What even is time anymore? I went to look up the publication dates of some of the books I want to talk about today, and, well. Are you sure it isn’t June already? Because the last month has been a whole year long. So this week, rather than right-now reading recommendations, I’ve a short list of books that you can look forward to. (Are we sure it’s not June? Really?)
You’ve probably heard of Katherine Addison. Her The Goblin Emperor is one of the most marvellous novels in this history of fantasy, and the subject of an ongoing read-along here at Tor.com. (And writing as Sarah Monette, she’s given us some good stuff, too.) Her next novel comes much-awaited, and takes place in an entirely different setting. The Angel of the Crows takes place in an alternate fantasy of 1880s London, where angels are bound to buildings, hellhounds and vampires form their own societies, and crime, as always, simmers. Addison’s worldbuilding uses old tropes and makes them fresh, with a sense of the absurd akin to Failbetter Games’ Fallen London and several twists entirely her own.
It will not surprise you, I think, to find that The Angel of the Crows draws strongly on Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, but Addison’s detective-doctor partnership, while influenced by the Doylean canon, is manifestly a thing of its own. Dr. J. H. Doyle is returned from Afghanistan an invalid, and falls in with Crow, an eccentric angel — very nearly a pariah — when Doyle’s search for suitable accommodation leads in odd directions. Both Crow and Doyle have secrets of their own, and somewhat irascible temperaments, and Doyle is drawn into Crow’s obsessions and investigations.
In addition to drawing on the Doylean canon, Addison also makes use of her extensive knowledge of Victorian London’s Ripper murders (one notes from her blog a striking number of book reviews on this subject, among other true crime books) to very good effect. This isn’t our London, and the investigation doesn’t play out as ours did — but Addison’s understanding of the workings, and failures, of Victorian crime investigation comes into play.
This is a fascinating novel, and a compelling one. And though it shares very few outward similarities with The Goblin Emperor, there are commonalities of tone and approach — and in Addison’s deftly gorgeous use of language — that mean I’m already sure it will join The Goblin Emperor in the short stack of things I re-read when looking for something both skilfully composed and comforting.
It’s really good. Read it.
I hadn’t heard of Emily B. Martin before the nice folks at Harper Voyager sent me an electronic version of her forthcoming novel, Sunshield. The opening volume in a trilogy, Sunshield is a pleasing sort of high fantasy, with three youthful protagonists all under various kinds of pressure and with the future abolition of a slave trade at stake. (Alas for my preferences, this novel doesn’t show any evidence that this is a world where queer people exist.) Martin’s characters are interesting — even if she does like to hide information from the reader and bring it out when it can be a Shocking Revelation — and their dilemmas are compelling. There’s a good mix of action and intrigue, and it’s all very readable. But where Sunshield shines (sorry) is in its landscapes and its sense of place: it’s a fantasy landscape that uses the ecology of the American continent for its scale and its variation, and it feels grounded in space in a way that many fantasy novels fail to be.
A little research led me to the information that Sunshield is actually the start of Martin’s second trilogy in the same setting. The first trilogy is set a generation earlier, and I enjoyed Sunshield sufficiently much that — while I wait for the second book — I’ve gone and ordered a copy of the first book in the first trilogy. I need more light entertainment in my life, and from the evidence of Sunshield, Martin can deliver.
I suspect that there are very many people waiting with bated breath for Martha Wells’ Network Effect, the first full-length Murderbot novel. I may have read my ARC more than five times since it arrived, so I can assure you it’s well worth the wait. Murderbot is… slowly, reluctantly… adjusting to having a human team that cares about its wellbeing. It is prickly and resentful and awkward at social interactions, as always. Then it finds itself in the kind of trouble where it’s been dragged aboard the corpse of an old friend and still has way too many squishy humans to protect, and it’s having feelings all over the place. And things just keep getting weirder and more dangerous.
Wells’ writing is, as ever, a delight, and Network Effect is a perfectly-paced, elegantly-wrought piece of delightful Murderbot space adventure.
What are you guys reading lately?
Liz Bourke is a cranky queer person who reads books. She holds a Ph.D in Classics from Trinity College, Dublin. Her first book, Sleeping With Monsters, a collection of reviews and criticism, was published in 2017 by Aqueduct Press. It was a finalist for the 2018 Locus Awards and was nominated for a 2018 Hugo Award in Best Related Work. Find her at her blog, or find her at her Twitter. She supports the work of the Irish Refugee Council, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland, and the Abortion Rights Campaign.