This week’s Friday Reads were too good to limit to one, so here’s what a few of the Gollancz team will be reading over the long weekend.
My Friday read is Terra by Mitch Benn (not published until July but I know the editor, so…). I’m currently about a third of the way through and finding it thoroughly charming, witty and a pleasure to read. The cast of Fnrrn aliens (alien to us, at least – Terra is, of course, the real alien of the book) are nicely delineated – even if they do all look alike to us humans – and Mitch skilfully treads the fine line between depicting Terra as alone (which she is) and depicting her as lonely (which she isn’t). I’m at the point at which Something Major has happened, which will clearly have ramifications both within and without Fnrrn society and, of course, on the destiny of a little girl rescued from an abandoned car by a visiting alien. I’m very much looking forward to spending my bank holiday weekend finding out just what those ramifications might be.
Things That Are by Amy Leach
Amy Leach is an essayist and science writer like none I’ve come across before. So much so that you enter into a strange contract when you read her. She writes about the natural world, whether stars, ostriches or frogs. She’s award winning, she’s rapturously reviewed, her essays have been published in respected journals and have been collected and published here by Canongate. All of which presupposes that her observations are accurate and the phenomena and actions she describes are true. Yet her writing sparkles; it twists and turns through almost naïve flights of fancy and poetry. It’s a little like reading one of the more fanciful medieval bestiaries: lions rolling eggs, beavers trying to dam the sea, frogs with Pythonesque names that hide in leaves then fly. She is writing with a serious purpose and is obeying the ‘rules’ of non-fiction but she seems to be writing with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. She clearly adores language and the pure fun of it and via this she makes the world jump out at you fresh and reformed into something newly magical. It’s a hugely appealing style. Not every writer could do it, nor would every writer want to. And I don’t think you’d want them to. Leach requires a sense of what is normal and usual in science writing for her writing to be in opposition to. And for it to be trusted. It’s lovely stuff. It brings the spirit of fantasy to the real. And it leaves you smiling.
I’m going to annoy people with this one, so I apologise in advance, but this week I’ve been reading THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES by, er, in case you need to know, Scott Lynch.
I know, that’s insufferably smug, isn’t it? Well, don’t worry, you’ll all get to read it soon. For those that don’t know, Scott’s first two books – THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES – were bestselling, widely praised, and quite outstanding works of fantasy. They introduced Locke Lamora – conman, thief, priest, a man who is twistier than a corkscrew on a helter skelter – and threw us into his world, a remarkable place of organised crime, relics from a forgotten history, sudden violence and terrifying bondsmagi. They’re brilliant, and if you haven’t read them you should. But (SPOILERS) RSURS ended on a stinker of a cliffhanger with Locke poisoned, penniless and dying. That came out in 2007. Unfortunately, Scott then struggled to complete the third book in the sequence (he’s spoken very openly and movingly about his depression, not least here, and we all had to wait to see how Locke would twist out of this situation.
When I started at Gollancz, just over two years ago, the first two-thirds of THE REPUBLIC OF THIEVES had been handed in. So I read them, thinking that at least I’d know the answer to the cliffhanger. And I did, and it was great, and I was really getting into it… .and then it ended. On another cliffhanger. Being a kindly sort of person, I resisted the urge to call Scott and beg him to tell me the ending. I figured it probably wouldn’t help anyone. So I moved on, knowing that when the final book was delivered, I’d be first in line. Well, second in line after Simon Spanton, the book’s editor. Well, second in line in the UK, anyway, I assume other publishers around the world were reading it as well. Well, second in line in the office. Well, soon after a bunch of other people. Let’s move on.
And so now it has arrived in all its glory, and (although it took me a few weeks to clear the decks and get a couple of days uninterrupted reading) I’ve finally finished it. And it’s brilliant. (I was going to use a stronger, more profanity-laden phrase there – Locke is rubbing off on me – but thought I’d spare everyone the blushes. I might use it later on. Don’t look if you’re offended by swearing.)
Spoilers, sort of, although it’s nothing you won’t know if you’ve read the blurb which Scott wrote, and which was posted on this blog earlier this week. Locke doesn’t die in the first few pages, but he doesn’t have a great time of it either, until he’s left with only one option – take on a job from the dreaded bondsmagi, in return for which they will cure him. But the job may be more complicated than it first seems, especially given who will be working against him… Along with the main plot, there’s a return to Locke’s childhood, with a lengthy series of flashbacks (which were so successful in the first two books) covering the arrival of Sabetha, Locke’s lost love, to the Gentleman Bastards, and the first adventure they all went on together. I say adventure. They had to put on a play. It’s more exciting than it sounds.
Oh, and we get to learn so much more, stuff that was only hinted at in the first two books. We get to see another of Lynch’s remarkable cities, and learn how it works and why. We get to meet, properly, the bondsmagi, and be terrified by them. We also learn a lot of their secrets, possibly, if you’re stupid enough to trust what they’re telling Locke. But then again, why would they have any reason to lie? We also learn something remarkable about Locke’s past (or do we? Etc etc) and, of course we get to meet Sabetha, much mentioned but so far hidden in the wings of the series. We get to see Locke and Jean pull some more amazing confidence tricks, hurt a few people, and eat lots of food they think is lovely, but which, quite frankly, I think sounds horrible. Oh, and, and, and… lots of other stuff. No one gets almost drowned in a barrel of horse piss in this one, though.
It’s effing (this is a carefully chosen code word in case there are children reading. If you can work out what it really means, reply in the comments and I’ll send you THE THORN OF EMBERLAIN next week*) brilliant, is what it is. And out soon. The wait is almost over. If you haven’t read the first two books – or, to be honest, even if you have – I’d start (re)reading now. This will be the biggest fantasy release of the year, and you don’t want to get left behind.
* – this is a lie.
I am currently reading Danny Wallace’s debut novel, Charlotte Street. I am a massive Danny Wallace fan and his books never fail to make me to laugh out loud; much to my fellow commuter’s dismay. He is a hilarious, engaging and an altogether fantastic writer so I thought I’d give some of his fiction a whirl. And so far so good. Jason Priestley, is a teacher turned journalist, or restaurant and exhibition reviewer and has recently broken up with his girlfriend of four years. After a little too much brandy he disgraces himself on Facebook upon discovering that his ex is now engaged to ‘nice’ guy Gary. On acknowledging his drunken faux pas he decides that enough is enough; it’s time to move on. So he turns his attentions to stalking. A pretty girl in a blue coat he meets on Charlotte Street. Ever the gentlemen he helps her with her many bags before she disappears into a cab, leaving him stunned. Recovering, he looks down to find a disposable camera in his hands, a camera that doesn’t belong to him. To develop or not to develop that is the question!