Packing for your holiday but still got some room in your book suitcase? Here are a few things I’ve really enjoyed reading lately that you might consider:
The White Road by Sarah Lotz (Hodder & Stoughton)
The second mountain climbing ghost story I’ve read in as many months (the other being Thin Air by Michelle Paver), The White Road by Sarah Lotz takes us this time to Everest, in the present day. While Paver’s 1930’s Kangchenjunga is a deadly, untouched and unconquerable demon, Lotz doesn’t shy away from Everest’s modern, tourist trap reputation, or the fact that it’s the “Highest graveyard on Earth”. Protagonist Simon, in a bid to gain internet notoriety by filming frozen corpses on the mountain, endures crushing climate sickness, obnoxious, wealthy glory hunters, and queues, all the while being stalked by something sinister from his recent past. There are some genuinely creepy moments that’ll stop you from putting out the lights but Lotz’s sense of humour shines through, making her characters endearingly human.
Thin Air by Richard Morgan (Gollancz)
The second book called Thin Air I’ve read in as many months (see above), this time the thin air isn’t due to altitude but atmosphere. Richard Morgan’s Thin Air is a cyberpunk thriller set on Mars, a techie wild west, like Silicon Valley on steroids. Speaking at Cymera Festival last month, Morgan described it: “We’ve gone to Mars in Elon Musk mode: rapacious corporate capitalism.” (You can read more about this event and my time at Cymera here.) This is the backdrop for tough as nails super-solider Hakan Veil’s often-violent investigation into a missing bureaucrat and vanished lottery winner, the tale itself a hardboiled yarn with twists aplenty. Think off-world Raymond Chandler. Morgan’s love of William Gibson’s sprawl series is on full show here, as it was with Altered Carbon, and if you’re a fan of Morgan’s debut novel and the Netflix series it spawned, you’re going to love this too.
Shoreline of Infinity 15
Not long ago I wrote on this very blog that Issue 14 of Shoreline of Infinity was the best the award-winning Edinburgh sci-fi mag had produced yet. I now want to overwrite that statement, unfortunately it would look terribly biased as I have a short story (Secret Ingredients) in Issue 15. So although I’m not directly saying that Issue 15 is the now the best issue of Shoreline of Infinity ever, I will say it contains excellent stories by Tim Major (“A Crest of a Wave” – the way this touching, quiet human drama plays out against the alien backdrop of a frozen sea reminds me of Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles), Teika Marija Smits (“Songs from the Wood” – a wonderful clash of sci-fi and folktale), and the absolutely sublime story “The Next of Us” by John G. Sarmiento. Read it and I’m sure you’ll come to right conclusion.
About Writing by Gareth L Powell (Luna Press)
So you’ve read Shoreline of Infinity 15 and decided it’s the best issue of Shoreline yet, which means you’ve probably read the extract it contains from Gareth L Powell’s new nonfiction book About Writing. And, naturally, you now want to read the whole thing. Well, once you’ve read the whole thing, you’re going to want to start writing your novel, if you’ve not started already. With seven novels and two BSFA awards under his belt, Powell knows what he’s talking about. His advice is practical and unvarnished but always, always encouraging. Too many writing discussions on Twitter focus on how hard it is – the artistic struggle – Powell reminds you to have fun. The message is “Sit down and write already!”, and whether you’re just starting out on your first story, or you’ve been plugging away at it for years, sometimes that’s just what you need to hear. (Deserves a place on your writer’s bookshelf next to Stephen King’s On Writing and Strunk Jr’s The Elements of Style.)
Dead is Better by Jo Perry (Fahrenheit Press)
A dog that solves crimes? I’m in. But Scooby Doo this is not. Charlie Stone finds himself a floating ghost after being shot dead by person or persons unknown. However, he’s not alone. With his trusty sidekick, a brutalised and malnourished dog who he names Rose (also recently deceased), he must find justice for them both. Dead is Better by Jo Perry is an unconventional noir tale that takes us from the gleaming, skyscraper offices of the American elite to the homeless shelters of Skid Row. An indictment of a culture that values low taxes over universal health care – or any sort of safety net for society’s most vulnerable people – it treats its tossed aside characters, dog and human, with understanding and tenderness. For dog lovers, it could be a tough read in places, but Perry’s witty, fast-paced prose carries you through to the end. (Side note: I’m really excited to be featuring in a short story anthology with Jo Perry later this year, a double effort by Switchblade Magazine and Pulp Modern called Tech Noir.)