Each week, our crack staff shares their current reading choices…
I just finished A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky.
I’m not sure what I expected going into this book, but it took me a few chapters to realize it wasn’t going to be a straightforward story. Instead, it’s an interconnected collection of episodic events in the life of M, a man who “is on Management’s good side” and therefore has the ability to manipulate magic. Each chapter covers a few hours or days in M’s extremely eventful life. Telling the story like this gives Polansky a chance to build up the world a little bit at a time. “These are M’s friends, this is where he lives and where he drinks, these are the politics of the world and how they work.”
At first it can seem like the episodes don’t link together (and a few of the early ones could probably be cut out, but you’d lose a lot of flavor if they were) but by the end of the book you realize the journey has always had a destination. And maybe that payoff wouldn’t be quite as sweet if you hadn’t followed along with the lead character. The episodes also give it a chance to cover more time than a standard format. The narrative sometimes leaps weeks or months without the need to fill in the blanks. The final chapter has such a great payoff and is such an unexpectedly feel-good ending, I actually went back to the beginning of the chapter to reread it.
It reminded me of how the series Person of Interest was put together: lulling you in with the standalone episodes so you didn’t notice how deep the mythology was until you stopped and looked around at the finished result.
Geonn Cannon, Contributing Writer
A City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky
Urban Fantasy | Regan Arts |2016
This week it was All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. This book is a blend of science fiction and fantasy with one of the two main characters being a witch and the other a futuristic scientist. Where Patricia — the witch — communes with birds and turns evil-doers into turtles, Laurence — the scientist — builds time machines, AI and dimensional portals. The story really hinges on the relationship between these two characters who meet in school, lose each other for a while and then later find each other again. Their connection seems tenuous at times — they spend much less time together than they spend with the other formative magic-y / science-y people in their lives and yet it is their bond which is depicted as being the strongest. I quite liked the book while I was reading it, but I finished it a few days ago and just had to look up what the characters names were, so I don’t think it’s a particularly lasting read. Fun for the time but not one that will stay with you.
B. C. Roberts, Columnist Plenipotentiary
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Science Fiction/Urban Fantasy/Apocalypse | Tor Books | 2016
I am reading Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie.
Once, Breq was the Justice of Toren, a powerful starship exerting the Radch Empire’s will and supporting conquest with hundreds of human avatars. As the story opens, Breq is a independent mobile unit of the ship’s remaining intelligence. She is a strong but confused computer stranded in a human body — an “ancillary” — full of questions and burning for answers.
Ancillary Justice is the multiple-award-winning science fiction novel debut for author Ann Leckie. Leckie’s work is complex and, at times, confusing. She takes the challenges of inhuman loyalty and the motivations of human survival, twines them around an imperial galactic structure, and then shatters them into slivers.
The story is built on a typical trope frame where we bounce from current storyline to flashback as Breq patiently toils to obtain information, weapons, and a small set of odd allies. Personally, I think the concept of “justice” is confused with “vengeance” for the first half of the book. Justice is a subtle thing to find in the wreckage when it is one citizen against an Empire.
Colleen Reed, Contributing Writer
Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) by Anne Leckie
Science Fiction | Orbit | 2013
I’m reading Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw, an old school historical fantasy the likes of which I haven’t read in an age. Our story centers on Aedan, a twelve-year-old prodigy who is ousted from his home after it is invaded by particularly cunning and ruthless slave traders, despite the fact that he pretty much saves everyone. Renshaw has no interest in giving our poor young Aedan an easy life, and I am at the point where he is constantly being accused of crimes it is ludicrous to believe he committed, and it is making me very, very upset indeed. The book is well-written and engaging, but all the injustice! All the abuse of power! I am not sure how much more of this fury I can take, and I am only up to Chapter 6.
One would never suspect it was self-published, however. A very impressive accomplishment — the kind of indie release that must surely give traditional publishers nightmares.
Rachel Hyland, Editor-in-Chief
Dawn of Wonder (The Wakening #1) by Jonathan Renshaw
Historical Fantasy | Self-Published | 2015