I haven’t written a book diary in a while. Here’s what I’ve read recently, and if I remember any other important ones I’ll add them.
Revenge by Yoko Ogawa. A neat series of linked tales – overlinked, in fact, giving them that heightened atmosphere you get in Gothics where coincidences don’t come across as contrived but instead as a sign of something unpleasantly planned about the universe. I’d had this one sitting around for several years and was moved to read it from something someone said on twitter about the Gothicization of the banal. Really good. The stories have a “literary” feel, often ending on striking images or epiphanies, but then in later stories these muted endings will be further explained. A cool effect.
Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea by Adam Roberts. A genre chameleon, in this book Roberts mimics a slightly stilted Jules Vernian undersea adventure. It turns pretty trippy by the end. The apparent stiltedness is really just a disguise; this is genuinely good adventure writing mixed with weird science fiction in the Barrington Bayley mold (what if the universe were like that instead of like this?)
The Heroes and Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. Okay, I’ve now read all of Abercrombie’s books. He’s gotten really good. These two, following Best Served Cold, complete a six book series that’s more coherent than was obvious at first. (The last book includes one character, an aged actor, who speaks nicely to how the series has evolved since the first book.) There are some really good long-term character arcs. My favorite character of the series is Nicomo Cosca, an amoral, increasingly decrepit mercenary captain. By the end of the last book he reminds me of a jaded, cynical Baron Munchausen. Abercrombie’s greatest strength is characters; he can effortlessly make interesting people who come to life in a page or two. The settings are a little less stand-out, but really less of what he cares about, I think. They’re mainly made up of parallels to our history, so there’s a place like England, a place like the Ottoman Empire, a place like renaissance Italy, a place like Rome after it fell, etc. But since these places provide a home for such vivid characters, it really doesn’t matter that they are all semi-familiar.