Top Ten Queer Characters

  1. Innon – The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin. A bi, poly pirate who’s also really hot. *mic drop*
  2. Sissix – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers. Sissix and Rosemary’s relationship is one of my favourite things about this book. They actually TALK about things instead of trying to guess at what the other person’s feeling. And visibly support each other. Also! I think this was the first queer SF book I read, and I read it when I was just starting to come out (to myself as much as anyone), and I was so grateful that Sissix/Rosemary could exist.
  3. Nyx – God’s War, Kameron Hurley. “Nyx sold her womb somewhere between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.” Boom! Nyx is bi – as are most of the characters in the novel, actually – and defiantly, violently female, and lord knows she’d be a terrible person to have dinner with but she’s a great character to read about.
  4. Lila – A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E. Schwab. Lila is a cross-dressing, genderfluid steampunk pirate who (at least in the first book) shows no interest in romance, and it’s great.
  5. November – Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente. I mean. Everyone in Palimpsest is queer. I like November most, though: I’m drawn to lonely, unassuming characters trying to fill the spaces left by their hopes.
  6. Alma – The Real-Town Murders, Adam Roberts. So Alma is here because she’s incredibly unusual in fiction: she’s in a long-term relationship with another woman, who she cares for 24/7. And they’ve been together so long (and Marguerite is so ill) that it’s not even particularly romantic any more. It’s a couple dynamic we see very rarely in fiction – although Roberts presents it so matter-of-factly it’s easy to miss how radical it is.
  7. Pencil Khan – The Glass Republic, Tom Pollock. Pen’s another really unusual character: a teenage girl, practising Muslim and trauma survivor who gets a queer romance that’s believable and adorable without getting in the way of the very real dangers she faces. All this is brilliant in a YA novel.
  8. Ingray Aughskold – Provenance, Ann Leckie. This is another novel where Everyone is Queer (the best kind of novel), and Ingray’s developing crush on a female police captain is just adorable. And one of those romances that make you want to shout “JUST KISS ALREADY!”
  9. Avice Benner Cho – Embassytown, China Mieville. I just remembered this one! Avice is in an asexual relationship with her husband Scile, because they don’t enjoy sex together but still want to be partners. Which is another unusual, and welcome, dynamic.
  10. Fevvers – Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter. OK, so it’s never confirmed that Fevvers is in a relationship with her chaperone? agent? friend? Lizzie, but my word this book is definitely queer. And Fevvers is brilliant: larger than life, subversively feminine, altogether wonderful.

(The prompt for this post comes from the weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Characters I’d Like to Check In With

  1. Lirael – Lirael, Garth Nix. I don’t think Goldenhand really works as a novel, but it was so lovely seeing Lirael again (and her adorable awkward romance with Nick). She’s just one of those characters who I really, really want to see happy. She deserves it, after all.
  2. Meg Carpenter – Our Tragic Universe, Scarlett Thomas. I have so many questions. Does she finish her novel? Does she get together with Rowan? Does she ever have the big screaming relationship-ending argument with Christopher? (I don’t want a sequel, though. The novel is perfect as it is.)
  3. Blue Van Meer – Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Marisha Pessl. I love Blue. She knows so much and is so lost at the same time. What happens to her when she goes to university? Does she ever find out the truth about her father? (Answer: probably not.)
  4. Frodo Baggins – The Return of the King, J.R.R. Tolkien. Well, OK, I just want to know what Valinor is like. And what a hobbit even does all day in paradise. Yes, I know these questions entirely miss the point. Oh, also, I would love to see Sam and Frodo’s reunion in Valinor, which I am sure would be lovely beyond words.
  5. Frank Vanderwal – Green Earth, Kim Stanley Robinson. Robinson never really says anything about the results of Frank’s brain surgery, I think for thematic reasons – but I’d like to know if his decision-making improves, and how things go with Caroline. (Still shipping him with Diane, though.)
  6. Sei – Palimpsest, Catherynne M. Valente. I’d like to hear about all her adventures on the trains. Palimpsest is always a wonderful world to visit, in any case.
  7. The Marquess – The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente. It’s possible the Marquess resurfaces in The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, the last of Valente’s Fairyland books. I haven’t read it yet. She has such a fascinating backstory that I hope we do see more of her.
  8. Breq – Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie. We left Breq just as she was beginning to feel at home among her crew, just as she was starting to develop relationships. It would be lovely to check in with her a few years down the line, and see where those relationships have gone.
  9. Rosemary and Sissix – The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Becky Chambers. I’m shipping these two so hard. That is all.
  10. Nutt – Unseen Academicals, Terry Pratchett. I have a huge soft spot for Nutt, who is kind, clever and very dangerous. Watching him making friends and proving his worth is one of the highlights of the novel – plus, I want to know what becomes of him and Glenda.

(The prompt for this post comes from the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday.)

Ten Books From My Childhood That I’d Like to Revisit

  1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. Rowling. I mean. I’ve read this at least twice as an adult, so maybe it doesn’t really count as revisiting. But I grew up with Harry. For all that the books are imperfect, for all that I dislike the last three, for all that Rowling’s writing never gets better than serviceable, they’ll always be part of me, and I’ll always go back to them for a reminder of what it was to sink absolutely, uncritically, childishly into a fictional world.
  2. Predator’s Gold – Philip Reeve. I’ve mentioned this a couple of times recently – or, rather, I’ve mentioned its predecessor, Mortal Engines, which I re-read last year and, unexpectedly, loved. So I really want to find some time to re-read this sequel.
  3. Sabriel – Garth Nix. I very much want to re-read all the original Old Kingdom trilogy, straight through, at some point. It’s only in the last few years that I’ve really understood how lucky I was to grow up with these books, with their brilliant, flawed, shy, vulnerable heroines who have real agency and lovely romances that don’t compromise that agency.
  4. Fire Bringer – David Clement-Davies. I’m a bit nervous about this one. I have no idea how it will stand up to re-reading. I remember it being quite a dense book for seven-year-old me, so I suspect I might now find it leaden and/or overwrought. And possibly a bit heavy-handed on the Nazi allegory. BUT WHO KNOWS. I just loved the deer.
  5. The Bad Beginning – Lemony Snicket. Oh, the Series of Unfortunate Events books! They are gorgeous: I think you can only get them in hardback, and the thirteen of them (fourteen counting the Unauthorised Autobiography) are quite something lined up on the shelf. I loved the twisted Gothicness of them, the way they’re ostensibly set in this world, but twisted through ninety degrees so everything takes on a new and sinister significance.
  6. Redwall – Brian Jacques. Oh, Redwall. You were so species-essentialist. And you also had delicious food. This is another world-immersion thing, I think: I have about ten books in this series, and I used to read them all in one go, rolling around in the peace of Redwall Abbey and the swashbuckling adventures on the high seas and the weird posh Britishness of Salamandastron and…
  7. The Ring of Bright Water Trilogy – Gavin Maxwell. This is in no way a children’s book, and I have no idea how I got my hands on it in the first place. It’s the memoirs of a guy who lives in a remote house in Scotland and takes in various animals, including, famously, a succession of otters. I remember it as often adorable, sometimes tragic, and fascinated by the landscape of Scotland. It would be interesting to see if that memory’s correct, and if I get anything else out of the book as an adult.
  8. Midnight Over Sanctaphrax – Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. The Deepwoods books were so deeply weird, they were brilliant. Sanctaphrax isn’t the first novel in the series, but it was my favourite because it featured an awesome library (a non-trivial theme of my childhood reading). I think it also had overtones of satire on academia, so that would be fun to re-read.
  9. The Thieves of Ostia – Caroline Lawrence. I don’t think I ever made it to the end of the Flavia Gemina series, but the ones I did read I re-read a lot: I loved how they called up Ancient Rome so thoroughly.
  10. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray – Chris Wooding. I don’t have a fucking clue why this particular book, which I read once at school, has stuck in my mind for so long: why the name Alaizabel Cray, or the word wych-kin, calls up such a delicious shadowed horror in my brain. I barely remember what it’s about. I remember a monster that you could hear as an echo to your footsteps, that would eat you not the first or second time you looked around for the source of the footsteps, but the third. (Seriously? That’s terrifying.) And that’s about it. I actually suspect I’d find it magnificently underwhelming if I read it as an adult.

(The prompt for this post comes from the Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books for Steampunks

A Brief Definition of Steampunk as it lives in my head, because some of these are maybe stretching the definition of “steampunk”: steampunk is alt-history for the marginalised. The “-punk” part is important. Steampunk – good steampunk – punches our historical prejudices in the face. It lets women fly dragons for the Aerial Corps. It lets spinsters roll around with hot werewolves while solving murders in gorgeous dresses. It has artificial intelligences that run on programme cards and wheels made so pi is exactly three and cities that eat each other. It lets conmen take down corporate bastards and apprentices watch their decadent cities burn and petty thieves live with their rich lesbian lovers. It’s fun. It’s subversive (maybe only to a limited extent, but). It lives in capitalism and finds ways to resist it.

I’ll shut up now.

  1. Soulless – Gail Carriger. This is just so much fun. It’s the first novel in Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, and it follows a spinster who, yeah, rolls around with hot werewolves while solving a murder. It is brilliantly camp (seriously, there’s a gay vampire who wears outrageously colourful Victorian outfits and it’s amazing) and somehow ridiculously British despite being written by an American, and all that semi-repressed Victorian sexuality? Is. Steamy.
  2. Mortal Engines – Philip Reeve. This is young young adult (say, early Harry Potter age), but when I read it last year I was seriously impressed by how it manages to do working-class post-apocalyptic steampunk. By which I mean: one of steampunk’s big flaws is that it tends to be interested in bourgeois middle-class characters who, if they’re not exactly rich, at least have enough to get by comfortably. But the young protagonists of Mortal Engines are very much considered second-class citizens by their rapaciously capitalist/Darwinistic society, and so the novel becomes a critique of capitalism and colonialism and privilege. And it’s still definitely steampunk: it has airships and cities on caterpillar tracks and neo-Victorian social structures. It’s very cool.
  3. Steampunk Fashion – Spurgeon Vaughn Ratcliffe. This is essentially a coffee-table book showcasing various steampunk costume designers. I flick through it reasonably regularly when I feel like doing steampunk for the day. Like a lot of steampunk fashion, it is inordinately interested in women wearing outfits that supposedly say “sexy airship pirate!” or “sexy explorer!” but actually say “sexy accident waiting to happen!” (JEEZ, PEOPLE, WHAT KIND OF OUTFIT IS THIS TO WEAR IN AN APOCALYPSE?) But it does also have plenty of steampunk fashion that actually looks like something someone would reasonably wear in an alternative neo-Victorian timeline. And is also sexy. (If I ever have a spare £500 floating around, I will seriously consider a jacket like this. Till then, I must content myself with slightly less-than-excellent-quality steampunk items from Camden Market.)
  4. Perdido Street Station – China Mieville. This is steampunk, but…weird. It’s got an artificial intelligence that’s assembled itself from scrap metal and corpses, and little half-intelligent machines that run on programme cards, and a huge sprawling city threaded by a web of train lines with a huge hulk of a station at its heart, and a mad inventor trying to solve the mysteries of flight. But. You know. It also has human-alien sex scenes, and an embassy from hell, and monsters that make your mind dribble out of your ears, and a stewing revolution. This book, you guys. It’s steampunk and then some.
  5. The Scar – China Mieville. It’s in the same series as Perdido Street Station, and it still feels steampunk to me, but it has a slightly different flavour of steampunk. In other words, it has steampunk pirates. It’s set on a socialist floating city that trundles around the sea living off what it can steal. If Armada isn’t quite my favourite fictional city, it’s very close.
  6. Everfair – Nisi Shawl. Everfair‘s not exactly steampunk to me – it’s alt-history without the playful -punk suffix. But it’s at least marketed as steampunk, and it feels important enough to deserve a place on this list. Like Mortal Engines, it deals with the colonialist, bourgeois prejudices of traditional steampunk head-on. Its characters build a new society in which people who are usually excluded from mainstream accounts of history can find a home – the victims of colonialism, the queer people, the Christian missionaries who assimilate into local religions, the women, the socialists, the exiles. There are difficulties and conflicts. Utopia recedes constantly out of reach. But there’s also compromise that allows people to live together – things aren’t perfect for anyone, but they’re as good for everyone as they can possibly be.
  7. Going Postal – Terry Pratchett. I…am totally not including this here because of Adora Belle Dearheart. Nope. Not at all. Seriously, though, is there anything more steampunk than the clacks: like the internet, but with semaphore? Than a story about a man who invents stamps and hires golems and generally cons everyone into supporting the Post Office? It’s so adorably Dickensian, but without Dickens’ shitty gender politics. (Did I mention Adora Belle Dearheart?)
  8. Retribution Falls – Chris Wooding. Talking of shitty gender politics…well, things could be worse, but Retribution Falls isn’t quite the model of equality I’d like it to be. It’s here because, like Soulless, it’s riotous fun, and because, like The Scar, it has pirates. Maybe it tips a little closer to dieselpunk than steampunk – but it still has that anti-authoritarian alt-history streak I associate with steampunk.
  9. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters. This is probably the least steampunk of any of the books on this list: it’s actually just Victorian pastiche, but I’m including it here because its central couple consists of a rich heiress and the thief girl who’s sent to pose as her servant and rob her. AND THEN THEY FALL IN LOVE, and it’s a novel about how they both navigate the gender constraints of Victorian society to try and find each other again; to try and create a space where they can be together. It’s every bit as tense and heartwarming as it sounds.
  10. Palimpsest – Catherynne Valente. This…is steampunk in almost no traditional sense. It’s quite obsessed with trains, and that’s the main reason why it’s here – or, rather, the main excuse for its being here. Really it’s here because its fictional city Palimpsest feels very Victorian: it’s symbolic and meaningful and layered in a way that modern cities in fiction rarely are. It carries a weight of meaning. Crucially, it’s also a queer city: a city where real things are queered, and a city that only the queer can really reach.

(The prompt for this post comes from the Broke and the Bookish’s recently retired meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Books I Read in the Last Three Years

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. God’s War – Kameron Hurley. “Nyx sold her womb between Punjai and Faleen, on the edge of the desert.” That’s all.
  10. 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.)

Ten Book-Related Problems I Have

  1. An obsessive TBR habit. I don’t mood-read. My everyday life is, I suspect like many people’s, deliberately constructed so I have to make as few decisions as humanly possible (because decisions are exhausting). Calling me a creature of habit would be an understatement. So, I have to read my physical TBR in a certain way: library books take priority because they have to be returned in three weeks; books I borrow from other people go next; and, finally, books I’ve bought or have been given go next, with new books added to the top of the pile. And I always read from the top of the pile. All this means that the books at the bottom of the pile can be there for years. I DIDN’T SAY IT MADE SENSE.
  2. My local library has virtually no SFF by POCs. For example: they have Adam Roberts’ latest book, The Real-Town Murders, which was published last year, in hardback. But they don’t have N.K. Jemisin’s Hugo award-winning, Nebula-nominated The Fifth Season, which was published way back in 2015. Roberts is an excellent author, but The Fifth Season is a big deal in genre circles right now. Why doesn’t my (large) local library have it?
  3. Not enough book space. My mother is currently on a campaign to get me to give away some of the children’s books I’m keeping at my parents’ house, because “there isn’t enough space”. But, really, who has enough book space? Didn’t Terry Pratchett once say never to trust anyone who does? Also, I live in a room with a big window, which is nice except it makes the pages of all my books go orange and their spines all faded.
  4. I find lending books difficult because I tend to lend out my favourites and they’re my friends and what if someone drops them in the bath or leaves them gathering dust in the corner or loses them or something and I never see them again?
  5. People trying to talk to me when I’m reading. The office where I work has a central kitchen area with tables to eat at, and I tend to spend half an hour of my lunch break reading there. At least once a week someone – and it’s always a man – will walk up to me and say something like, “Good book?” a) GO AWAY I’M READING BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO ANYONE ON MY LUNCH BREAK and b) why are you even asking, I’m reasonably sure you’re not actually interested in what I’m reading. Pro tip: don’t do this.
  6. The Lord of the Rings is important to me even though it is incredibly problematic and large stretches of it are, to put it irreverently, boring. (Yes, hello The Two Towers, I am looking at you.) But it’s so thoroughly a part of who I am that I actually can’t not read it once a year.
  7. I am inadvertently clumsy with my books. I always have a book with me, which inevitably means many of my books, once so lovely and shiny, get bumped and scuffed and occasionally rained on. The other week I fell on top of my bag and squashed an orange in there, which meant poor old Bridget Jones went back to the library a little more citrussy than it came out. I eat and drink while I’m reading, too, so they get crumbs in and bits of sauce and occasionally splashes of Earl Grey. On the one hand, it means my books record what I was doing when I read them. On the other hand…they start off so shiny!
  8. Running out of books on holiday. I actually did this recently, in Bologna, having drastically underestimated how much reading I would end up doing. Luckily, Bologna has a bookshop selling English-language books – although I did have to rearrange my luggage quite drastically. I am well aware this problem would be solved by using a Kindle. I don’t want to.
  9. I don’t really like literary fiction. This is a huge generalisation, I know; maybe a more accurate way of putting that would be, “I don’t really like realism” (I’ve read some lovely literary fiction recently by authors like Helen Oyeyemi, Zadie Smith, Ruth Ozeki and others, mainly as a result of the dearth of SFF by POCs in my local library.) Unfortunately, the vast majority of intelligent book conversation in the West is about literary, and principally realist, fiction. I love following the Tournament of Books every March, but I almost never read along, because I’m underwhelmed by so much litfic that gets praised in the course of the ToB. (Everyone said Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was the most harrowing thing they’d ever read. As an SFF reader, I’ve read bleaker apocalypses.) I wish we had more accessible criticism about non-realist and popular genres.
  10. My local library has a worse graphic novel section than my old local library did, which is fucking stupid when you consider how much bigger it is. It also means that I haven’t been able to read any Saga for the last year or so. *sob*

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Things I Hate in Fictional Romances

I rarely ship fictional characters, because I rarely ever read a fictional romance I find convincing. Not uncoincidentally, pretty much all of these are things I dislike about fictional het romances, because so many of our cultural norms for het romances are warped and coercive and, frankly, really fucking weird.

  1. Where creepy and/or abusive behaviours are “romantic”. This includes: watching strangers sleep, entering their space without permission, and pretty much anything that has to be justified by the phrase “it’s for your own good”. Oh, hello Twilight!
  2. Where the (female) love interest is a prize for the (male) protagonist. As in, for example, the dishearteningly popular Ready Player One. DON’T DO THAT. (If we’re gonna be intellectual about it, this is a layover from 12th-century chivalric ideals of knights fighting each other for the hand of The Most Beautiful Woman Ever. It’s objectification, pure and simple.)
  3. Where a supernatural(ly hot) woman pronounces her love interest The Kindest Man In The World. This is a good sign that the novel (which may or may not be Jim C. Hines’ Libriomancer) is not actually interested in the woman as a person: it’s just male fantasy, of the Nice Guy variety.
  4. Where No Really Means Yes. I fucking hate it when persistence makes a love interest change their mind, because what kind of message does that send? (Remember Mr Collins from Pride and PrejudiceNobody deserves that.)
  5. Where a woman Just Needs A Man to settle down and stop being so uppity and weird and unfeminine. *cough*Eowyn*cough* Ooh! Also Bella in Our Mutual Friend.
  6. Where there is a significant age gap. I mean, this is particularly a problem when there are literal centuries between the couple (Twilight again! But also the elf-human relationships in The Silmarillion). But I also can’t get past May-December romances in things like Parable of the Sower, where a godsdamn fifty-year-old man sleeps with an eighteen-year-old girl (even consensually).
  7. Where a woman stays at home while her love interest has awesome adventures. Enough said.
  8. Where a man makes his love interest shelter behind him even if he has clearly never fought anything ever. Except in some historical or historical fantasy novels, ’cause men were shitty in the past.
  9. Where there is an angel in the house. Basically, all of Dickens’ women. They are saintly, altruistic, good at household chores and, generally, boring. And utterly fictional.
  10. Where the queer couple dies. N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season is as awesome as you have heard; but it does destroy an awesome queer relationship (along with a lot of other things). The wider point is that: queer people almost never get decent fictional relationships, because we all lead Tragic and Unfulfilled lives, obviously.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten SF Novels I Want to Read

  1. The Warrior’s Apprentice – Lois McMaster Bujold. I suspect this will be on my must-read list for a while.
  2. New York 2140 – Kim Stanley Robinson. I read Robinson’s 2312 last year and it was much better than I expected it to be and I’ve heard good things about New York 2140.
  3. Binti – Nnedi Okorafor. I’ve been wanting to read this for a while. It’s a novella, though, which means it’s stupidly difficult to find in libraries or bookshops.
  4. Dhalgren – Samuel Delany. I mean, I’m picking randomly from Delany’s backlist here, on the basis that Nova surprised me and I want to read more.
  5. The Word for World is Forest – Ursula Le Guin. Because it’s sort-of in the same series as The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, both of which are fantastic, dialectic novels. And I’m kind of on a vintage SF kick at the moment.
  6. Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer. This is popping out as one of the canonical works of SF of the last few years, and it’s always sounded pretty awesome to me.
  7. Bats of the Republic – Zachary Thomas Dodson. I’ve been revisiting old Tournaments of Books, in preparation for this year’s (less than a month away! squee!), and remembered that this existed and that I want to read it and it more-or-less counts as SF. Sadly, no bookseller in the UK apparently seems to stock it.
  8. Downbelow Station – C J Cherryh. I’ve heard Cherryh’s SF spoken of as quiet, considered, political, paying attention to relationships between people – just the kind of SF I like.
  9. The Long Cosmos – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I vaguely want to read this, for completeness’ sake and because the Long Earth series is moderately interesting. I probably won’t get round to it for a while, though.
  10. Raven Strategem – Yoon Ha Lee. I liked Ninefox Gambit? It was…unusual? I’m not in any hurry to read the sequel, but I’d borrow it if I found it in my local library.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Ten Books I Utterly Failed to Read in 2017

…that I planned to read in 2017, obviously.

  1. The Warrior’s Apprentice – Lois McMaster Bujold. Last February I vowed to read the Vorkosigan saga in 2017. I have many abject reading failures under my belt, but this probably one of the abjectest.
  2. The Obelisk Gate – N.K. Jemisin. I have had this on my TBR pile at least since November. Probably before that, even. This is particularly egregious since it is borrowed from a friend who has probably given up all hope of seeing it again.
  3. The Stone Sky – N.K. Jemisin. See above.
  4. Three Moments of an Explosion – China Mieville. I bought this to celebrate moving to London last April. It is still sitting near the bottom of my TBR, because of library books and borrowed books and my inveterate habit of, gasp, buying more books.
  5. PopCo – Scarlett Thomas. Uh, see above again. I do actually want to read these books! I am just tyrannised by some slightly obsessive habits when it comes to my TBR.
  6. The Long Cosmos – Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I mean, I should have read this years ago, it’s a Terry Pratchett novel. Ah, but it’s not a Discworld novel, is it. And the Long Earth series got kind of tedious a while ago.
  7. Infidel – Kameron Hurley. The library has Rapture. The bookshops have God’s War. None of them has Infidel. Godsdammit.
  8. The Orphan’s Tales: In the Night Garden – Catherynne Valente. MUST. HAVE. ALL THE VALENTE. Although I didn’t do too badly Valente-wise last year, actually (I managed Palimpsest, Deathless and The Melancholy of Mechagirl, plus some short stories online and a load of Patreon posts WHICH DEFINITELY COUNT).
  9. Saga Volume 5 – Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. I can’t believe I didn’t manage any Saga last year. Well, actually, I can, since my new local library has a sadly impoverished graphic novel section and £15 for 120 pages still feels like too much even if they are beautiful pages and I can technically afford it. Maybe 2018 is the year that I get over that. Maybe.
  10. King Rat – China Mieville. I did manage a Mieville last year – The Last Days of New Paris – but for me it was one of his drier books, and I’m hoping King Rat is more on the Gothic-Lovecraftian-screaming-void-of-meaning side of his work.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

Top Ten Authors Who Were New to Me in 2017

  1. Ursula Le Guin. It should not have taken this long for me to get around to reading Le Guin, but I’m glad I finally have made it – not least because now I have some half-glimpsed sense of what SFF has lost with her death. Her novels are thought experiments, character studies and things of wonder all at the same time. Even those that were published half a century ago feel fresh and exciting and radical.
  2. N.K. Jemisin. Mainly for The Fifth Season, which is the angriest book I’ve read since Kameron Hurley’s God’s War, and twice as textually tricksy. But I also enjoyed The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which treats religion quite differently from most fantasy.
  3. Kim Stanley Robinson. I only read 2312 last year, but I’ll definitely be reading more of his work. 2312 is that rarest of things, lyrically-written hard SF, and it pushes at gender and sexual norms in a way that’s also extremely unusual for the genre.
  4. Hannu Rajaniemi. I can’t honestly say I understood The Quantum Thief and The Fractal Prince, but they are gorgeous things, intricate and gleaming as cyberpunk clockwork. (That’s a thing.)
  5. Steven Brust. I’m not going to claim that the Vlad Taltos novels are high literature, because, you know, they’re not. But they know they’re not too, and that’s partly why they’re so much fun. And, in their own way, they push back against our expectations of high fantasy.
  6. Christopher Priest. I enjoyed The Islanders! I loved its Pale Fire-ish vibe – but I didn’t think it was that different from Pale Fire, either. Still, I’d be very happy to read more Priest.
  7. Samuel Delany. Another classic author who I feel I should have got round to a lot sooner. I was very surprised by Nova, and I’d like to read more.
  8. Ben Okri. I didn’t like In Arcadia. I did, however, like Starbook, very much; and, independently of whether I like his work, Okri’s clearly an important author who’s doing some very clever stuff with his prose and his ideas.
  9. Octavia Butler. So I’m still slightly side-eyeing some of Butler’s choices in Parable of the Sower (no a romance between an eighteen-year-old and a fifty-year-old is not appropriate) but, again, she’s a classic author with some scarily prescient things to say. (During Parable of the Sower a reactionary demagogue who wants to relax labour laws gets elected president of the US. I’ll just leave that there.)
  10. Iain M. Banks. Consider Phlebas was a little chilly for my taste, but apparently the Culture novels do get better, and Banks is good at conjuring that sense of wonder that’s difficult to get outside SF.

(The prompt for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)