Klara and the Sun is the first Ishiguro novel I’ve read, and now I understand why his work is so widely loved. He writes with such grace. It takes guts to write a novel about the limitations of love from a robot’s perspective, but in Ishiguro’s hands it is entirely believable. The book itself is like the qualities of human nature that Klara is always observing–both simple and incomprehensible. There is nothing else like this. It is a balm to read, a new favorite.
Rosewater is an innovative read with a lot of interesting takes on classic sci-fi tropes that ultimately make them… well… weirder. The main character is very much an antihero: self-absorbed and funny if not dismissive of nearly everything and everyone. But the positioning of Kaaro as a reluctant narrator not really bent on saving anyone’s life (or even day) creates a unique reading experience that lets us explore Thompson’s city of Rosewater without preconceived notions. It’s a neat trick how Kaaro’s gift is seeing into the minds of others, and as readers we experience something akin to that as we witness his perspective. Everything is presented as a little bit broken and dirty here–grey morality abounds.
Sarah Perry’s sophomore novel may be a gothic tale about fear, but the writing itself is absolutely fearless. Uniting several different stories that cross time and place by cataloging them as proof in a surreal monster investigation, Perry dissects the idea of guilt in ways both sweeping and intimate. In a narrative style that pulls the reader (at times uncomfortably) close, the story allows us to discover and dread along with our protagonist. Unnerving, at times devastating, at times funny, and always honest, this is a modern, cursed gothic story told with a wildfire level of passion, even as it masquerades beneath British restraint.
Jac Jemc’s short story collection is just sensational. These stories are tied together by strokes of odd happenstance that whittle change into the lives of their characters. Surprising, uncanny, funny, and dark, these stories are all about people we recognize. Strange as they may be, we’ve all met them and we’ve all privately wondered, “What’s it like to be that person?” This book offers one set of answers, shining Jemc’s unique light on the human experience. Such talent!
This book is everything I hoped it might be and more. Jeremy Wade’s voice, experience, and specialty are each one of the most unique you’re liable to find. In this superbly fishy little volume, Wade plumbs the depths (forgive me) of the peculiar obsession involved in perfecting one’s craft. There are spectacular fish stories and practical tips, but what’s best is the philosophical underpinning and gentle humor that make this book far more beautiful than a simple angler’s guide.
We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu boldly goes where YA rarely does–into fabulism, into difficult conversations about sexuality, and into visual narrative, all while slowly revealing the mysteries of the dangerous, sentient woods of Shivery, Minnesota. I love seeing fiction for young adults that treats them with respect, and this book honors the many wonders and troubles of learning to know oneself. The supernatural elements in this novel unite to create what we slowly understand to be a psychological landscape as much as a physical one.
Reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like savoring a hot cup of tea, sip by sip, in a hypnotic state. It’s just such a pretty experience. For me, the plot was almost secondary to my enjoyment of how this novel works as a love letter to art and to New York City. As Addie travels throughout the world and into and out of so many experiences, I felt like I was traveling, too–something we’ve all been missing during the pandemic. There are so many lush moments where food, destinations, performances, and people create a moment, and that’s what this story is… a collection of moments, and an assertion that all of them matter. Just beautiful.
Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang is an odd, hard-to-find, little sci-fi title from 1976. It won the Hugo that year, and reminds me quite a bit of Huxley’s Brave New World, though it came along 50 years later. Both books feature central male protagonists who are cranky about a status quo that works to erase individualism via genetic and chemical means. However, what I really appreciated about this book in comparison to Huxley’s was its massive multigenerational scope, which Wilhelm still somehow handled in a very gentle storyteller way. The tone is strange–half Laura Ingalls Wilder, half hard sci-fi. Even as I’m writing this review I’m not exactly sure how to review it. Ultimately, this is a novel of ideas that rotates around the axis of this question: if you could only prepare for the next generation, and you only knew what the previous generation knew, and that knowledge was shifting with every go-round, could humankind survive? If so, what would it take?
Wilder Girls staggers into a lot of my favorite sub-genres and story elements. It’s a little bit of each from a sampler of dystopian sci-fi, body horror, climate fiction, and feminist fiction. It comes in with a strong concept, intriguing suspense, and a gripping setting. I think it’s a great book to help younger readers discover adult titles in the same territory, like Jeff VanDermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. For me, the high concept was the draw, the memorable world was engrossing, but the character dynamics took a backseat. Byatt’s perspective had me entirely captivated. Hetty’s I did not quite trust and, I suppose, that was part of the point. I do definitely want a vase filled with Raxter Irises, so that’s a testament to Power’s significant worldbuilding chops.
This is as close as having an appointment to view a library’s special collections wing as one can have in book form, specifically with archived DIY flyers, zines, and other materials created during the Riot Grrrl punk movement in the 1990s on the west coast. While the introduction gives great orienting comments, I was hoping for more of a guided tour throughout the text to help me better understand the background of each piece. That being said, the collection fittingly invites readers to take each artifact as they will, or don’t, who cares, be the revolution and make it whatever it means for you–and that’s how they were originally intended. A great immersive look into a unique moment of creative and political energy.