly have very little to say about them that hasn’t been said many, many times already. If I had the inclination, knowledge, or talent I’d offer some thoughts on the differences and similarities between the two, and what that tells us about the progression of gender (and indeed racial) politics over the last century, but I regret that I find myself falling short on all counts. Nonetheless, both are clearly necessary, if in markedly different ways.

Friday 15 January 2016


(December 2015)

Oh, wow. This shouldn’t have taken me so nearly as long to finish as it did. Nothing to do with the book, sadly, which deserved much more concentration than I was able to give it, but such is life.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Lumberjanes / Saga

Noelle Stevenson et al, 2015
Fiona Staples et al, 2015
(November 2015)

Lumberjanes required me to get my eye in somewhat (expectations, etc), but now that I’m better acquainted with what I’m going to be getting I can honestly say that this is worth the hype. The second volume is even better than the first: heartful, intelligent, and just laugh-out-loud funny. I love this series.