In Which I am Surprised to Be Reading Several Series

Ack!  This is the obligatory oh-dear-I-haven’t-posted-for-more-than-a-month post.  I’ve been traveling near non-stop for work for the past couple of months, including a few not-fun episodes of being stranded in airports past 4 am.  This lifestyle has not been conducive to active participation in the blogosphere.

However (seamless transition), it has been conducive to a fair amount of reading.  To my surprise I’ve been reading several series.  Normally, I’m not one to read series, especially long series of thick books.  I look at a series like, say, George R.R. Martin’s epicly fat books of fantasy, and I think, “I really do want to read those, OR I could read, say, six unrelated books by six different authors in six different genres and learn lots of different tricks from all of them.”  And I invariably choose the later, because, well, basically, I’m a dilettante when it comes to my reading habits.

Yet, faced with epic multi-state journeys, somehow epic sagas seemed both appropriate and comforting.  These are the books that have been keeping me company in my travels:

  • C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series: A ship full of thousands of humans is stranded on an alien world, and after a devastating war between humans and the alien atevi, a fragile peace is made and a single human is appointed as the sole ambassador between the two species.  The series follows Bren, that sole ambassador, as he navigates between human and  atevi cultures–the latter of which has no concepts of friendship or love in the sense that humans understand them, but rather manchi, a feeling of devotion and loyalty to a leader and to certain associations.  This series is fascinating to me because it routinely breaks any number of writing 101 rules: the exposition is endless, the action often feels slow, and a number of character details and plot developments are “told” instead of “shown.”  And yet I find it utterly riveting.  I think it all works because (1) we’re so deeply in Bren’s head that it all flows naturally; (2) the alien culture is so rich and interesting I have no problem spending many pages exploring its most subtle nuances; and (3) Cherryh is just a master.
  • David Wellington’s Vampire series:  Wellington’s vampires are the antithesis of Laurell K Hamilton or Twilight vampires.  They are scary, vicious monsters and they most certainly do not sparkle.  The series follows Laura Caxton, a state trooper turned ersatz vampire hunter.  Wellington’s pacing and plot are brilliant, and the characters also evolve over the course of the series in interesting and unexpected ways.  (Full disclosure: Dave is a member of my NYC writing group.  I’ve gotten a taste of the upcoming fifth book, the final confrontation with the Big Bad, and am eagerly awaiting the chance to read the whole thing!)
  • Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series: I’m a bit of a latecomer to this one, but am now a total convert. Scott Pilgrim is a young 20something doing many of those early 20somethings things–living with a roommate, dating, trying to make it in a band, navigating the world of landlords and jobs, etc. When he starts dating Ramona, he discovers he must fight her seven evil exes in order to continue dating her.  Fun fight scenes ensue, interspersed with soap operatic romantic drama.  O’Malley has basically invited a new sub-genre with this graphic series – superhero surrealism, perhaps? – and there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye.  And his ability to convey complex and intense emotions with only a few strokes of the pencil is mind-blowing.  Eagerly awaiting the final volume and the movie.

More travels coming up, but will try to at least pop in and say hi here with some regularity…

Vampire Pulp Fiction Fun

opposite-of-lifeWhen I was in Brisbane, Chris Lynch took me to Pulp Fiction, a cool bookstore specializing in genre fiction.  Apparently, they also have a small press, Pulp Fiction Press.  The publisher, Ron, seems like a great guy, and shared with me one of their recent books – The Opposite of Life by Narrelle M. Harris.

It was a great read, and made the 24-hour-plus flight home almost bearable.  The novel follows the misadventures of Lissa, a young librarian who’s seen her share of pain and loss.  In the wake of  getting dumped by her boyfriend, she keeps discovering dead bodies whenever she goes out to try to get her minds off her troubles.  Not a good week for Lissa. Of course, the killer is a vampire, and Lissa finds herself partnering with Gary, a socially awkward vampire with a disastrous sense of fashion, to solve a case that’s way over her head and brings to the surface all the deaths and losses she’s had to face in her life.

The book is great vampire pulp fiction fun.  It gives you all the guilty pleasure of a Laurell K Hamilton novel, only with no guilt because it’s actually well-written.  The voice is what makes it so excellent – Lissa is a lovely blend of young hipster with nerdy librarian. And there’s a nice character arc for both her and Gary.

For the moment, it may be hard to get a hold of a copy if you’re not in Australia, but it’s worth the effort!

UPDATE:  You can order The Opposite of Life online here.