The Return of Fitzroy Angursell, by Victoria Goddard (2020, fantasy). Oh my goodness, I loved this. So, so good, and tremendously satisfying. It ties together several threads from The Hands of the Emperor in a delightful, rewarding way. (Also glad I happened to read Stargazy Pie before this, though I’m sure it would have been fine either way.) Looking forward to reading all the rest of Goddard’s many books.
Anxious People, by Fredrik Backman (2019, fiction). I read this for book group. It’s a little batty. Liked it, especially the humanity that comes through, and the fourth wall breakage was fun. This was my first time reading anything by Backman, though years ago I watched the 2015 film adaptation of A Man Called Ove, and a few days ago I saw and loved A Man Called Otto. Noting here that suicide is a recurring theme in both Backman stories, which of course made me think about my dad.
My tastes in film have shifted, by the way. Where I used to prefer sf&f and action, now those almost always feel silly and cringey to me; instead I find myself craving realism, where it seems easier to find good writing and acting. (Whether that’s actually true, I don’t know. I may be biased here by having recently watched Moneyball and now A Man Called Otto.)
The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis (1945, fantasy). Reread. In fact, according to my log I’ve read it at least three other times, which is a relatively rare thing for me. (I prefer to read books I haven’t read before.) I wasn’t sure how this one would hold up given that it had been seventeen years since I last read it, but it was still good. A little weird here and there, but mostly good. I still love the idea of heaven being more solid and real than this world, and the core message — learn to love God above all else — is still as relevant as ever.
Losing the Long Game, by Philip Gordon (2020, nonfiction). A review of U.S. attempts at regime change in the Middle East (Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, etc.), from the angle that whenever we intervene, it ends up making things much worse. Color me convinced.
Memories of Ice, by Steven Erikson (2001, fantasy). Very long (around 1,400 pages) but oh so good. The writing really, really works for me (tight and well-crafted and witty) and feels more real than most fantasy I’ve read — more anchored in physicality, with characters who feel like real people. I’m convinced, too, that Erikson’s archaeology background is one of the main things that makes these books such a good fit for my brain. Looking forward to continuing with the series — and hopefully it doesn’t take me nine years to get to the next one like it did this time.
The Girl Beneath the Sea, by Andrew Mayne (2020, thriller). Enjoyed it. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series and other books by Mayne.
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt (1992). I’d say this is dark academia, though there’s not actually much schoolwork in it. The story was compelling and uncomfortable, like watching a train wreck. Here and there I felt like I myself was the one who had committed murder (which is how I felt when I read Crime & Punishment). The mountain part kept reminding me of my dad’s suicide in the mountains and the subsequent manhunt. On a happier note, the side of me that almost became a classicist enjoyed the occasional Greek and Latin. I wish there had been a lot more of that.
What Moves the Dead, by T. Kingfisher (2022). A creepy novella based on Poe’s story “The Fall of the House of Usher” (which I haven’t yet read). Enjoyed it, especially the mycological angle, which reminded me a bit of VanderMeer’s Annihilation and Borne.
Ways of Being, by James Bridle (2022). Wow, what a fascinating book. Loved it. It’s nominally about artificial intelligence but (to me, anyway) it was much more about other types of intelligence in the world — animals, plants, etc. Things like plants being able to hear and remember and move around (at a population level, anyway), early hominids, Archaea, bee swarms, and esoteric programming languages. One of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while. The point about corporations being a form of artificial intelligence has especially stuck with me. Recommended.
Cage of Souls, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2019). I’d heard good things about this, and for me it delivered. Really liked it. Some very interesting ideas (including a few I wish had been explored in much more detail). More variety in the story than I was expecting after the first few chapters, too. A compelling read.