Every so often you come across a book that seems to act as a nexus, drawing other recently read books into an unexpected pattern, even though they otherwise seem completely unconnected. For me, this year, that nexus was The Dollmaker by Nina Allan (riverrun). One of the two central characters is a dwarf who becomes an expert and sought-after maker of dolls, which immediately called to mind Little by Edward ...Read MoreRead more
It’s been a hard year. The rule of ignorance and selfishness in Trump’s America; the wilful destruction of economic probity at the behest of perceived (and probably illusory) political necessity in Brexit Britain; the continued rise of the far right in Hungary, Poland, Italy, France, and elsewhere. All of this is, at some point, going to feed through into a wave of fictions built around the ongoing sense of fear ...Read MoreRead more
Europe at Dawn, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris 978-1781086094, £7.99, 320pp, pb) November 2018.
It may seem paradoxical, but it is the ordinariness that Dave Hutchinson evokes that makes his work so extraordinary. The normal run of things in science fiction is to emphasise how different the invented world is from our normal daily experience. The world may be gritty or glitzy, utopian or dystopian, but it is decidedly not like ...Read MoreRead more
An American Story, Christopher Priest (Gollancz 978-1473200579, £20.00, 320pp, hc) September 2018.
The first thing you notice is the title: An American Story. For almost 40 years, Christopher Priest has followed the same structure for the titles of practically all of his novels: The X, where X is an often very oblique reference to what follows. What was affirmed in The Affirmation; what was gradual in ...Read MoreRead more
Haven, Adam Roberts (Solaris 978-1781085660, $11.99, 320pp, tp) August 2018.
You can tell this novel is by Adam Roberts. It is set a hundred or so years in the future, after a global catastrophe, the collapse of civilization as we know it, and the painfully slow emergence of a way of life that is at best nasty, brutish, and short. For all that, he still manages to slip a ...Read MoreRead more
Shelter, Dave Hutchinson (Solaris 978-1-78108-504-2, 304pp, £7.99, pb) June 2018. Cover by Sam Gretton.
Dave Hutchinson’s new novel Shelter is what Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe, though such stories were never truly cozy and not always a catastrophe. The question is, of course, why we might need another such catastrophe story, and why now? The answer lies not in finding a new way to tell an old story ...Read MoreRead more
More and more, as I look back each year on what has caught my eye, I find myself drawn to works of genre uncertainty, work that plays with what had been safely familiar tropes, and results in fiction where we cannot convincingly say: that is science fiction, or that is fantasy, or that is mainstream. It is here, it seems to me, here in these borderlands, these debatable lands, that ...Read MoreRead more