Summer holidays are wonderful reading time. When it’s so hot that you don’t feel like moving, what can be better than lounging about with a book is ideal (and with e-readers, you don’t even need to physically turn pages). It’s an opportunity to catch up on some of those ‘must read’ books that have been on the ‘to-be-read’ list for far too long, or to dive into a new read.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how reading was such a popular activity around hotel pools (and you can read that here). This week, I thought I’d share a few of my favourite reads from this summer.
China Mieville is one of those authors where I’m almost embarrassed by how few of his books I’ve actually read. A couple of years ago I read King Rat (can recall enjoying it a lot), and earlier this year I read his short novel The Last Days Of New Paris (which left me feeling like I wanted to explore the world he created in far more detail).
So I’m long overdue a read of his first New Crobzun novel. I started it expecting to be impressed—and I wasn’t disappointed.
The world-building is incredible, not only in the setting but also in the characters—insect/human hybrids, bird-men and strange mutants. It’s all wonderfully imaginative, but when it’s combined with Mieville’s prose it’s an encompassing experience.
Some of the negative reviews of this book on Amazon complain that the story is slow to start, and while there is some justification in this comment, I think it’s necessary—to care about characters so strange in such an unfamiliar place, Mieville has to take us in hand and show us these wonders first. And when the story does get going, it’s a roller-coaster of a ride.
I’m not sure how to describe this book—it’s second-world fantasy, but there are nods towards sci-fi along with strong horror elements—but I think that’s a good thing. This book feels unique, and while that means it might not be to everybody’s taste, it’s a book I’d highly recommend.
And I really should read more of Mieville’s work before the year is up.
Andy Weir, of course, came to fame with The Martian, which I greatly enjoyed. But I was wary of reading his second novel—The Martian felt like it could have been a one-off, and I didn’t want my enjoyment to be tainted by a disappointing follow-up.
I needn’t have bothered, because Artemis is just as good as The Martian. It’s not a sequel—it’s not even the same kind of book. Artemis is a fast-paced thriller set on a colonised base on the moon, with a spiky, sassy main character, gangsters, smuggling, and a bit of politics and business intrigue. There’s murder and fights too.
But what it does share with The Martian is science. I can’t comment on the accuracy of it, but it all sounds plausible—and in a novel, that’s good enough for me. The characters solve problems using physics, but science also causes many of their problems.
Oh, and like his protagonist in The Martian, the characters in Artemis do tend to swear quite a bit. Don’t know if Weir’s going to release a ‘child-friendly’ version of this, like he did with The Martian (personally I don’t see why he should), but unless you’re put off by ‘bad language’, this is another book I’d recommend—exciting and intelligent.
I’m already looking forward to whatever Weir comes out with next.
I first heard of Joe Hart when I was writing Dark Glass. At the time, I was toying with calling my series Dominion, but when I did a search in Amazon I noticed a book called The Last Girl, a Dystopian story with the subtitle The Dominion Trilogy, Book 1. I checked out the author name, and discovered that Joe Hart had beaten me to my preferred series name.
His is a trilogy, though, whereas mine is longer. I added an ‘s’, and branded my books as Dominions. I’m sure he doesn’t mind—especially as his trilogy has done very well.
That’s not surprising, because they are good reads. So when I saw his new one on Amazon, I bought it.
Obscura isn’t Dystopian. In fact, it’s hard to describe. We have a protagonist who is searching for a cure to the version of dementia that destroyed her husband and now affects their daughter, so there are elements of medical thriller. But she’d addicted to painkillers, and as the book progresses it becomes a psychological thriller. Oh, and much of it happens in the near future, in space, so it’s also a sci-fi adventure.
If that sounds like it should be a mess, it isn’t. Hart weaves the story together brilliantly—a plot filled with misdirection and intrigue, but always remaining focused on the characters, especially the protagonist’s inner turmoil. It’s the kind of book where anything could happen, and I highly recommend it.
So another author goes on the ‘must read more’ list.
There were other books I enjoyed (the first three John Milton thrillers by Mark Dawson were fast-paced, enjoyable reads, and The King Of Space Must Die by Barry J Hutchison kept to the same high standards as the rest of the Space Team series but brought it all to a satisfying close), but I don’t have time to go into details here.
My ‘to-be-read’ list is still as long as ever, but I’m always on the lookout for more titles to add to it—any suggestions greatly appreciated.