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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview — Brian Ruckley


My memory sucks. I’ve no idea what I was reading in early 2008. Maybe I’m doing this reading thing wrong. Am I supposed to be keeping a list or something? But here are a few books I definitely do remember, for one reason or another, reading this year:

The Unblemished” by
Conrad Williams. This one has stayed with me simply for its startling effectiveness in creating a dark, unsettling feel: England—and London in particular—being consumed (literally) from within by predatory, disguised . . . well, I’m not sure exactly what they are, really, but they’re creepy critters.

Every Dead Thing” and “The Unquiet” by
John Connolly. These are books one and five in an ongoing crime series, and I perversely read book five first, then book one. Which turned out to be a good thing because book one is frankly a bit bonkers (it’s got a body count that makes GRRM look positively benign), but by book five things seem to have calmed down a little, considerably to the story’s benefit. The thing about the series is that as far as I can see it’s clearly horror or dark contemporary fantasy masquerading as gruesome crime fiction: the supernatural elements are largely peripheral, but they’re explicit, and book five seems to hint they might actually be more central than they appear.

The Umbrella Academy” by
Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. My favourite amongst the graphic novels I read this year, and the word that comes to mind when I think of it is ‘fun’. Wildly inventive sf superhero romp, with art I find utterly irresistible. (With an honourable mention to All-Star Superman Vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, just because I’ve never liked Superman as a character, but they came up with something I enjoyed despite that, which is quite clever of them.)

Hyperion” by
Dan Simmons. Cheating a bit, because this is a re-read. There are not that many books I return to, but “Hyperion” tends to come down off the shelf every two or three years, and every time it does, it’s up there amongst my favourite books of the year. An author firing on all cylinders, and then some.


I can confidently predict that there will be very few books I read as soon as they’re published next year, because it’s like that every year. I’m up to my neck in unread but allegedly good stuff published two, five or even twenty years ago, so I never get straight to all the really new stuff I’d like to be getting to. That said, a couple of upcoming books that have caught my avaricious eye:

China Mieville’sThe City and The City” and Jeff VanderMeer’sFinch”. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read of theirs in the past, so disappointment seems unlikely. What’s particularly interesting is that judging by the available info they seem to have independently hit upon somewhat similar new twists on their past work: both are promising crime fiction in fantastical urban settings. And both of them are writers I’d expect to deliver just that spectacularly well.


Mass market paperbacks of “Bloodheir” should be coming out all over the place around the end of March, early April time (sort of like daffodils, only violent and bloody ones) and then “Fall of Thanes” will see the light of day in May, I believe: hardback in the UK, trade paperback in the US (
Orbit Books). I should also have short stories coming out in at least one anthology, possibly two, but publication dates for those are yet to irrevocably finalized…


Brian Ruckley was born and raised in Scotland. After studying at Edinburgh and Stirling Universities, he worked for a series of organizations dealing with environmental, nature conservation, and youth development issues. Brian is the author of The Godless World fantasy trilogy which so far includes “Winterbirth” and “Bloodheir”. For more information, please visit the author’s
Official Website.

NOTE: For more author responses, please visit Fantasy Book Critic’s 2008 Review/2009 Preview index


Anonymous said...

My understanding is that China's is a police procedural set in the real world with a link to a fantastical world.

Mine is set in Ambergris and it's not a police procedural per se, in that it's more based on noir hardboiled detective fiction mixed with a pinch of Paul Auster and then a very big dose of visionary fantasy.

I first thought about doing this book back in 1998, while planning out possibilities for the Ambergris Cycle. An excerpt from the novel appeared in my 2004 collection, Secret Life. I then started on the novel in earnest in late 2005.

I have China's novel in hand, but I'm not reading it until I finish my edits on Finch as I don't want any cross-contamination. I also haven't read the new more magic realist detective novel by Jedediah Berry, nor even Paul Tremblay's The Little Sleep, which may not even be fantastical...

Hope you're having a good holiday season.




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