At a deeper level, there are questions raised about the nature of reality that are chillingly relevant considering the fact that last year Elon Musk stated publically that there is a billion to one chance that we’re living in “base reality” (that is, a non-virtual world), and even Neil deGrasse Tyson has argued that there is a high probability that we’re living a computer simulation.
Obviously Robin Gregory is a well-read writer. Not only does she mimic Homer’s “wine dark sea” with the novel’s opening of “dories…and spider crabs flood[ing] the beach like a ghostly pink tide,” but also refers back to great YA series like A Series of Unfortunate Events through her grim imaginativeness. Gritty magical realism is in vogue, if we account for the non-YA St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves by Karen Russell and Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi beside which The Improbable Wonders holds its own.
With this new novel, the cosmopolitan Tidhar turns away from the noir that drove his award-winning Osama, The Violent Century, and A Man Lies Dreaming. Those who appreciated the Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler scrubbed into a pulpy Po-Mo alternative reality resembling a lighthearted Phillip K. Dick will still find that in Central Station through Achimwene—a bookseller in an age when books are antiquated commodities—whose life “had been a Romance, perhaps, of sorts. But now it became a Mystery” when he meets and falls in love with the data/memory vampire (alternately called “strigoi” and “shambleau”) Carmel.
An Android Awakes is an entertaining, sexy, terrifying, and beautiful novel, full of bleakness and fun. While the book is probably not going to suit the prudish or faint-hearted reader looking for an easy read, other readers will enjoy the rich and powerful language, the complex plot lines, and the wacky and inventive landscape that both French and Brown have created in this superb graphical novel.
Troubled Spirits is good, clean fun that delves into the world of modern ghost hunting with two, more than capable, female protagonists that take care of themselves and the big bad in town, on their own, in true Buffy the Vampire Slayer fashion. The way Harmony and Annie and the gang handle the ghosts and themselves is more than enough to make Zak Baggins proud.
Blood to Blood is a different take on the vampire and paranormal media craze. Though vampires, witches and werewolves exist in Oshun’s world, a Shimshana is something different, which breathes a degree of freshness into the story. And while paranormal tropes are prominent in the novel–such as a love triangle and the co-existence of vampires, witches and werewolves–the story and characters do not suffer, thanks to Oshun’s expert storytelling ability.
Stull creates a character memorable and believable enough to draw the reader in as the complex web surrounding Matterosi’s backstory, narrated as a confessional tape, mingles with the unfolding events through the trial. The plot is super fast paced, with enough cliffhangers, a touch of romance, and plenty of excellent and very well informed science (think Atwood in Oryx and Crake) to keep the pages turning faster than you can say “overpopulation.”
One can detect a definite indebtedness to T.H. WhIte (The Once and Future King, The Goshawk) in Crowley’s early novel (1976 was the original year of publication) but it’s an entertaining read and full of memorable characters. Indeed, I didn’t think I would ever find myself feeling for or empathising with a dog called Sweets, but that’s just what happened here.
The Book of Strange New Things is like no other book I’ve read. It’s exquisite, sad, uplifting and doomed all at the same time. I wish that the ending was different, and know, somehow, that nothing else that would do. This is a book that will remain with me, working its way under my skin like the Oasan atmosphere.
The first two or three chapters have a distinctively “real” feel. But then, the author does something with his characters which some readers may not like. The story, which had felt like a mainstream novel suddenly becomes a bit stylized. Not entirely, but a bit. The characters speak and do things that characters in a noir novel might do. Think Mad Max meets Sin City. It’s not a bad thing, and it certainly will not mar the book for those who like hip larger-than-life characters.