Holiday reading:- (Most of which was thanks to the e-book reader on my Asus Eee PC, a device I’m finally starting to seriously appreciate…)
1: Farthing, by Jo Walton – an alternate history whodunnit, set in a world where the UK made peace with Hitler directly after Dunkirk, this was excellent stuff, functioning both as a great mystery and a very unsettling piece of fiction, allowing the really dark edges of the story (and the wider implications) to sink in gradually rather than going the sledgehammer route. It’s also very well characterised, and the first time in a while that I’ve read a genuine whodunnit. Powerful, effective, and very relevant.
2: Infected, by Scott Siegler – a very Crichton-esque tale of a mysterious outbreak of psychotic disorders that turns out to be connected to an odd disease with very horrible consequences. It’s a very good pageturner, and he’s obviously done his research, but it all starts getting silly halfway through, and part of the central character’s conflict seems to be won by him embracing his similarities with his abusive father, which I don’t think was quite what Siegler was aiming for. It’s fun, fast-paced and fantastically gory, but you’ll have forgotten it twenty minutes after finishing.
3: Four and Twenty Blackbirds, by Cherie Priest – An engaging tale of Voodoo and ghosts in the Deep South, although I can’t help feeling that the more the overarching plot becomes important, the less interesting the book gets. There’s a real charm in the far more episodic first four chapters that the book can’t quite sustain, and I can’t help feeling it might have been better as a short novella (or even a collection of short stories).
4: Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman – To be honest, I didn’t finish this, and am not certain if I will. I seriously admire Newman’s short fiction (the collection Unforgivable Stories is wonderful), but I really have trouble with his novels. It doesn’t help that Anno Dracula is essentially doing the same thing that Alan Moore went on to do with the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Newman’s stuff suffers from some of the problems that have admittedly started affecting the League (particularly in The Black Dossier) – the fact that if you can’t keep up with the multitude of references, it gets very difficult to care. There’s some fantastic ideas here, but it does feel a little too much like an intellectual exercise rather than a story that’s compelling me to find out what happens next.