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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Three Recent Books of Great Interest, Paul McAuley, Jonathan (J.C.) Grimwood and Andrew Crumey (By Liviu Suciu)



"In the far future, a young man stands on a barren asteroid. His ship has been stolen, his family kidnapped or worse, and all he has on his side is a semi-intelligent spacesuit. The only member of the crew to escape, Hari has barely been off his ship before. It was his birthplace, his home and his future. He's going to get it back. McAuley's latest novel is set in the same far-flung future as his last few novels, but this time he takes on a much more personal story. This is a tale of revenge, of murder and morality, of growing up and discovering the world around you. Throughout the novel we follow Hari's viewpoint, and as he unravels the mysteries that led to his stranding, we discover them alongside him. But throughout his journeys, Hari must always bear one thing in mind. Nobody is to be trusted."

A short take from reading some 1/3-1/2 novel so far:

Evening's Empires by Paul McAuley is just superb so far about 1/3-1/2 in; not anything new in structure (boy, ship, hijacked, escape, finding why, pursuit, revenge...) but an imaginative universe of the small worlds in the Solar System a few decades after the events of In the Mouth of the Whale and the stunning conclusion to those - which we find out only here btw - so some 1500 after the original duology, hence ~3800 AD.
  
Everything one wants in sf is here and one of the really original - or maybe better put, quite different than simply an extrapolation of the present with shinier gadgets, more tech/energy power -  and plausible description of the future I've see recently (eg IM Banks, P. Hamilton or J. Corey are plausible with some assumptions but not that original, C. Priest's Archipelago or something like Venusia are original but less plausible so to speak)

Also in a nice touch the parts of the novel are named Childhood's End, Marooned off Vesta, The Caves of Steel, Pirates of the Asteroids, The Cold Equations and Downward to the Earth which are all names that should be quite familiar to any sf lover

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"Set against the backdrop of the Enlightenment, the delectable decadence of Versailles, and the French Revolution, The Last Banquet is an intimate epic that tells the story of one man’s quest to know the world through its many and marvelous flavors. Jean-Marie d’Aumout will try anything once, with consequences that are at times mouthwatering and at others fascinatingly macabre (Three Snake Bouillabaisse anyone? Or perhaps some pickled Wolf's Heart?). When he is not obsessively searching for a new taste d’Aumout is a fast friend, a loving husband, a doting father, and an imaginative lover. He befriends Ben Franklin, corresponds with the Marquis de Sade and Voltaire, becomes a favorite at Versailles, thwarts a peasant uprising, improves upon traditional French methods of contraception, plays an instrumental role in the Corsican War of Independence, and constructs France’s finest menagerie. But d’Aumout’s every adventurous turn is decided by his at times dark obsession to know all the world’s flavors before that world changes irreversibly."

A short take from reading the first 50 pages or so: 

The Last Banquet is J.C. Grimwood's first non-sff foray; the novel is a first person narration by an impoverished nobleman in 18th century France who has an unusual sense of taste; excellent stuff with some descriptions that may make one uncomfortable as the hero tries the taste of everything from bugs, to rats, dogs, cats etc and describes various recipes with such...

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"A lost musical masterpiece is at the heart of this gripping intellectual mystery by award-winning writer Andrew Crumey.
In 1913 composer Pierre Klauer envisages marriage to his sweetheart and fame for his new work, The Secret Knowledge. Then tragedy strikes. A century later, concert pianist David Conroy hopes the rediscovered score might revive his own flagging career.
Music, history, politics and philosophy become intertwined in a multi-layered story that spans a century. Revolutionary agitators, Holocaust refugees and sixties’ student protesters are counterpointed with artists and entrepreneurs in our own age of austerity. All play their part in revealing the shocking truth that Conroy must finally face – the real meaning of The Secret Knowledge.
A novel for readers who like intellectual game-playing and having their imagination stretched."


Andrew Crumey is one of the authors I buy everything on publication as his novels are interesting and different from both genre and more conventional mainstream, combining aspects of both. 

As The Secret Knowledge came just last night I had the chance ro read only about 25 pages or so, but that was enough to realize that this book will most likely be one of the top novels of mine for the year.

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