Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sampling September: Science fiction & fantasy

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (16 March 2015) by Becky Chambers

The premise: Rosemary Harper, on the run from a troubled past, joins a spaceship named the Wayfarer, where she hopes to lead a peaceful life - a plan that's thrown off balance when the crew are offered the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet... 'Rosemary isn't the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.'
First line: As she woke up in the pod, she remembered three things.
What I read: Chapters 1-3 (up to 7% in the ebook).
Would I read the rest of it? This could have gone either way. The Long Way... is very much a Twitter buzz book, one I probably wouldn't have heard about at all without a host of enthusiastic social media updates that made it sound irresistible. I didn't find the first few chapters as addictive as I'd hoped, but it's certainly a very readable story that quickly establishes a vivid and interesting cast of characters, along with a sympathetic protagonist whose secrets are already pretty intriguing. I don't read much science fiction, so it's nice to try something a bit different, and I think I will pick this up again at some point.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty LoganThe Gracekeepers (23 April 2015) by Kirsty Logan

The premise: In a flooded world, North is a 'dampling' who lives on a circus boat and performs with her beloved bear, while Callanish, a supposedly privileged 'landlocker', works as a gracekeeper, tending the graves of those who die at sea. A storm creates a chance meeting between the two, and they are 'magnetically drawn to one another, and the promise of a new life'.
First line: The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky.
What I read: The prologue and chapter 1 (9%).
Would I read the rest of it? This really surprised me. I really enjoyed Kirsty Logan's debut collection of short stories, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales, when I read it last year - but I'd been putting this novel off for a while, fearing the premise wasn't my cup of tea, that it sounded too whimsical, too explicitly fantastical. But as soon as I started it, I was drawn straight into its world and wanted to read on; the characters are easy to care about, especially troubled North. I realise many won't find a comparison with Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus flattering, but it gave me the same cosy, magical feeling (although I think Logan is a better writer than Morgenstern). I have a feeling this will be a perfect winter book, so I'm going to save it for a couple of months before carrying on.

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy The Dead Lands (9 April 2015) by Benjamin Percy

The premise: The Dead Lands is set in 'a nightmarish post-apocalyptic American West'. The security of a walled city is disturbed when a stranger appears with stories of a 'green and fertile land' far beyond its boundaries. But is her account reliable?
First line: She knows there is something wrong with the baby. She has known from the very beginning.
What I read: The prologue, chapter 1 and part of chapter 2 (7%).
Would I read the rest of it? I don't think so, although there's nothing technically wrong with the story so far. Sometimes you just don't 'click' with the voice of a book, and so it was with this - I was hoping for a Station Eleven sort of thing, but The Dead Lands is tonally very different and... I don't have any better way to describe it than saying I felt too much like I was reading a fantasy novel. That may sound like an obvious point to make, but it's something that always throws me out of a story and/or makes it difficult for me to engage. Not a bad book, just not right for me.

Throughout September I'll be working through some of my 2015 to-read list, sampling the books and cataloguing my thoughts on each of them. Find all the posts in this series here!

I received my copy of
The Dead Lands from the publisher through NetGalley.

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