Dec 17, 2018

Book Recommendations of December 2018

Well well well, looks like we have reached the end of yet another year... And what a year it was! So many great authors have visited our humble little book shop, so many great books were published that we could hardly keep up with reading them, the Otherland got a few exciting new sections and our beloved bookshop turned 20!
We still have three appointments left for this year, then it’s off to sweet sweet tranquility and boredom. For a couple of weeks at least - we’ll talk about fresh events at your favorite local bookstore in our next newsletter in January.
Have a nice fin de l’année, we wish you some peace and quiet and a safe passage to 2019! See you then!

Science Fiction

New Clone City by Mike Hembury
The wild word € 11,99

From our indie selection
Ballard, Cadigan, Noon - these are the three names that lighted up in my head while reading the first pages of New Clone City. It is set in a post-cyberpunk metropolis of the quirky and queer, as weird as Jeff Noons Manchester from Vurt and as real as Berlin right outside your door (it’s certainly no coincidence that author MIke Hembury is based here). While Hembury’s novel is suffused by a keen sense of the violence of the world we live in, there’s always a wry, but very honest humanist overtone to this story of three people in this city, which is about to erupt in utter madness …

Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
orbit € 20,90

Another scientifically-minded, near-future not-quite thriller - because while Robinson once again writes about murder, intrigue and big politics, this book is not about the thrills, but about the people in it and how some of them try to make a difference. It’s also a crash course in modern Chinese politics, because the moon is peppered with stations in this book's future, and most of them are Chinese. On one of these stations, American quantum-computing specialist Fred Frederics (who’s not as glamorous a character as you might think from this description) gets framed for murder and runs into the political dissident Chan Qi, who happens to be the daughter of a member of the standing Committee of the Chinese communist party, and also pregnant. Together, the two of them travel from the moon to the earth and back to evade their would-be captors. In the end, Red Moon also turns out to be a thematic sequel to Robinson’s previous novel New York 2140 (although the timelines don’t add up, but Robinson has stated several times that he doesn’t care about writing a consistent future history; he cares about ideas and questions, and keeps injecting them in new ways into his books). So if you wondered what might have come of the Householder’s Union, you’ll find a part of the answer in Red Moon.

Cosmic Underground - A Grimoire of Black Speculative Discontent by Reynaldo Anderson and John Jennings
Cedar Grove € 29,99

With this book Reynaldo Anderson and John Jennings, professors for Communication (Anderson) and Media and Cultural Studies (Jennings), present a state-of-the-art selection on everything afrofuturist: essays on mythology, history, jazz, and politics, poems, a miniature play, short stories…
What makes this book really stand out in comparison to other anthologies though, is the visual art: graphics, comics, photography, painting… (though maybe I only say that because I have not have time to read much in it) that illuminates the written discourse and gives an impression of the vastness and diversity of afrofuturism/ Black speculative fiction as an aesthetic movement.
Play some Sun Ra, George Clinton, or Janelle Monaé, indulge in this lush, gorgeous volume, and discover new worlds...


Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch
Orion € 13,95

Peter Grant is back!
And yes, he is still fighting the faceless man, who just keeps on getting creepier. I missed Aaronovitch’s style and just love to be back in his supercool version of London.
The long awaited showdown between Peter and the faceless man is finally here and our favourite Copper wizard must work harder than ever to make it out with his skin still intact.
I just so hope that Aaronovitch will continue to bless us with more stories about Peter, Nightingale and the Folly.

The Mortal World by Genevieve Cogman
Macmillan € 9,95

Attention! Attention! Major plot twists ahead!
Cogman finds once again a scary and exciting mission for one of my favourite heroines.
This time Irene and Vale team up to solve a murder at a super secret peace conference.
On the way the reader experiences a sheer mass of a roller coaster ride. And if you are anything like me, you will be sad when it’s over and happy about the fact that Genevieve Cogman is still not finished with this series.

Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin
random House US € 27,45

I enjoy a good history book. I know most (all) are annoyed that we still don’t have the new volume in the series, but this one is the next best thing. You’ll get great background information, plus this book is suitable for non-readers but show-watchers as well. And just look at the beautiful illustrations!
If you always wanted to know how Westeros was conquered by the Tagaryans and most importantly why, you should put this nice title on your Christmas list.

The Founders Trilogy #1- Foundryside by Robert Jackson Benett
crown € 27,00

Stylish, eloquent, gritty, funny, complex - I strongly recommend this book!
Foundryside is a slum in a city that appears like a mixture of ancient Rome, renaissance Venice, and the early City of London. Politics, public order or stately authority are non-existent outside the four dominating merchant families’ private compounds. There’s some kind of magic called “scriving” which nobody quite understands and seems to operate by way of lying to objects about their current state: like telling a wheel it’s rolling downhill if you want the cart to move. It sounds a little bit like programming reality itself, as it’s all done in writing. Which (literally) opens all kinds of doors to manipulation, hacking, and bugs.
The characters are instantly likeable: Sancia the thief with a very unusual affliction that motivated her to accept the job that started the whole mess; her new companion Clef, who has lost most of his memories but has a way of manipulating scribed objects like no other (and seems to get off on it, which is very weird and also hilarious, but why that is would be telling); Gregor, proverbial white sheep offspring of the ruling elite who just wants a little law and order; and a bunch more.
The narration is incredibly fast-paced. Almost immediately stuff explodes, the harbour is on fire, houses collapse, there’s a lot of running, jumping, hiding, chasing, sneaking, climbing, stealing, and witty talking. Still, Bennett manages to expand his world beyond the limits of the city, hinting at the massive plantations that are needed to sustain the city elite’s luxurious life and where unspeakably horrific things happen. It’s all very steampunky, but without top hats (some goggles are worn). Even the fighting scenes are fun to read, relying less on brute force than on scribed gadgets, stealth, luck and audacity. As if this wasn’t enough, there is a backstory to this world that covers centuries or even millenia - a whole collapsed, ancient civilization lurking in the background.
Bring on the sequel!

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
tor € 28,99

Did you finish the first novel about Baru Cormorant, a girl who is trying to beat an imperialistic empire from within and with its own weapons, hating Baru’s guts for all the evil she has done striving for that goal? Or were you on the brink of tears out of compassion for her, thinking of the impossible choices she had to make again and again? No matter if it is one or the other or both, Baru certainly has been transformed by the events of the first book, and the term “traitor” by now seems a little weak for her … so The Monster Baru Cormorant is certainly a fitting title for the second book. If you are up for fantasy that will pull your guts out and hang you from them while lovingly caressing the heart still beating in your open chest, pick this monster up. You will regret it dearly and sweetly ... [Jakob]

Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen
tor € 10,99

Baba Yaga

is a slavic witch

who lives in a house

which stalks the forest on one chicken foot.

Finding Baba Yaga

is a novel

which is written in verses

just like these.

It is mystical,

but also modern.


and funny.

And, obviously:

very inspiring!


The Death and Life of Schneider Wrack by Nate Crowley
abaddon € 11,10

In a world where Zombies are in fact criminals who have been executed and reanimated as a means of punishment, Schneider Wrack is trying to organize a rebellion. He may or may not have committed the crime he was executed for, but that’s of secondary importance. What’s important is that the way Zombies are treated is not OK and he’s going to do something about it. And he won’t leave it at that, he’s going to go to the Grand Amazon to find the legendary city of High Sawarak.
This book is hilarious, this book is greatly written, it is disgusting, it is gross, it is heartwarming, it is astonishing and every single person in the world needs to read it!

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
Del rey € 15,95

This is definitely one of the most interesting titles in our horror section. I hesitate to call it horror; it’s more like… Sleeping Beauty meets Western meets Buried… A tale of dark dark fantasy in the wild wild west.
Carol is a wealthy woman who suffers from an unusual condition: every now and then she drops dead, but wakes up within two days. Few people know this condition and when the last one of them dies, her husband Dwight decides to profit from her next fit to declare her dead and bury her alive. Little did he know that Carol’s ex boyfriend, the infamous and legendary western outlaw James Moxie, would set out to save her from being buried. A breathtaking race against the clock begins: Moxie on the Trail, making his way through the Ucatanani and Miskaloosa Counties to save his lost love from her deep sleep; Dwight plotting, stressing, acting the mourning husband and Carol, in a coma, falling, falling, falling… Add a sinister and scary hitman Dwight has hired to kill Moxie and Rot, not Death mind you, but Rot who is enraged that Carol keeps on slipping through his hands and will do anything to take her - and you have a one of a kind western horror! 
I admit I rolled my eyes when I first read the premise; a woman who regularly drops dead, yeah right… But I have to say that in this case it doesn’t matter. Or let's say, everything comes together and makes somewhat sense at the end of the book. And that's not even necessarily what makes Unbury Carol so unique - it's Malerman's use of language, his style. Everything is a little exaggerated, polished, stylish in this book. This unusual novel really is worth a read, it got me very intrigued.

Role playing

Cavaliers of Mars by Rose Bailey
onyx path publishing € 35,00

Mars is a dying planet, a cold desert punctuated by small towns and a few great cities. It’s denizens - among them the human-looking red martians, the four-armed white martians and the ape-like Zaius - know that they are among the last generations of their world. Others have come before, great civilisations, their wonders now swallowed by red dust … the heroes of Mars live for the day and for their passions, they are swashbucklers, thieves and cavaliers, killing for glory and dying for love …
This is the evocative setting of Cavaliers of Mars, which quite succesfully marries planetary romance with post-apocalypse and swashbuckling. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve, with Mars cities called Vance or Cimmeria. But despite the strong hints of Dying Earth, The Three Musketeers and even of the D&D setting Dark Sun, the whole thing still feels pretty fresh and original to me. The game system is also intriguing, rating your motivations and your methods rather than characteristics like strength and dexterity - to me, it looks a little like Cortex+, or a more pre-structured Fate that is less dependant on players spending some kind of Fate-point-currency. It’s pretty simple, but from the looks of it, it should still be able to provide complex and challenging outcomes. High up on my must-give-it-a-spin list.

Odd Soot by Clarence Redd
frostbyte books € 29,00

In the 1920s, space flight might still seem like something wondrous to most people, and the workings of difference engines a mystery - but still, each day rockets leave from Glimminge, the capital of Doggerland, to rendezvous with the interstellar starships in orbit, bound for Comae space. Human colonies have been established, and alien visitors travel to Eorthe ... it is a time of great discovery, and some speculate that hadn’t humankind taken to the stars at the turn of the century, discovering up new perspectives and new territories, it might have faced a Great War among itself like none that has come before … but not all is well: Space is a dangerous place, and cultural shock has led to the rise of new, threatening ideologies. And then there’s the soot, a strange rash that does not only infect the skin, but seemingly the very soul …
Quite sneakily and with enormous understatement, Odd Soot presents one of the weirdest science fiction rpg settings I’ve ever come across. Yes, there are slight hints of Steampunk and Lovecraftianisms on the parallel World of Eorthe, but mainly, it is its own mix of alternate history, space opera, fantasy and a little dose of existential horror. Its aliens, inspired by anatomical drawings from 1920s, are a delight, most of them far from the tentacled or insectoid creatures we have become so accustomed to, and show a deep love of strange and wonderful biological phenomena. There’s a strong core story to the game, as well, with the player characters fighting against the soot infection and trying to get to the bottom of it before it kills them.
Rules-wise, this is based on a stripped-down version of Mythras (which, in turn, is based on RuneQuest, the classical D100 roll-under system). So nothing brand-new, but it does the job. Odd Soot adds in extra rules for social circles to anchor the characters to the setting. The combat chapter feels a little overwritten for a game that is so obviously not designed to be combat-heavy, and thankfully, Odd Soot also features a simplified combat system.
Overall, if, like me, you’re a sucker for strange rpg settings that go less for over-the-top aesthetics and more for thinking through the implications of one or two positively weird core ideas, than this one is for you!

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