Decent haul on the reading front this month.
The novel for September was one Ian R McLeod’s Wake Up And Dream, a book I’d bought almost a year ago, read (and loved) part of and then had to put down for non-reading reasons. I then waited for a suitable period of quietness that’d allow me to properly enjoy it. And waited, and waited. It was, of course, worth the wait. Part gumshoe noir (featuring former actor, Clark Gable as low grade private dick), part homage to the golden age of Hollywood, part SF commentary on the (ab)use of entertainment for political ends. A beautifully constructed book, replete with McLeod’s hallmark clarity of character, that takes a simple idea and unpacks it to a conclusion that is equally obvious and startling. As all the best SF does.
Adrift On The Sea Of Rains by Ian Sales was another book I picked up at a convention and had to wait for the right time to read. When I did, it was a pleasure to do so. This alternate historical of astronauts stranded on a NASA moon-base is replete with well researched terminology that adds a veneer of authenticity that’s rare in SF these days, and makes you glad the author thoughtfully provided a glossary to help you navigate all of the TLA’s that sprinkle the average astronaut’s vocabulary. Thoughtfully constructed with obvious love for the source material and wonderfully original.
Weirdly enough, the thing that spurred me to get back and read Wake Up And Dream was the Sunday Story Society’s choice of early September: The Merchant Of Shadows by Angela Carter. Both begin with visit to the home of a reclusive Hollywood figure, although their paths diverge after that. As always you can find out what I thought of the Carter story over on the Sunday Story Society’s discussion, and everyone’s welcome to read the stories and join in the discussion.
I also enjoyed Lynda Rucker’s Where Summer Dwells which has just appeared in the current issue of F&SF. A story of the magic of the friends and relationships you make young adulthood as seen from maturity. Hugely evocative in its American South setting, and beautifully told.
This year’s haul of books from Fantasycon was meagre to say the least, but I did purchase the new anthology release from Newcon Press. Hauntings is, kinda obviously, a collection of ghost stories, and on the trip home I found time to sample a few them. I enjoyed, editor, Ian Whates’s short contribution, Don’t Listen, the ghost story equivalent of an evil earworm, and Kim Lakin Smith’s atmospheric and totally original imagining of the mechanics of haunting, Dark Peak. But the standout of my sample reading was Simon Harries by Robert Shearman. A fab, funny, and superbly original take on the ghost story. Just loved it. Makes me even more determined to track down his award winning collection: Everyone’s Just So So Special.
All in all a great fiction month for me.