Concentrated on novels during March to give myself a chance of making a properly informed vote before the BSFA awards.*
Embassytown by China Mieville (Pan Macmillan): for 100 pages or so I thought this was going to be it, the-Mieville-that-I-loved, but it ended up being the-Mieville-that-I-was-initially-intellectually-stimulated-by, moved on to the-Mieville-that-started-to-outstay-its-welcome, and lastly the-Mieville-that-bored-me-so-much-I-had-to-skim-the-last-bit-just-to-call-it-done-even-though-admittedly-that-last-bit-actually-had-some-action. As usual with Mieville I enjoyed a lot of the stuff and thought the alien language conceit was great, but the decision to couch the narrative as a first person memoir ultimately I think makes for an uninvolving read. Other readers’ mileage may vary of course.
Osama by Lavie Tidhar (PS Publishing): this one, I really enjoyed. I enjoyed it while I read it and, weirdly, the more I think about it now I’ve finished it, the more I find to admire in it. The central conceit of a world in which bin Laden and the atrocities committed in his name exist only in a series of pulp novels is brilliant, and the execution–giving the book’s narrative a Chandleresque pulp voice and interspersing it with passages from the Osama novels which conversely are written in a curiously factual style–illustrates the concept perfectly. In fact the only thing that irked me about the book was that the gorgeous PS edition was marred by a consistent proofing glitch involving quotes. Tiny thing, otherwise perfect.
I managed to read a a handful of short stories too. The best of them were included in Iain Rowan’s ongoing, music-inspired blog: 52 songs, 52 stories. Iain includes a link to the song that inspires each story, but I choose not listen to them until I’ve read the story. And with the recent entries “The Grey Ship” and “Poems“, I think he’s really hitting his stride now. Highly recommended.
*It’s unlikely that I’ll have read all five by next Saturday as I’m now a bit into the fourth one, but I tried. I will have read all of the short fiction entries though so, you know, that’s something.