Reading Life

Book Review: Someone Should Pay for Your Pain by Franz Nicolay

Book Cover

In his first novel Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, Franz Nicolay comes at his story with a lyricist’s love of beauty and a seasoned performer’s world-weariness. The resulting tension creates a story with a sticky floor and a hazy smell, where moral ambiguity abounds. You could tell a young, starry-eyed scenester “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be”, or you could just hand them this novel. Both rough-edged-honest and blithely cynical, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain is an ode to all the acts who never made it big, fell in love too hard with the life to let it go, and are scheduled to play a weeknight basement show somewhere in Ohio, wondering what it all means now.

Book Review: Appleseed by Matt Bell

Appleseed by Matt   Bell

Appleseed by Matt Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Appleseed by Matt Bell is a staggering feat of storytelling woven from threads of the possible, the forgotten, the fierce, and the free. I love the exuberance and wondrous vision of Bell’s writing; he can make a colonial apple-planting faun make sense in the same book where a semi-bionic human remnant pilots something called a photovoltaic bubble across a far-future icescape.

Does that sound insane? That’s because it is. It is absolutely insane.

But the most insane thing about this book is its ability to sing all at once to every past, present, and future moment of the human relationship with our planet, this story we are all part of. Human beings have always and will always continue to worship, disrupt, invent, sabotage, and mythologize the earth that they call home. Bell explores these tendencies as a unified and recurring cycle of stories that reveals the best and worst of what we are, and what we could be.



View all my reviews

Book Review: In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


For those of us who automatically punch “buy” on any fiction related to astronauts, In the Quick is a delight. It’s especially wonderful seeing a female hero in a realistic hard science fiction title that is also written by a woman. (Has this ever happened?) The structure of this novel is a double-tiered one, where we get to see both an origin story and a mission. It’s really nuanced how elements of these two pieces of the book echo one another. Kate Hope Day gives us some extraordinarily beautiful scenes in the novel, and above all creates an ode to the combined power of gut instinct and dogged intellect.



View all my reviews

Book Review: The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy

The Ninth Metal (The Comet Cycle, #1)

The Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal is something that every reader secretly and desperately craves: fast-paced. Percy’s mastery of plot is on display in this intricately cast sci-fi thrill ride. The high concept is overlaid by a rocketfuel stortyline that is, among other things, an unabashed homage to comicbook superheroes and supervillains. You’ll find plenty of both in the fictionalized Northern Minnesota of The Ninth Metal. (A region which, by the way, Percy culturally nails down to every detail.)



View all my reviews

Book Review: Fauna by Christiane Vadnais (Translated by Pablo Strauss)

Fauna

Fauna by Christiane Vadnais

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Eerie, slippery, lush, and dark, the distinct stories in this collection are jointed together by their setting and recurring characters. Vadnais’ writing (by way of Strauss’ translation) does dreamlike horror very well, while imagining how the near-future world, rather than being humanity’s victim, may very well reckon with us. Fascinating stuff.



View all my reviews

Book Review: The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

The Vanished Birds

The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Vanished Birds is nothing short of stunning. Simon Jimenez manages to cover a thousand years of history on a galactic scope and somehow still tell a story as intimate as a lullaby. The planets, cultures, and personalities are richly envisioned. Everything feels immediate. Jimenez’s prose is perceptive, agile magic. The unique longing and wonder of this novel is hard to articulate beyond this: I will never forget it.



View all my reviews

Book Review: Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Sorrowland is difficult to classify, and (as I’ve probably mentioned before) that is something I always enjoy. This book is horror, it’s a motherhood story, it’s a political allegory, it’s erotic, it’s fantastical… it’s wild, just like its protagonist Vern. And I think that’s part of Solomon’s point with this story, that there’s no such thing as too much, that we limit the power of others and the possibility of the world when we say “no, that’s too different; no, that’s not allowed; no, that’s not normal; no, that’s too far.” These are the questions of this novel: Why can’t we do away with limits? Why can’t we reinvent reality? I deeply respect Solomon’s boldness with this nightmarish, fabulist piece of social criticism.



View all my reviews

Book Review: Fathoms – The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

Fathoms: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is so beautifully written, researched, and organized. Like the whale, it is heavy. Like the whale, it has many different functions and territories within a single body. Part memoir, part natural history, part catalog, part philosophy, Rebecca Giggs takes on the massive task of exploring how whales and human beings will never be free of each other’s influence. She presents a connection between humans and whales across species that has enlightened, destroyed, moved, fed, thrilled, and poisoned bodies, cultures, and our own vision of ourselves. An urgent and unflinching piece of environmental writing, and a true, poetic love at its core.



View all my reviews

Book Review: Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


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.



View all my reviews

Book Review: Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Rosewater by Tade Thompson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


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.



View all my reviews