To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
• What are you currently reading?
The Clovis Incident, by Pari Noskin. Who can resist a murder mystery set in New Mexico, involving talking cats and aliens? Well, I can’t, especially if there is a female sleuth at the center. So far, so fun!
Lord Hervey’s Memoir, by Lord John Hervey. Hervey is one of the most interesting figures of English history of the mid 1700s. About him it was said that there are three sexes–men, women, and Herveys. Not only was he flagrantly bisexual, but he thoroughly ignored gender lines in his dress and demeanor, at a time when gender roles were sharply defined. (Except, of course, when they weren’t, i.e. the mignons over in France, and the macaronis in England.)
Anyhow, this memoir was his tell-all book about the inside dealings of the second George’s reign. Hervey had a brilliant mind (he was one of the secret writers of the Spectator–think of it as an early daily blog–alongside Addison, Pope, and Mary Wortley Montagu), he was extremely observant, demonstrating incisive psychological insight. He never published this during his lifetime, and unfortunately his heirs saw fit to cut bits that they felt reflected badly on royal figures. This is a truncated version, which came out a few decades ago. I hope someday a full version is published.
Pack My Bag, by Henry Green. Green was actually Henry Yorke, a well-born sympathizer with the common man, sometimes called a writer’s writer. He was one of the few writing peers of Evelyn Waugh whom the latter took seriously; his prose is so distinctive (and elegant) that when I first read a few pages of one of his books, I thought, ahah, now I know who Nancy Mitford and a couple others were trying to emulate, but failing.
This is a memoir, written by a guy in his early thirties. Usually when people write memoirs that early in their lives, they are either famous for some specific incident, narcissists, or undergoing major change. In his case, he sensed the looming threat of World War II, and convinced that he would not survive another horror like WW I, he did his best to evoke a world he knew was already disintegrating fast.
There are a number of English writers who dealt with the end of their world in various ways: Tolkien being one. Patrick O’Brian another. Poets like Siegfried Sassoon, and here is Henry Green with his version.
• What did you recently finish reading?
The Silence of Six, by E.C. Myers. I picked up this YA sfnal thriller over lunch–and the next thing I knew it was dinnertime, and I hadn’t walked the dogs or carried my dishes downstairs.
In a fairly short book, Myers packs in thrilling chases and escapes, all kinds of high tech glitz, while exploring the connection between helpful social media and just how much of our private lives are being sucked into unknown programs to be used for unknown purposes. The whole concept of privacy is rapidly changing, whether we like it or not. (More here)
Here are the basic elements that appeal to me in space opera:
* Interesting aliens, weird cultures and larger than life characters, which must include interesting women.
* Space ships in action
* Emotional complexity
* Big ideas—including glimpses of the numinous—without anything being dogmatic
* Layered or polysemous surprises
*An interesting blend of real science and the handwavium that allows for FTL and Psi, but examines the consequences of both.
Any combination of these, with complex characters, is sure to grab me, and Empire of Dust definitely met those demands. I am so glad that there are going to be more in this setting. The book comes to a satisfying conclusion, but with plenty of tantalizing threads. (More here)
The Shadow Throne, by Django Wexler. Book two of “The Shadow Campaigns,” the title is kinda generic for epic fantasy (shadows being about as ubiquitous as shattered things–I am waiting for one called “The Shattered Shadows”) but hey, titles are like covers, meant to signal FANTASY HERE! to likely readers.
This book really delivers the goods! (more here)
• What are you reading?