1. The Witches of Karres – James H. Schmitz. A fun little Space Opera novel. Captain Pausert is your typical rogue with a heart of gold starship captain, long on luck, short on credits. He rescues a trio of slave girls and is soon caught up in a series of adventures. It’s a light-hearted book that gets more than a little wonderful in places. Occasionally it has a sour note (mostly of the precocious teenage girl that flirts with an older man that resembles her father variety), but there’s also much to love: monstrous planets, spider-robot assassins, weird world building, etc.
2. Fury – Henry Kuttner. Classic science fiction of the egomaniacal supermen and the ballgown-wearing women who love them variety. Deliriously fun. Weird narcotics, crime, murder, and mayhem all in the name of progress because man’s destiny is to rule the stars!
3. A Stranger in Olondria – Sofia Samatar. An amazingly rich and textured fantasy novel about a young scholar’s attempt to free himself from a ghost. There’s a lush world to get lost in here, of history and story, without any bloated POV immediacy or tedious door opening. It reminded me of the best bits of Jan Potocki’s Saragossa Manuscript. Read it.
4. Snitch World – Jim Nisbet. A small time crook collides with amoral dot-com venture capitalists in modern day San Francisco. What plot there is focuses largely on a top secret under development phone app, but the real entertainment is in Nisbet’s prose and vivid depiction of San Francisco. An enjoyable book, both funny and sad in a “Those days are gone, but the people live on” kind of way. Folks who have lived in San Francisco may also get an extra kick out of it.
5. God Save the Mark – Donald E. Westlake. A comedy of errors dressed up as a noir novel and populated with hard-nosed cops, femme fatales, and con artists, all of whom are out to get the most gullible man in Greenwich Village. An entertaining book.
6. An Artist of the Floating World – Kazou Ishiguro. A short, bitter-sweet novel about an elderly Japanese man coming to terms with life in post-war Japan. The narrator shies away from the crux of his problem, and the reader is left to surmise via oblique plotting what it is he did in his past that he’s so ashamed of now. It never quite matches The Remains of the Day, but the moments when it is good are very good indeed.
7. Nobody Move – Denis Johnson. A bit of a whirlwind ride as lowlives and petty crooks maneuver and manipulate each other for revenge, kicks, and greed. Johnson tips his hat to the masters, and noir and thriller fans will find enough here to keep them satisfied. It reminded me a lot of Jim Thompson’s The Getaway.
8. The Status Civilization – Robert Sheckley. It’s 1950s SF in the hip mode (think Bester and Pohl) with one of those What-If planetary monoculture set-ups. What if a world was populated by mental patients? What if a world was populated by Medieval re-enactors? In this case it’s What if there was a prison world where evil was considered good? It’s dopey, not completely Bizarro World, but certainly not The Dispossessed either – and every now and then the satire’s quite nicely sharp and pointed.
9. American Gods – Neil Gaiman. Overwritten and much of the first half is a drive-to-the-plot plot, that morphs a bit late into the picaresque, which sadly stops just as it hits it stride and becomes a sit-and-wait-for-the-plot-to-happen plot. It’s also written in that let-me-describe-everything-to-you style that makes good 60,000 word novels into shitty 120,000 word novels. Would I have liked this book more if I hadn’t already have read tons of Chesterton, Leiber, Barker, etc. couldn’t see the lineages of the book’s ideas? But would I have read Chesterton if I hadn’t read Sandman as a weird comic-reading teen nerd? That’s the question.