For someone who blogs about writing, I haven’t talked much about reading lately. Let’s remedy that…
The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett
Pratchett remains my all time favourite writer, which makes it particularly weird going back to his early works. One of two sci-fi novels he wrote before creating the Discworld, The Dark Side of the Sun feels strangely both like and unlike the Pratchett I know. It retains the surreality, some of the jokes, even a few specific words and phrases, but neither the voice nor the story style is anywhere near as rich.
At my book group, we talked about how Strata didn’t feel like a Pratchett story. Instead, it’s like an attempt to do Niven or Banks style sci-fi by someone whose style doesn’t fit that work. Dark Side is the same. It’s fascinating to go back to as a long time Pratchett fan, to see how he developed. And as a writer, it’s heartening to see that someone went from this to become one of the modern greats. But if this sort of thing was all he’d done, I’m not sure we’d even be talking about Pratchett any more.
The Elizabethan Underworld by Gamini Salgado
In England, we’re raised to see the reign of Elizabeth I as a great era of national strength and renewal. But it was also a time full of dark events and seedy shenanigans, from state sponsored piracy to a growing and desperate underclass. This book examines the lives of criminals in that era, and it’s absolutely fascinating.
This is a history book that’s rich in details. It evokes the characters of the time, the places they went, the crimes they carried out. There are descriptions of clever con games, rigged gambling games, and people struggling to survive the game of life.
The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey, narrated by Flinty Williams
Of all the attempts I’ve seen to put a new twist on the zombie genre, Carey’s is one of the most successful.
Melanie is a girl, maybe ten years old, living in a Britain blighted by a terrible disease that turns people into monsters. Infected with the disease and held in a government research lab, Melanie is part of an experiment to try to understand the disease and maybe help humanity survive it. But of course Melanie doesn’t understand that. She doesn’t even understand the cruelty she’s suffering. She just wants to be loved.
Showing so much of the story from the perspective of a zombie child is part of what makes Carey’s story so distinctive, but the other view points add to its power. Seeing what makes the adults tick, how they respond to Melanie and to disaster, gives this extra emotional weight. It’s that emotion that makes it work – Carey’s clever take on the cause of zombies is just window dressing.
I’m listening to the audiobook of this one, mostly while out running, so it’s possible that my own racing pulse is shaping how I view it. But even with that caveat, this is a thrilling and touching story.
So that’s some of my recent reading. How about the rest of you – what are you reading right now? Anything you’d recommend?