Sleeps With Monsters

Sleeps With Monsters: Catching the Stragglers from 2015

How many months will it take to get used to writing “2016” instead of “2015”? The annual complaint, adjusted for the year: as a child, I always wondered how the characters of the various Star Treks could keep their Stardates straight.

But before we ramble on into the meat of 2016 proper, there’re a few books from 2015 that I’ve only just caught up on, and that I really think you should check out.

I’m late to the party when it comes to Claire North: months and months late. Touch is the first of her novels I’ve ever read, and it’s her second novel under this nom de plume. (She’s also got an urban fantasy series as Kate Griffin, among other things, I believe). It’s an excellently taut thriller with one speculative conceit: what if there were people, beings, who could move into any body, live any life, with a single touch? The body’s original inhabitant remembers nothing between the touch and the being’s departure. Loses seconds or hours or days or years. The being known as Kepler is just such an untraceable ghost, and one of the more ethical of its kind—but now Kepler is being hunted by an organisation dedicated to the eradication of ghosts. An organisation that doesn’t care all that much about collateral damage.

It’s tightly-plotted, driven, tense, and brilliantly written. There are moments where the prose sits up and sings. Throughout, it’s saturated with a sense of not-quite-regret, a wistful ruefulness, that fits elegantly with the cathartic inevitability of its conclusion. Altogether a fantastic book.

Jenny T. Colgan is another pseudonymous author, although in this case, the pseudonym is as open as the addition of the middle initial T. Colgan is best known for her romantic comedy novels, which makes her latest, Resistance is Futile—a novel of mathematics, love, aliens, friendship, and the potential obliteration of humanity—something of a change. Connie is a successful mathematician, a young academic recruited to what she thinks is an excellent post-doctoral position at Cambridge. When she arrives, though, she finds that what she thought was a solo gig is actually a team effort—six academics, one long string of numbers, and some nondescript men in suits who want the mathematicians to make some kind of sense of the sequence for them.

Also on the project is Luke, a peculiar and awkward young man who’s another very gifted mathematician. He seems to know more than he really wants to say about the numbers they’re all working on. And when Connie figures out what the numbers mean, it turns out Luke’s fate is connected to the fate of the world…

Resistance is Futile starts out endearing, funny, and affecting in an understated sort of way. It builds depth and significance slowly, with an understated argument about friendship and authority, responsibility and power, veined underneath the lightly humorous touch. Its catharsis works itself out around love and hope and sacrifice, and for a novel that treads so close to tragedy, it remains surprisingly upbeat.

Plus, you know. Humorous observations about academia. Would definitely recommend.

Genevieve Cogman’s The Masked City is the sequel to her well-received debut, The Invisible Library. The Masked City is a tighter, tenser, more energetic and more well-constructed novel. It’s gonzo SFFnal pulp in the best possible way, with alternate worlds, interdimensional libraries, magic, technology, trains, dragons, Fae, a Venice where it’s always Carnival and never Lent, and a madcap dash from caper to caper interspersed with witty banter and occasional violence. It’s a book that is having fun with genre furniture and doesn’t care who knows it—and isn’t going to put the furniture back where it found it, either. I think I had a grin on my face most of the time I was reading it: it’s just so much utter nutter batshit fun.

Last but not least, Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Honor is the latest instalment in her Chronicles of Elantra series. The city is only just beginning to recover from the last world-threatening cataclysm to strike within its boundaries when more danger looms. It starts, as so many of these things do, with Private Kaylin Neya being ordered to the scene of a murder… but it only gets more complicated from there.

A very entertaining novel in the highest standards of the series, with appearances from almost the whole cast that the series has gathered to date. Banter, strange magic, peril: fun times in Elantra!

Liz Bourke is a cranky person who reads books and other things. She has recently completed a doctoral dissertation in Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. Find her at her blog. Or her Twitter.

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