Fantasy & scifi, Fiction, Recommended books

Satisfying Book Experiences of 2008 (Part II)

Happy New Year, everybody.  Here are a few more of my favorite book experiences to round out the year.

howls-moving-castleHowl’s Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones.  Howl is a hard wizard to pin down–even his castle is always on the move.  The young Sophie Hatter, an equally interesting protagonist, has to navigate her way through a maze of obstacles to find her fortune while under a spell that’s transformed her into an old woman.  Diana Wynne Jones brilliantly combines good old-fashioned storytelling with original, telling details.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  I read these books back to back, in the same month.  Two very different experiences of course.  One is the story of an older man with an inappropriate, stalker-like attraction to a barely pubescent girl who, surprisingly, reciprocates his interest, and the other book is… oh wait….  Really, though, Nabokov’s brilliant sentences and mastery of human psychology make Lolita well worth reading and re-reading, and Twilight is a fun, fast read. 

tinagusaThis is Not a Game by Walter Jon Williams.  This book isn’t out yet, but I had the pleasure of getting a sneak peak at it.  The novel opens with Dagmar, a game designer, trapped in Jakarta in the middle of a revolution.  With no way out, Dagmar draws on a motley network of online gamers to help her flee the chaos.  Walter is in top-form on this one, with fascinating characters and a richly detailed near-future world.  Pre-order now and get a nice discount!

The Ant King  by Benjamin Rosenbaum and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  I’ve raved about both of these in previous entries, so I won’t say more here, except that they were definitely among my most satisfying reads of the year.

interfictionsInterfictions, edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss.  This is an anthology of short stories that are “interstitial” – that blur the boundaries between genre.  Some of the stories are surreal, some fractured fairy tales, and some as much  philosophy as fiction, but all are thought-provoking and well-told, making Interfictions one of the strongest anthologies I’ve read in a long time.  Just a few of the highlights to give you a taste: Chris Barzak’s story follows the life of a haunted house, with a beautifully eerie narrative voice.  Csilla Kleinheincz’s “Drop of Raspberry” is, in the author’s own words, a story “about love between a man and a lake, and the futility of keeping up long conversations with someone who freezes over in the winter.”  Matt Cheney’s “A Map of Everywhere” is exactly my kind of thing, a surrealist odyssey of a gay sewage worker in search of love and cartography.  And the closing story, Catherynne Valente’s “A Dirge for Prester John,” is a richly detailed vision of a world that might have been, touching on faith, colonialism, and what it means to be normal (or not). Kudos to the publisher, the Interstitial Arts Foundation, for all the work they do to make life hard on the people who sort books onto shelves.

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