Monday, June 6, 2011

New York Times summer science fiction picks

Jeff VanderMeer sez, "My latest SF/F column for the New York Times Book Review is featured in their summer reading issue, and includes coverage of fantastic books by Jo Walton, Genevieve Valentine, Peter S. Beagle, and Lauren Beukes.
Science Fiction Chronicle "Among Others" purports to be the diary entries of 15-year-old Morwenna Phelps, but it is really a strong argument for the importance of books and reading. Set in the late 1970s in Wales and England, the novel follows Morwenna's adventures at boarding school after a car accident has left her with chronic injuries. Reunited with a father she barely knows, the solitary teenager discovers the joys of a weekly book club, acquires a boyfriend and is sent sinister photographs by a mother who blames her for the death of her twin sister. This may seem the stuff of routine teenage melodrama -- but Morwenna can see fairies, her mother is really an evil witch, and the car accident that injured her and killed her sister was part of a magical conflict. At one point a fairy tells her, cryptically, "Doing is doing." Echoing the novel's synthesis of the realistic and the supernatural, Morwenna takes him to mean that "it doesn't matter if it's magic or not, anything you do has power and consequences and affects other people." As she tries to come to terms with her sister's death through both books and fairy magic, the novel assumes true emotional resonance. A late confrontation with the mother, who disappears as a threat for many pages, seems anticlimactic by comparison. The real key to appreciating this novel can be found in an earlier passage, about the way our favorite writers become touchstones and guides as we navigate through life: "Tolkien understood about the things that happen after the end. Because this is after the end, this is all the Scouring of the Shire, this is figuring out how to live in the time that wasn't supposed to happen after the glorious last stand. I saved the world, or I think I did, . . . and it doesn't care about me any more than the Shire cared about Frodo." It's a brave act to write a novel that is in ­essence all aftermath, but Walton succeeds admirably. Her novel is a wonder and a joy.
I've reviewed some of Jeff's summer picks here: Zoo City, Among Others.

Science Fiction Chronicle (Warning: may use up one of your NYT paywall viewings)

(Thanks, Jeff!)

Sent from James' iPhone

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