Favorite Reads: March 2016
Clade By James Bradley: Eco-collapse as viewed by four generations of one family. Young couple Adam and Ellie have a daughter. That daughter grows up and has a son. Along the way the family picks up other members – a more or less foster child – and a second husband when Adam and Ellie’s marriage falls apart. Some folks don’t like the whole linked short stories as novel schtick, but I love it, especially when done well as it is here. And it’s that broadness that makes the book ultimately optimistic. Terrible things happen, but people survive. The world’s never ending. It’s always beginning.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle: This is an update on HP Lovecraft’s story “The Horror at Red Hook” with LaValle adding an ersatz Harlem jazz musician and small-time conman, Thomas Tester, into the mix. But don’t feel like you have to be to up on your Lovecraft to know what’s going on, Lavalle’s focus is more on depicting how the dreaded cosmic indifference of the Elder Gods likely paled beside human evil, prejudice, and injustice.
The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson: I’m calling this post-Oscar Wao sword & sorcery. At it’s base this is the story of a wizard traveling with a merchant caravan through a science fantasy setting. It’s focused on the day to day interactions mora than any larger plot, although the larger plot is there it just arises almost as an after though to this story of men on the road. Also, can I just say secondary world fantasy that’s less than 250 pages long? Yes. More please.
The Last Weekend by Nick Mamatas: An antisocial alcoholic know-it-all survives the zombie apocalypse and lives out his days drilling the recently dead (though more often they’re the currently dying…) while getting drunk in what remains of San Francisco. It’s a genre mash-up that takes genre A (horror: zombie apocalypse) with genre B (American Lit: alcoholic slob) and crafts something that’s funny, abrasive, and awkward at the right times often enough to be enjoyable.
The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter: An utterly fascinating read that looks at the fluid concept of race as it’s evolved in Europe and North America from ancient times up to the 20th century. Much of the focus does settle on the United States of America in the 19th and 20th centuries looking not only at the concepts of race, but also at immigration and eugenics. Like I said, a fascinating read because of the subject matter and because Painter writes in a casual and often wry style.
And I read some other stuff that ranged from the goodish to the meh to the Beetle.