What I’ve Been Reading: May-July 2015

In an effort to keep track of my reading, I’ve started taking notes about the stories I’ve been enjoying. All of them are linked, where applicable. If there’s something I’ve missed, or that I should read, leave a comment or send me a note at nanoonino [at] gmail [dot] com. Note: It’s been a busy few months, so here’s a roundup of the last three months’ worth of recommended reading.

Novels:

My Real Children by Jo Walton. The premise of this story is actually pretty simple: an old woman with dementia remembers two distinct versions of her life. In one version, she married her college fiancé, while the other, she decided not to. The consequences of that choice seem to reach much farther than the protagonists personal life, and two entirely different worlds emerge. I think the real strength of this novel was actually in the wonderful way that two separate lives were rendered over the course of the novel. The world building and the interpersonal dynamics really worked for me. The end, not so much. I’m not totally sure what I was meant to take away from this story–it seemed like we were meant to believe that Patricia had unintentionally traded personal happiness for a measure of world peace. Realizing this, it opens the question to the audience: what choice would we make for ourselves? And would we choose the same if we knew the consequences?

Story Collections:

What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler.
I’d never read Karen Joy Fowler until this past month. I WAS SUCH A FOOL. Fowler is adept at writing in different genres and different themes, gliding from subtle horror to postmodern magical realism to historical science fiction. Her stories occupy the liminal space between dream and reality and nightmare. I can’t even.

Queers Destroy Science Fiction, edited by Seanan McGuire.
There are too many amazing stories in here to name, and I’m entirely biased, because I’m friends with a good number of people on the T.O.C. Just buy it and read it. It’s fantastic.

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The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, TPB #1-2
Another one of those stories that I’m kicking myself for not reading sooner. Gorgeous art and a compelling premise: every 90 years, twelve gods are incarnated in human bodies, and become pop stars. Within two years, they will all be dead. The writing is sharp, with Gillen delivering compelling character arcs and daring plots. I can’t describe how amazing the art is: it shows, without any doubt, how these characters contain their godheads while retaining their humanity. How do you do that? WHAT IS THIS COMIC.

Essays

Everything Is Yours, Everything Is Not Yours,” by Clemantine Wamariya. A gripping narrative that encompasses the complexity of being a refugee, of surviving the worst and still continuing to live in an insensible world.

“This is from your family, in Rwanda,” Oprah said, handing me a tan envelope. “From your father and your mother and your sisters and your brother.” Claire and I did know that our parents were alive, but we’d barely talked to them because — how do you start? Why didn’t you look harder for us? How are you? I’m fine, thanks, now working at Gap, and I’ve found it’s much easier to learn to read English if you also listen to audio books?

Short Fiction

Planet Lion” by Catherynne M. Valente in Uncanny Magazine.
I listen to a lot of story podcasts, because my job as a mechanic requires my hands but not much of my attention. This story, read by the actor Heath Miller, is one of the best I’ve heard in months of podcast-listening. I have a hard time with some of Valente’s stories. Any review will mention her ornate and evocative prose, and many of her stories are densely packed with imagery and details. Reading it off the page, I get overwhelmed by it. I’ve noticed, however, that hearing her work read aloud is amazing, spellbinding, and lovely. (A friend and I traded off reading Deathless, which was how I was introduced to her work.) Heath Miller does an excellent job pulling out the many threads of this story, the voices, the layers. Highly recommended, and the podcast includes a great interview with Valente.

The Cellar Dweller” by Maria Dahvana Headley in Nightmare Magazine.
Speaking of podcasts, Lightspeed and Nightmare put out excellent, high-production audio versions of many of their stories. This is another story I recommend listening to out loud, because there’s so much wonderful wordplay in it, a sort of whimsy and bounciness to the prose that buoys up a rather dark story, and makes it a joy to hear. It’s a little Roald Dahl, a little Scary Stories to Read In the Dark.

Android Whores Can’t Cry” by Natalia Theodoridou in Clarkesworld.
(Another story that I listened to on audio. Seriously, bless all these magazines that podcast their stories.) Theodoridou consistently writes amazing and evocative stories, pulling imagery from the natural world, and making complicated and layered plots. Also recommended: her flash story from Daily Science Fiction, “A Domestic Lepidopterist,” published in March this year.

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