I can say this month that I read widely. Each book was a different genre (horror, high fantasy, urban fantasy, meta-fiction, weird fiction) and I must admit that it was refreshing after being locked solely in horror for so long. While I’ll always have a home in horror, the many worlds of speculative fiction provided a much-needed vacation.
The Return by Bentley Little
Bentley Little is one of my favorite horror authors. His surreal imagery, original monsters, and thrilling narratives glue me to the page. So, I was expecting a lot when I picked up The Return. Ultimately, I was disappointed. I didn’t care for most of the characters. The monster—while creative—wasn’t that frightening. And the story itself felt lackluster. Still, I am a fan of archaeological horror, and Little does this well. I think this might just be a dud. When you’ve written almost 40 books as Little has, you’re bound to have one or two stinkers.
Dragonlance: Brothers in Arms by Margaret Weis and Don Perrin
Since my impulsive purchase of 81 Dragonlance novels, I’ve been whittling away at them. Like many books in the series, this story fills in the gaps of the main trilogy. These can be hit or miss, but generally I trust the work of Margaret Weis. Brothers in Arms is decent military fantasy and a quick read, especially for a book where many of the characters are caricatures. By filling in the gaps of an established franchise, they weren’t given much space to grow. My other qualm is the discordance between goofy, almost childish humor and rather dark themes.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
This isn’t a perfect book, but it’s darn close. It’s the quasi-sequel to American Gods, which I adored. And while I think I enjoyed its predecessor more, I still had a hoot of a time reading it. Rather than focusing on a pantheon of deities, this book is centered around the trickster god Anansi, and more specifically, his offspring. The characters leap off the page, while the story rivets you to it. But it is Gaiman’s language that makes this so darn good. The rhythms felt as if I was listening to a folktale, poetic without being obtuse.
Where We Live and Die by Brian Keene
When I picked up this book, I had no clue what to expect. But I trust Brian Keene. He’s never disappointed me once. It is, in fact, a collection like none I’ve read before. The first half leans toward meta-fiction and semi-autobiographical pieces, while the rest branches out. Still, it all adheres to the themes of mortality and “writing about writing.” The longest story “The Girl on the Glider” uses this meta-fictional style and because of this, it is one of the scarier pieces I’ve read. Keene succeeds again and I plan to read more of his short work.
The Pastel City by M. John Harrison
M. John Harrison is the favorite author of my favorite author China Miéville. His Viriconium Cycle (of which this book is part) is one of the masterpieces of the New Weird genre. That’s a lot to live up to, and this book—for the most part—does. The plot starts out deceptively familiar, but grows into a beautiful, strange beast. While there are elements of many books within, it was like nothing I’d ever read before. The language was powerful, with sentences that I revisited, but at the same time, it made it a slow read, tedious at times.
2 thoughts on “What I Read – January 2023”
The Pastel City is great! After the first one, the sequence gets kaleidoscopically weird, for sure. (I love them all.)
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I’ll be sure to check them out!