Saturday 13 August 2022

Shelfish Opinions: 1

 Continuing the Youtube theme - making these videos is also giving me blog material.

I decided that I would move on from critiquing people's writing to critiquing people's writing, but now the writing is whole books, and the critiquing is cursory opinion, and the selection is made by my (mostly) alphabetised shelves.

Since I have a great many fantasy shelves, this could be a new recurring feature that will hit dozens of episodes.

Let's see how it goes.

Imma present one shelf at a time and just talk my way through the titles there, saying if I've read the book and briefly, what I thought of it. It's worth noting that I'm not responsible for the purchase/acquisition of the majority of the books on our shelves. My wife's an avid fantasy reader, and my children have been also at various points in their lives.

Shelf 1:

(the whole thing is too much to read the titles easily, so I've broken it up below)

Bit by bit:

So, we start with four books by Ben Aaronovitch, The Furthest Station, The Hanging Tree, Foxglove Summer, and Lies Sleeping. I've not read any of them. My wife's the fan of the series.

Then there are four books by Joe Abercrombie. Half A King, Half A War, Half A King (again ... so a whole king together), and The Blade Itself. Why do we have two halves of a king? Because Voyager send me ARCs, and my wife pays no attention and buys the book again later. 

I've not read any of these either. There are many gaps in my fantasy reading, and I'd not read Rothfuss, Sanderson, Lynch, and many other big sellers before getting published (I still haven't read Jordan and some others). Since very early on there were a number of people online saying that I'd in some way copied Abercrombie, it's become a purposeful omission. I like being able to answer any such accusation with the fact I've never read him, without have to qualify it with (before writing Prince of Thorns). There's nothing personal in it - I've met Joe at three Grim Gatherings, he's an amiable and witty fellow. And I don't think he's read my books either.

And the last one in this shot is Blood And Bone by Tomi Adeyemi ... who I've also not read. So I'm 0 for 9 on my own shelf here. This may not have been as good an idea as I thought it was!

Ah! Song of the Morning, by Mark Alder! I've read this one. Pretty sure I was sent it by his publisher back in 2013. It's pretty good. Some great prose - I recall an excellent early line about a hawk rotating the world around it. 

Looked it up: "A kestrel, silver in the dusk, turned the world around its wing. A beat, a flutter, a sudden and momentary fury. It tumbled, stopped, and hovered almost motionless, its wings wide, possessing the land."

It's a fat book concerned with medieval France and England. The time of the Black Prince etc. With angels and devils thrown into the mix of politics and war, in an interesting mix of historical fiction with a kind of magical realism - a what if devil and angels were real and had been part of all this, acknowledged and used by/using the various parties.

I actually thought the 'historical' parts were the best, and floundered a little on the angels/devils. But it was a good read over all. There's a follow up I never reached - I read a lot of book 1s and rather few book 2s. Not because I'm hard to please but because I read very slowly and want to sample a broad range, not sink a year into one author.

Next up, Margaret Atwood's famous The Handmaid's Tale. I've not read it ­čśä

The Skinner, by Neal Asher, is one I have read, probably back in 2011. Asher was one of the first to review Prince of Thorns (on his blog) and was very positive about it, so I investigated his work. I enjoyed the book. I'm not a great scifi reader, but Asher's universe seems packed with cool ideas, and I particularly liked the super hostile planet where the wild life comes in a great number of really dangerous forms that try to eat/destroy each other along with any new additions to the food chain, whether they count as food or not.

Then we have the complete Paternus trilogy by Dyrk Ashton. Paternus, Wrath of the Gods, War of the Gods. I've read book 1, Paternus. It came 3rd in the 2nd SPFBO contest (that I run). It's a heap of fun - basically every mythology you've ever heard of, and a lot you haven't, are real and their gods/monsters run riot in the real world (whilst not disrupting it too much).

I've met Dyrk too - he came to Bristolcon (from America!) a few years back. Lovely guy. Has been in major films too, as aliens and zombies!

The other two books I should read. Just need time.

Black Cross by J.P Ashman is another self-published book. J.P I know from Bristolcon, a nice chap. His book I remember for having an enormous number of PoVs ... like 20 maybe? A monster-fighting romp.

Everworld by Katherine Applegate is a book I didn't know we had! Never heard of her.

The final 9 books are by Issac Asimov. They include two copies of Foundation And Earth, and a boxed set of 4 Foundation books. Also Nine Tomorrows, The Stars Like Dust, Mutants, The Robots of Dawn, and a collection of short stories.

It's been at least 40 years since I read any Asimov. I did read and enjoy the Foundation books, while recognising that they are pretty dry with paper-thin characters. And The Stars Like Dust was one of my earliest sci-fi reads. I recall liking it, and not one other thing about it. It's sad that not only can I not read all the books, or even a good chunk of the books on my own shelves ... but I can't even remember all the books I've read.

Ah. Mortality.

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