Mar 7, 2019

Book Recommendations March 2019

We hope the new book arrangement in the shop - namely the fusing of the English fantasy and science fiction sections - has not confused you too much, but it was time for a change!
Other than that, everything goes on as usual: Today role-playing evening, tomorrow the Otherland Speculative Fiction Book Club (discussing Jack Vance’s Tales of the Dying Earth) and next Friday the Speculative Theory Book Club (discussing Samuel R. Delany’s “About 5750 Words” and Steven Brust’s “Truth as a Vehicle for Enhancing Fiction, Fiction as a Vehicle for Discovering Truth”). There’s no admission fee for any of the events, they all start at 7.30 pm at the Otherland Bookstore, there’s free snacks and drinks as usual, contributions are welcome. You don’t need to sign up for the book clubs (but please read the book/the articles), you do need to sign up for the role playing evening though (just drop Jakob a mail). Please check our website for readings in German.
Enjoy our newsletter recommendations!

Science Fiction

The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn
mariner Euro 14,99
Welcome to the Bannerless-Saga, volume 2 - which continues the murder story in a post-apocalyptic world, in which a new society tries not to make the same mistakes that lead to environmental disaster and social collapse. Well, humans can always make new mistakes…
Labeled as “feminist dystopian mystery series” it’s an intense read, even more so after the first book. [Wolf]

Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre
orbit Euro 10,95
Scottish novelist Chris Brookmyre normally writes about modern life, politics, social questions, thrillerish and entertaining. But now he turns SF  - with Places in the Darkness. It’s about Ciudad de Cielo - The City in the Sky, a space station above earth and the beacon for humanity's future in space. Well, but even beacons throw shadows. And there is prostitution, gangwar and crime as usual. Until dead bodies show up and a the investigators have to deal with a bigger problem than gangs.
Well-written and entertaining - I am looking forward to more SF from Chris! [Wolf]

"Fractured Europe" Sequence by Dave Hutchinson (Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight, Europe in Winter, Europe at Dawn)
solaris Euro 11,10
The Fractured Europe Sequence is a series of four novels published between 2014 and 2018. They are set in a near-ish future, in which Europe is politically shattered into hundreds of tiny states, gathering not only around traditional nationalist or identity politics, but also around football, ecology, or the literature of Günther Grass. One has overcome cumbersome territorial debates, and has claimed independence for a train, which means it is a constantly moving political entity.
In this hyper-fragmented world, Rudi is an Estonian chef working in Kraków who is sucked into a secret carrier organisation which is thriving along with the constantly changing borders, and then things start to get really, really weird. I don’t want to give too much away, but since the first books have been out for a while, may I just hint that there is another sphere which is entirely colonized by English people fleeing from the reality of Fractured Europe? If that’s not a timely reference, then I don’t know what is ...
People write about this reverently online, and I am very happy to see Poland and Central Eastern Europe in general as settings for sci-fi-/ weird literature (because these places once certainly had a lot of future ahead of them which they now, weirdly, seem to have exchanged for hyper-liberal nationalism/religious conservatism/proto-fascism, but I digress), but I found the writing style challenging and the way the plot unfolded to slow and convoluted for my taste. Perhaps this is due to the genre - spy novels were never my thing, and it might take more patience and careful reading than I am able to muster at the moment to really dive into this. It was nice to see correctly written Polish though, and the chapters I read revealed a deliciously dry humour and a lucid political mind which seems less interested in elite schemes then in grounded, mundane affairs, which I find too often lacking in politically interested literature. [Sarah]

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
canongate Euro 10,95
The historical Joan of Arc was a girl when she first received visions from god which filled her with so much determination and stubbornness that she managed to convince huge crowds of “French” people help her seriously annoy the invading “English” people, until she was betrayed, captured, tortured by Catholics and eventually burned at the stake.
So, imagine the “France” of Joan of Arc’s time as Earth, and the “English” invaders as the grotesquely deformed former terran elite, which migrated to a space station circling the planet’s orbit but still sending down the occasional raiding party to kill every moving thing on the surface. This station is ruled by  a tyrant wearing the name of Jean de Men, who represents the writer of the medieval poem “Roman de la Rose” (Jean de Meun). We are entering the story through the literary representation of his historical antagonist, Christine (de Pizan), who, in a final act of rebellion before her body is being recycled (resources are limited on the station) “grafts” the story of Joan of Dirt on her body. Grafting is what the posthumans on the station do because they cannot have sex anymore because their sexual organs have mutated away (and awfully quickly, so the fifty-year-old narrator still remembers hers). Meanwhile, on earth, Joan of Dirt, despite having been burned some time ago, is still going strong against the oppressors, fuelled by a mysterious force inside her that even she doesn’t quite understand.
To understand what’s really going on, all you need is the patience to read this book in full, and perhaps a few semesters of semiotics, literary theory and an open mind for holistic, non-chronological, postmodern ideas. The thoughts Yuknavitch is developing here about the physical nature of humanity are not uninteresting, I just wish they were delivered less via explanatory dialogues and inner monologues, and would read less like an academic attempting to make a point and more like a fiction writer with wild ideas. For after all, many of the ideas about gender and sex in this book still seem awfully conservative and incoherent to me, and since the writer chose to place a quote by Doris Lessing at the beginning, I am wondering if this is perhaps more New Age and binary essentialist feminism than transhumanism and queerness than the author intended.
Not a bad book, I suppose, but trying too hard without managing to convince [Sarah]

A People’s Future of the United States by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams (ed.)
one world Euro 17,00
A People’s Future of the United States is a timely, important collection of short stories which was inspired by Howard Zinn’s bestselling complementary “People’s History of the United States” (1980), which added previously silenced voices of the oppressed natives, indentured servants and female perspectives to the national narrative of the US. Correspondingly, LaValle and Adams set out to collect visions of the future from diverse backgrounds and authors, such as Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, Catherynne M. Valente, Seanan McGuire, Malka Older, G. Willow Wilson and many more. While very different in style and tone, all stories engage with current political developments and imagine future struggles that might derive from them.
I’ve only read Sam J. Miller’s “It Was Saturday Night, Guess That Makes It Alright” so far - judging from that, I would definitely recommend the collection to all those who want to neither resign to fatalist cynicism nor give in to apolitical depression, but instead continue to resist, refuse, and retain a sense of an open future and political agency even when the present looks grim. [Sarah]



The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie
orbit Euro 17,95
The Raven has been protecting the people of Iraden for an eternity - but now, when the throne is contested and an invaders army is waiting at the borders, the Raven seems to have abandoned them …
You know Ann Leckie as the author of Ancillary Justice, it’s sequels, and Providence. Now she has turned to writing a one-volume epic fantasy from the perspective of a god - and as I know her, this probably won’t just mean that this is a novel about a being with awesome powers. Leckie is not only a great and wickedly smart world-builder, but also someone who gets all this complex and messy stuff about family and belonging ...
I’m very much looking forward to reading The Raven Tower - right now, I’m still busy with Josiah Bancroft’s The Hod King, but right after that, Leckie it will be! [Jakob]

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan
orbit Euro 12,49
This is the strange case of me already being a fan of an author although I haven’t read one novel by him - and actually, The Gutter Prayer, a dark fantasy novel set in an ancient metropolis, is Hanrahan’s first novel. Still, Hanrahan is a veteran writer: He’s one of the first and foremost role-playing game scenario designers out there.
Is this truly high praise? In Hanrahan’s case, yes and YES! The scenarios he’s written show his impressive grasp of what kind of conflicts make a story tick. He’s a master of designing implied stories by providing people, motivations, places and atmospheric detail, and if he’s brought only a fraction of these skills to bear to lay the groundwork for The Gutter Prayer, it should be rock-solid. [Jakob]



Generation Loss by Elisabeth Hand
harcourt Euro 18,95
Generation Loss is the first and arguably best novel in Hand’s Cass Neary series and is the Winner of the Shirley Jackson winner for Best Novel of 2007. The once famous and successful punk-scene-photographer Neary is in a downward spiral when she stumbles upon an opportunity that could help her get her life back on track; an interview with the person who inspired in her youth who now is a recluse and Neary is about to dive into a hellish, horrific world that will somehow show her a way of redemption.
I admit that Generation Loss is something of a slow burner and it takes a little too long for the story to get going and I see that this can be tensing for some readers. Still, if you hang on in there and make it through the first 150 pages OR you are not that plot-bound and focus on the book as a whole, you will find a beautifully written, genuinely scary and dark story featuring a brilliant protagonist. And I think it’s worth it. [Inci]

You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian
jonathan cape Euro 15,95
Folks, this will not be a review in the truest sense as I have not yet read You Know You Want This because it has arrived a day before this very newsletter will be sent out. I don’t know if it is the title or the fact that Carmen Maria Machado of all people has called it “perverse” and “utterly bananas” (adding she loves it), but this book is strongly appealing, and I think it will be my women’s day read! It comprises twelve short stories, described as “a compulsive collection about sex, dating and modern life”. I’m intrigued ... [Inci]

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