I’m…slightly surprised by the list I’ve ended up with for this. I’m not even sure why.
These are books I read for the first time in the last three years. Otherwise you’d end up with a list full of Tolkien, and that would be boring.
- Railsea – China Mieville. Why is Railsea my favourite book of the last three years? Trains, storytelling, late capitalism, salvagepunk, ginormous flesh-eating desert moles, and a transcendent, revelatory ending that’s as sharply funny as it is perfect. And the sense, so rare in fantasy, that Mieville knows exactly what he’s doing with every single frickin’ word he puts on the page.
- The Melancholy of Mechagirl – Catherynne Valente. I read pretty much all of this on a train. I still remember how I felt when I got off that train: utterly entranced, like all the world had turned to Fairyland when I wasn’t looking. I still think it’s kind of problematic that this is a collection of stories about Japan by a white American author. But what stories they are.
- Palimpsest – Catherynne Valente. Oh, there’s gonna be a lot of Valente in this list. Palimpsest is gorgeous, baroque, labyrinthine, heavy with meaning and Valente’s honey-dripping prose. And really fucking weird to describe to other people: “Well, it’s about a sexually-transmitted city…” I’m planning a Palimpsest cosplay for Nine Worlds this year. That’ll be a fun day.
- Our Tragic Universe – Scarlett Thomas. Like. I think I fell for Our Tragic Universe as hard and completely as I did because it was the right book at just exactly the right time: in this case, a break-up. Or the beginning of one. I read this on a train, too. Its quiet and somehow wholesome hope caught hold of me, and didn’t let go.
- The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers. This is still one of my comfort reads. It’s just so full of people being nice to each other and looking out for each other’s emotional needs and generally rubbing along together. It’s another one that gives me hope – for our future as a species.
- Radiance – Catherynne Valente. ALL THE VALENTE. I actually think Radiance is a bit…self-indulgent? All that postmodernism that doesn’t quite go anywhere new. But I’m very prepared to ignore that for Valente’s lush Art Deco worldbuilding, her brilliant, crazy version of Hollywood-in-space, her prose like gleaming treasure you want to hug to your heart and never let go.
- What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi. I read this so quickly I almost don’t remember it; I only have impressions left. The stories in this collection are welcoming, inclusive, fairy-tale tinged as all of Oyeyemi’s work is, laden with a potent, elegiac mixture of hope and sadness.
- The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin. This. Is. Astonishing. And devastating. The reason it’s this low on my list is because it’s such a tough read: it has a lot to say about trauma, and oppression, and institutional abuse. But it’s a big deal in genre at the moment because it’s smart and inclusive and formally tricksy.
- God’s War – Kameron Hurley. “Nyx sold her womb between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.” That’s all.
- Saga Volume 1 – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I haven’t read any Saga for a while because of my local library’s terrible graphic novel section and I always feel unreasonably twitchy about paying £12.99 for 120 pages, but the art and the world and the characters. I’m going to have to get back into it, aren’t I.
(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s meme Top Ten Tuesday.)