Sunday Status Update: November 13, 2016

This week, Conan gives his instructive outlook on kingship.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews Conan: This week, everyone seems very concerned with political rule for some reason. Very well, then — as I, Conan, currently wear the jeweled crown of Aquilonia (upon a troubled brow), I shall relay to you secrets of kingship and the ways of rulers. And it is this: it’s shockingly easy to get in, but not so easy to get out. No, seriously, I’ve been trying for ages, but they keep dragging me back in. Look, admittedly I did strangle the previous king and pitch his body onto the heads of a cheering mob, but I didn’t realize conquering a kingdom would mean so much… ah… kinging? It was a laugh, wasn’t it? It was funny. It’s not funny now. Not funny at all. I’ve got a minister coming later this afternoon to talk to me about a new proposed law. Do you know what he needs my opinion on? Clause 12b of Subsection VII. Apparently the phrasing is ambiguous and the opposition is making a stink. No. No. This isn’t what I wanted. I don’t know anything about laws or wage management or infrastructure maintenance. I just want to hit things with my sword. That’s all I want. I’m just a barbarian, I never wanted… oh Crom, what have I done?

Bill: Like many of my colleagues. I’ve taken refuge in reading this week. Matthew Kirby‘s ghost story A Taste for Monsters, involving both the Elephant Man and Jack the Ripper showcases Kirby’s by now familiar skill in creating finely crafted characters. At the other end of the spectrum, Steven Erikson‘s second send-up of Star Trek, this one entitled Willful Child: The Wrath of Betty, blows up characters and plots in a joke-a-second satire that teeters on the edge of furious madness (or just tips over into both). And I’ve been warmly ensconced in my copy of Yeat’s Collected Poems.

Jana: This week… wow. I am very grateful for escapist fiction this week. I re-read Invisible Planets, the edited-by-Ken Liu anthology of Chinese science fiction, since so many of the stories are wonderful and I’m working on a review with the assistance of Tadiana and Kat. I read Emmi Itäranta‘s The Weaver, which is gorgeous and dream-like and packed with social commentary. I read Grace Lin‘s When the Sea Turned to Silver, a charming and beautifully illustrated children’s book steeped in Chinese culture and mythology. I started reading Erika Johansen‘s The Fate of the Tearling, the concluding volume of her QUEEN OF THE TEARLING trilogy. I also have a few other reviews in the works, but my mind has been a wee bit scattered as of late, and stringing coherent sentences together has been tough. As always, I endeavor to do better next week.

Marion: Well, last Tuesday was a very, very bad night for me, and I have to thank Stephanie Burgis and her latest magical-historical novel, Congress of Secrets, for helping me get through it. About nine pm California time I turned off the news, climbed into bed and pulled the covers all the way over me like when I was a kid, and used a reading light to read until I finished the book. The vivid descriptions, the suspense, the knowledgeable depiction of 19th century Vienna helped immeasurably! Now, I am closing in on the ending of Catherynne Valente’s elaborate, poetic, visionary, self-indulgent, confounding and oh-so-interesting novel Radiance. My “car book,” which I’m about halfway through, is called The Witch of Lime Street, nonfiction by David Jaher about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini and the interwar Spiritualism fad in the USA.

Sandy: Moi? I have just finished reading a book of Ray Russell’s collected Gothic fiction entitled Haunted Castles, and hope to get a review of this one out very shortly. Next up for me will most likely be a post-apocalyptic novel from John Christopher, 1965’s A Wrinkle in the Skin. This book, though it deals with a series of devastating earthquakes, is apparently frightening enough to claim a place in Newman & Jones’Horror: Another 100 Best Books. I look forward to getting into this one very much…

StuartThis week I finished Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere, and was really surprised that I didn’t like it that much. I really enjoyed his Stardust, The Graveyard Book, and SANDMAN series, so despite the fantastic London setting, the plot and characters just weren’t that interesting. After that, I dived into Alastair ReynoldsChasm City, and found it more tightly-plotted and fast-paced than the REVELATION SPACE series. I also finished off Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions, a biography of Philip K Dick, and it really gave me insights into his neurotic mind, incredible erudition, chaotic love life, and brilliant books

Tadiana: Since I last checked in a few weeks ago in our Sunday Status Updates, I’ve read Silence Fallen, the upcoming MERCY THOMPSON urban fantasy book from Patricia Briggs, to be published in March 2017; One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews, the third book in the INNKEEPER series which she (they) just finished publishing in installments on her (their) website; All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai, an upcoming SF time travel thriller, and Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn, the latest in her ELEMENTAL BLESSINGS series. I also reread Chalice, a YA fantasy by Robin McKinley, to see if it appealed to me more on reread (it did, somewhat). My non-SFF reads were William Shakespeare’s The Tempest (actually, this is technically a fantasy read, isn’t it? Maybe I should write a review …) and Good Behavior by Blake Crouch, a set of previously published novellas about the adventures of a woman who’s an ex-con, thief and con artist.

Tim: This week, my pastime of reading about politics became very disappointing and grim, so I decided to read about fake-world politics instead. I’ve gone through a couple of Andrzej Sapkowski‘s WITCHER books now (I’m on Blood of Elves at the moment), and I’ve also been messing around with a reread of George R.R. Martin‘s A Game of Thrones. Ahhhh. That’s some goooood escapism.

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TIM SCHEIDLER, who's been with us since June 2011, holds a Master's Degree in Popular Literature from Trinity College Dublin. Tim enjoys many authors, but particularly loves J.R.R. Tolkien, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, and Susanna Clarke. When he’s not reading, Tim enjoys traveling, playing music, writing in any shape or form, and pretending he's an athlete.

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  1. Stuart, NEVERWHERE and AMERICAN GODS are the two books of Gaiman’s that most frequently disappoint people. I think in the case of NEVERWHERE it truly is that while the underground characters are interesting, the plot really *isn’t* that strong. It’s hard for me to judge because I like both of the those books. What attracted me to NEVERWHERE was the “underground” or “hidden city” aspect, which is one of my favorite tropes. That, and Gaiman’s prose.

    • Melanie Goldmund /

      I really liked the audio version of Neverwhere, with James MacAvoy and Natalie Dormer, and can listen to it again and again. But perhaps it’s the fact that it’s an audio version, with great voices and sound effects, that appeals to me. I did read American Gods and found myself thinking, “Um … okay … it had some interesting parts, but perhaps the whole thing is not for me.”

      • I liked Neverwhere, but not enough to re-read and while I finished American Gods, it just wasn’t my thing. I think I like the author as a person more than I like him as a writer. Is that odd?

  2. And, oh my God, Tim, your Trump imitation is perfect. *Too* perfect! Stop it please! Stop it RIGHT NOW!

  3. I listened to Neil Gaiman narrate Neverwhere and he is a brilliant narrator – I just couldn’t get excited about the plot though the setting is wonderful.

    Marion, what is a “car” book? Sounds dangerous…

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