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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Three Recent SFF Books of Interest, Steven Amsterdam, Aidan Harte and Chris Beckett (with comments by Liviu Suciu)

I thought about presenting three recent apparitions - or to be more precise two first editions (one UK only, one US/UK) and a first US edition of a book published in the UK earlier - as all are books of great interest for me and of course I have just bought all when I found out about them a few days ago, while I have not really seen any mention of either on the sff sites and forums I look at. 

Since this year until mid-summer at earliest my presence here at FBC will be quite unpredictable so to speak, I may not get to do a full fledged review of any of them, though of course you always can find my opinions (in a rawer, much less edited form) on Goodreads.


"In this incandescent novel, a family’s superpowers bestow not instant salvation but the miracle of accepting who they are.

“Okay, tell me which you want,” Alek asks his cousin at the outset of What the Family Needed. “To be able to fly or to be invisible.” And soon Giordana, a teenager suffering the bitter fallout of her parents’ divorce, finds that she can, at will, become as invisible as she feels. Later, Alek’s mother, newly adrift in the disturbing awareness that all is not well with her younger son, can suddenly swim with Olympic endurance. Over three decades, in fact, each member of this gorgeously imagined extended family discovers, at a moment of crisis, that he or she possesses a supernatural power.


But instead of crimes to fight and villains to vanquish, they confront inner demons, and their extraordinary abilities prove not to be magic weapons so much as expressions of their fears and longings as they struggle to come to terms with who they are and what fate deals them. As the years pass, their lives intersect and overlap in surprising and poignant ways, and they discover that the real magic lies not in their superpowers but in the very human and miraculous way they are able to accept, protect, and love one another."


Loved the author's debut, Things We Didn't see Coming and What the Family Needed seems to be a similar episodic sfnal novel which was recently published in the US. After trying a few pages, the same style from the first book decided me to get this one and I should read it sooner rather than later.

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Aidan Harte's The Warring States (UK only for now) is the second book in the Wave trilogy after the debut Irenicon which Mihir liked a lot but about which I was mixed as my Goodreads review shows.

However as  time passed, I still remembered Irenicon while other series I enjoyed the first book more on first read dropped from my interest, while the blurb - not included as it is very spoilerish for Irenicon, so read it at your own risk if you have not read the series debut yet - of The Warring States decided me to give it a try. I expect I will enjoy this much more and maybe even reconsider my opinion about Irenicon too!

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"In 2009, Chris Beckett’s first short story collection The Turing Test won the prestigious Edge Hill Prize, becoming the first, and to date the only, genre collection ever to manage this. In doing so, the book triumphed over a very strong shortlist, including collections by one Booker Prize winner in Anne Enright and two authors who have been Booker shortlisted in Shena Mackay and Ali Smith (the latter a winner of the Whitbread Prize).

When announcing the winner, one of the judges – James Walton, journalist and chair of BBC Radio 4’s The Write Stuff – said, “I suspect Chris Beckett winning the Edge Hill Prize will be seen as a surprise in the world of books. In fact, though, it was also a bit of surprise to the judges, none of whom knew they were science fiction fans beforehand.”

In 2012 the Sunday Times named Chris’ latest novel Dark Eden the best science fiction novel of the year, and it is currently shortlisted for the BSFA Award in the same category. NewCon Press are delighted to be publishing The Peacock Cloak, the latest collection from one of Britain’s most distinguished and accomplished genre authors. Contains twelve stories (85,000 words) all previously uncollected."


Dark Eden (the novel) by Christopher Beckett is another book that improved a lot for me with time and rereading from it, so it jumped to a place on my top 25 of 2012 despite my "very good but a bit too familiar to be outstanding" original take on it, showing once again that some books have more staying power than others, but only time decides which...

Not only that but the reason for the jump was the prose of Mr. Beckett - as the subject of Dark Eden is still something that an experienced sf reader has seen many times - so any new book of the author became a must try at the least. 

On the other hand I am generally slow in reading collections and for example I bought The Turing Test a few years ago and still have read only about half the stories there, so The Peacock Cloak which was a buy on publication more or less as in digital form it is priced very well for a collection, may be another book I will fully read only in time. The first few stories I tried are quite interesting and I definitely urge anyone interested in Mr. Beckett's work to take a look at this collection too.

In a related note, Gela's Ring, the (two centuries later) sequel to Dark Eden, is serialized in the new digital magazine Aethernet and will be published in 2014 in book form, but that is the subject of another post, once I will get the first issue of Aethernet and read it...


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