I’ve fallen behind in this blogging lark due to being too ADD to function, and now I’ve hurt my hand in a deeply mysterious esoteric fashion that makes everything either achy or MASSIVELY PAINFUL. So I’m not blogging, no. I have lots to talk about – Cherie Priest’s Dreadnought, some thoughts on girls and action and adventure in YA, and a report on this weekend’s MCM Expo as well as a fantastic tour around the British Library’s Out Of This World exhibition – but I’ll get to all that when I’m fitted with my bionic arm.*
I promised a friend a list of Things To Read, which I have taken the liberty of expanding from general fantasy/sci-fi/horror/genre funky stuff to include YA, graphic novels, web comics and things that may blur the lines a tad. It is definitely not comprehensive. If I ever post a comprehensive list we’d be here for DAYS and everyone has too much life to live so I will not inflict such dread upon you fine souls.
So this isn’t blogging. This is just me posting a list.
This list begins with the assumption that the reader has read George RR Martin‘s ongoing ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series, the first book of which – A Game of Thrones – has been turned into a tv drama currently showing on HBO. It is amazing. If you want to watch the tv series before reading the book, do so for it is expertly executed, but do not get spoiled. The books are tremendous feats of world-building and character development (Sansa Stark, love, I am looking at you) and take the usual fantasy tropes and feed them to dragons for breakfast. Shocking and touching and brilliant in a way few books have managed since GoT first came out. I envy anyone who gets to read them for the first time.
Guy Gavriel Kay – Tigana, Under Heaven, The Lions of Al-Rassan
Fantasy based on real events in history (Lions is based on El Cid, for example) with incredibly beautiful writing and heart-wrenching storylines, with romance that never gets soppy and characters that resonate with everyone. Wonderful, beautiful, epic storytelling in the truest sense. GGK is also a poet; you can feel it in every part of his writing.
Scott Lynch – The Lies of Locke Lamora
The best thief in the world, and then some. Locke Lamora is an amazing invention (Iwanttomarryhim), and the world is so well-realized and brilliantly written it’s a jarring experience to put the book down and continue with your day. Exciting, violent, funny, ingenious, addictive. It’s swashbuckling with cunning and intellect; witty and entertaining one minute, dramatic and engrossing the next. Easily one of my top 5 favourite books of the past ten years.
Joe Abercrombie – The First Law trilogy
Heroic fantasy without the heroes. A balance of harsh brutality – a fantasy world as it would be, darker and even gritter than George RR Martin (far more body parts littered about for one) – and crippling hilarity. Inspector Glokta is one of my favourite characters ever, and Abercrombie is yet another writer who can pull the literary rug from beneath your feet while cracking a joke and making a wry aside about the state of modern fantasy. Best for those who’ve read some classic fantasy works (ie, Feist).
Jacqueline Carey – Kushiel’s Legacy trilogy
Sex, religion, espionage, betrayal, romance, murder. You have to have an open mind to deal with Phedre’s exotic tastes in the bedroom but these three books are Carey’s best work to date, and feature a female main character unafraid of her sexuality as well as a brilliant alternative Earth with countries descended from angels and mysterious sea monsters and a very alternative take on religion. Even if you’re not sure about the sex scenes, or her “Love as thou wilt” take on Christianity, Carey’s sumptuous world and resonant writing are well worth picking up these books. It is very easy to fall in love with Phedre, Joscelin, Hyacinthe and the rest – Carey has a warmth to her writing it’s hard to find elsewhere.
Bryan Lee O’Malley – Scott Pilgrim
If you liked the film, the six graphic novels do the same thing but crank it up to 11. If you didn’t like the film so much, the graphic novels go into more detail and fills in the characters a bit more. If you read these and see the film and still don’t like any of it, I genuinely do not understand you.
Derek Landy – Skulduggery Pleasant
Twelve-year-old Stephanie’s beloved eccentric writer uncle dies in mysterious circumstances. The type of mysterious circumstances that introduce her to Skulduggery, a skeletal detective. Has an actual skull as a head. Marvellous, marvellous adventure with jokes for adults as well as children, with a main character that appeals to girls AND boys as well as the dashing Skulduggery who I admit I love even though he’s a skeleton because what can you do? He’s hilarious. Influenced by Lovecraft, Landy has a superb adventure with dark touches and incredibly funny moments sprinkled liberally throughout, and Stephanie is exactly the sort of heroine YA needs more of.
Margaret Mahy – The Changeover
Sod Twilight. This is what YA romance should be. Yes, it should have witches! Exactly! No. The supernatural/fantasy elements are almost incidental to the characters and the menace – this is a book about the weirdness of being a teenage girl on the cusp, of those first deep pangs of romance (no, not fangs of romance, none of that please (unless you’re Richelle Mead)) and the responsibilities as well as power inherent in becoming a woman. I wish I’d read this as a teen.
Elizabeth Marie Pope – The Perilous Gard
Another book I wish I’d read as a teen. Fairies, abductions, darkness, a monstrous love interest and here words fail me because I can’t really say too much about it other than it’s so wonderful and relevant and I was very sad to see the author didn’t write much more. It’s a lyrical, ethereal novel with relationships and romances that feel completely genuine in a way that few popular YAs manage these days – it was one of those books where you finish, close the book, and miss everyone in it immediately.
John Allison – Scary Go Round/Bad Machinery/Giant Days
People have tried to get me to read SGR for years, but Liam got me reading Bad Machinery and from thereon in, my friends, it was CRAZY, the snowball that triggered the avalanche or whatever the analogy is. I’ve read Bad Machinery for a while but I spent two days re-reading the entire seven-year run of SGR in the run up to meeting the man himself at MCM Expo – it’s imaginative, witty and dangerously compulsive reading. Set in the fictional Tackleford in West Yorkshire, where much supernatural weirdness abounds, SGR is the rather more anarchic storyline set around the lives of twenty-somethings where BR is a more tightly plotted series about two groups of schoolchildren solving mysteries and being utterly awesome. The art is marvellous, there’s much hilarity and many touching moments with quality character development making it worth the time it takes to read the SGR archives and catch up with BR. It’s excellent work and should be more widely recognized, and BR is more than suitable for younger readers.
My wrist is now HELLACHEY and I should probably end this and go rock in a corner cradling my hand and sobbing like a child until I can type without wincing. I have so many more I want to mention – Lackadaisy is amazing, anyone who isn’t reading Kate Beaton is insane, Yuko and Ananth at Johnny Wander are wonderful, etc etc etc MY LIST IS EPIC GUYS.
I have provided you with much goodness for the eyes here. Go, revel in this haute cuisine menu of visual deliciousness, and tell me how awesome my taste is.
This is longer than I intended. Oh dear.
*I will not be fitted with a bionic arm.