Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Books Yay!

This is a post in which I talk about books I’ve read recently that made me happy. And a few books I hope to read soon. Today, we go light on the critical analysis, heavy on the YAY.

I’m slightly behind the times, so I am, because the first book I want to mention is over a year old. Finally, finally, I had the chance to read Madeleine E. Robins’ third Miss Sarah Tolerance mystery, The Sleeping Partner.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Madeleine E. Robins’ Sarah Tolerance books, I envy you. You have the chance to read them for the very first time. Set in a very slightly alternate Regency London, they feature Miss Sarah Tolerance, a woman formerly of good family who lost her reputation and now makes her way in the world as an investigative agent. Point of Honor (2002) and Petty Treason (2004) were the first two: they fell out of print, but they’re available as ebooks and according to Amazon, Point of Honor may be coming back into print in 2013.

The Sleeping Partner is the best one yet, in my opinion, and I sincerely hope Robins goes on to write another.

The second book I’m in love with lately is Kari Sperring’s The Grass King’s Concubine. I have a review of it in September’s, in which I… well, to be honest, I gush. Gushingly. I’m too much in love with the whole to notice any flaws of the parts: it’s a novel that manages to be concerned with social change and the problems of poverty, wealth, and labour, and at the same time immensely engaged with the numinous and otherworldly. The strange remains strange.

It doesn’t hurt that I found it beautifully written, either.

I’ve been behindhand in reading women lately. It’s been a good season for the lads—Stross, Aaronovitch, Hines; I picked up a copy of Pevel’s The Cardinal’s Blades and inhaled it—but I have a feeling I’m missing out on awesome new stuff by the ladies.

On the other hand, there is good news. Gollancz seems to have decided that now is a good time to add a few more female authors to their soi-disant “SF Masterworks” series. With the exception of Cecelia Holland’s Floating Worlds in 2011, and Joanna Russ’ The Female Man in 2010, the SF Masterworks series hadn’t added a new female author since Kate Wilhelm’s Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang in 2006. At least, not one that I can find still in print.

But the second half of 2012 and the early part of 2013 look set to change that, with Pat Cadigan’s Synners, Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary, Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite and Slow River, Rachel Pollack’s Unquenchable Fire, Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Sheri S Tepper’s The Gate to Women’s Country all either released or lined up for release before this time next year.

(Yes, my information comes mainly from Amazon listings. If it’s good enough for authors, it’s good enough for me.)

I hope to be able to cover at least some of these (the ones that Jo Walton hasn’t written about already, at least) in this space, time and money permitting. I’m very excited about the prospect of finally getting my hands on copies of Synners and Slow River. Feminist cyberpunk FTW!

While Ian Sales and company have been doing the work of heroes with the SF Mistressworks website, it’s satisfying in a small, quiet way to finally see the publishing mainstream extend a tad more recognition towards female names in genre history. It doesn’t rectify the serious imbalance that still remains in the Masterworks series: I’d like to see them do better with representing the female contribution to the genre. But it’s better than they’ve done to date, and I hope to see the “Masterworks” do better still in future.

What else is recent (using recent in a loose sense) and notable and making me happy? If I were more of a short story person, I’d pay more attention to short fiction. But someone waved Alex Dally McFarlane’s “Feed Me The Bones Of Our Saints” two-parter in Strange Horizons under my nose, and I fell for it, hard. It is not a nice story—nor, indeed, a perfect one—but it stuck its claws in my chest and now it’s there to stay, along with Claire Humphrey’s “Nightfall in the Scent Garden.”

What’s recent and notable and making you happy, O friendly readers? Spread the joy and the awesome…

…At least, if you feel like sharing.


Photo by Gabriele/Unlucky13teen.

Liz Bourke has been reading fewer books than she’d like lately.


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