There are two books I’ve read recently that seem worth recommending to your attention. Although the authors and their works hardly to lack for people in conversation about them—at least in the first case, I seem to be quite late to the game, in internet time.
Genevieve Valentine’s Persona is one of the headline titles from new SFF imprint Saga Press. Valentine is already acclaimed for her previous novels, the oddball Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, and her feminist, literary, compelling fairy-tale retelling The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, and, with her run on DC’s Catwoman, seems set to make a name for herself in the world of comics as well.
Persona provides a fresh example of Valentine’s range and talent. It’s a near-future thriller set in a world where public-facing diplomacy has become a celebrity and ratings contest akin to a reality TV or a beauty pageant, and the major forum for international manoeuvring is a permanent United Nations assembly in Paris, and it runs a tight, tense course from start to finish.
Suyana is a Face—one of those public diplomats—for the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederacy. She’s spent her whole life behind masks, but the last thing she’s expecting is the assassination attempt that targets her on her way to a staged “date” with the Face of the USA. Daniel is a paparazzo on the run, looking for a break: he witnesses the first shot hit Suyana and finds himself going to her aid. After that, it’s conspiracies all the way down…
Persona is an intense novel, both quiet and furious in its own way. It works because of Suyana’s powerfully vivid presence, her layered complexity, and her deep, controlled anger. Daniel is a bit of a blank, and I cannot make the worldbuilding make sense for a near-future context, but Suyana? Suyana is several different kinds of amazing.
Make me sequels with more Suyana. Please.
Seanan McGuire’s Pocket Apocalypse (DAW) is the fourth and latest in her ongoing InCryptid series, and the second to star Alex Price, cryptozoologist. Alex’s family is on the unusual side, given that they’re dedicated to preserving people and animals most other humans consider mythical—or, in some cases, consider worthy of extermination. In Half-Off Ragnorak, Alex discovered his family wasn’t exactly unique in their conservationist approach: turns out his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, comes from a family in Australia that shares a similar approach. Now Shelby is asking for his help: there’s an outbreak of the werewolf virus in Australia—a virus with a 28-day incubation that affects all large mammals, and turns them into vicious killers—and her people have no experience dealing with it.
And island ecosystems are vulnerable things.
So Alex is off to Australia, to deal with his girlfriend’s relatives—who really don’t like him, and since most of them are heavily armed, that’s a problem—and murderous monsters that like to bite, when they’re not ripping things apart. Pocket Apocalypse is a fast, enjoyable novel, albeit one that’s a bit on the slight side. But it fits well with the tone of its predecessor, and offers a lot of fun along the way.
What are you guys reading lately?