Booklife Now, 12/19: From Marvel’s Chronicle to Cherie Priest’s Fathom, Gilman’s Gears to Graham’s Isis

(The books I’ve received in recent months that I’ve put aside for personal enjoyment.)

After a great deal of thought, I’ve decided I prefer a regular weekly photo-listing of all the books I’ve received for that week. (You can also visit the flickr set.) So, every Friday between 10:00 and 11:00 a.m. EST, you can expect a Booklife Now post. In general, this will be the last post on Fridays so that I won’t be distracted from coming by to join in any discussion.

That’s because I’d love for this to become a forum for conversation about the books pictured. And sometimes (when less busy), I’ll start off that conversation in the post itself. But to that general end, I would love to know which of these you’ve been feverishly waiting for, which you think might surprise me if I give them a chance, and any other commentary you’d like to provide.

I’d also like to welcome the authors of the books to drop by and give their comments. Therefore, let me invoke them by listing their names, in no particular order: George R.R. Martin, Iain M. Banks, Dan Simmons, Walter John Williams, Jo Graham, Bill Kelter, Wayne Shellabarger, Sylvia Kelso, Alvaro Uribe, Atwater-Roades, Faith Erin-Hicks, Daniel Suarez, David Sherman, Dan Craig, Trudi Caravan, Peter Crowther, John Grant, Douglas Smith, Ray Bradbury, Darrell Schweitzer, Cherie Priest, Felix Gilman, John Meaney, M. John Harrison, Jordan Summers, T.A. Pratt, Jaye Wells, Patricia Rosemoor, Marc Paoletti, Steve Aylett (The Caterer), Gavin and Kelly (eds.), Ian McDonald, James Morrow, Sam Savage, David Marusek, Toni Jerrman, Trese, and Gerry Alanguilan. (In future I may actually drop some of them emails with a formal invite to comment.)


  1. says

    I’m reading 2666 now. I’m only 75 pages into it, but I am enjoying it so far.

    I am really looking forward to Shambling Toward Hiroshima by James Morrow and Drood by Dan Simmons.

  2. Jeff VanderMeer says

    Rob: I’m loving 2666 so far. I waited to read it until finishing Finch. Drood looks pretty amazing. I know Jeff Ford loves it.

  3. Bryan Russell says

    I am feverishly awaiting 2666 (temp of 112 degress… and I do believe my blood is starting to evaporate). Yes, I would kill for it. Well, felonious assault at the least. And I’m intrigued by Drood. And what was that Bradbury there?

  4. says

    I read 2666 back in June in Spanish. If I weren’t being very particular about certain criteria (as in, it was published four years earlier in the language I read it in), it certainly would have been my top read of the year. Very, very powerful book.

    Curious about both the Simmons and the Graham (I still need to revise my review of her Black Ships this weekend). Waiting for GIlman’s book to arrive (there’s a package from Random House at home, but I’m stuck at work for another 4-5 hours).

  5. says

    John Meaney’s Bone Song and its sequel, Dark Blood (to be published in the U.S. as Black Blood, I think) are great, dark fun of the race-through-them-can’t-put-them-down variety. They gave me a great deal of enjoyment.

    I have Simmons’s Drood on hold at the library already. I can’t wait to read that one.

    My husband put 2666 on his Christmas list, and I’m hoping he gets it from the family member who drew his name in the grab bag this year. Whether he gets to read it first is an open question; I may grab it before he gets a chance to.

    Fathom, Gears of the City, Conjunctions 51, Consider Phlebas and Hand of Isis are all high on my to-be-read pile as well.

    I’ve having trouble perceiving any common thread in my list of priorities here, I must say.

  6. says

    2666 eclipses most everything else published in the past couple years. I read it months ago as an ARC, but it’s one of those books I wish I hadn’t already read so I could encounter it as new again. Apropos of that interview you just did with Bill, it’s got a strong Arcimboldo connection, too. I’d love to see a post or two about it when you’re finished, Jeff.

    I’ve also been looking forward to Drood and now that I know about, to the Ian McDonald book. Interesting that it doesn’t seem to be getting a hardcover release. Felix Gilman’s book is also on my TBR list. And it’s always nice to see a new book from James Morrow.

    In the previously read file, I think Nova Swing is great. Harrison is simply a fantastic stylist. The Delighted States is the kind of thing that seems to have been written with me in mind, which high expectations may explain why I found it slightly disappointing. It’s a fun read, but maybe less insightful than I’d hoped, and more narrowly focused.

  7. says

    It’s getting prominent coverage in my year-end posts starting next weekend. I thought it was wonderful, although Le Guin’s Lavinia was more daring in my opinion. I owe a long-past due dual review to Strange Horizons and I want to get it done before Christmas.

  8. says

    If you like all those McFarland books about B movies, Lugosi, Chaney, and Godzilla, you will enjoy James Morrow’s Shambling Toward Hiroshima. Not as deep as the ethical dilemmas in The Philosopher’s Apprentice or as dramatic as the clash between reason and superstition in The Last Witchfinder, but it’s a lot of fun and still has its poignant moments.

  9. Spencer Pate says

    I read 2666 about a week after it was first released in English, and it is now my favorite book of all time – it completely enthralled me and blew me away. I think it’s the best work of fiction published since, well, Ulysses. After finishing it, I ran out and bought everything else by Bolano in English that I could find and read them one after the other (Nazi Literature in the Americas, The Savage Detectives, Amulet, By Night in Chile). They’re all amazing, and By Night in Chile has – without exaggeration – the greatest last line of any book I’ve ever read.

    I’m actually about to embark on a second reading of 2666…should be interesting, now that I have the context of his earlier works and their thematic concerns.

  10. says


    A better last line than One Hundred Years of Solitude? I need to remember to order that particular Bolaño, as I have most of his other works in Spanish now.

  11. JesseFord says

    Take pity on a poor ignorant reader and recommend a *first* Bolaño book (consider it a Christmas Present from you to me) . Savage Detectives has been on my list for a while now but I always seem to pass it up, and 2666 is already on in my shopping cart, but it seems like it should be his LAST book I read and not his FIRST

  12. says

    Well, Nazi Literature in the Americas leads directly into Distant Star, which ties into Savage Detectives. But 2666 is mostly independent of his other novels, at least from what I could tell. And it’s that damn good to boot.

  13. Martin says

    Cyberabad Days! Can’t wait for that one. I suppose you can’t outsource the review….


  14. Spencer Pate says

    By Night in Chile trumps Marquez’s last line any day. It’s the first paragraph break in all 150 some pages of the novel, and it is simultaneously surreal, shocking, horrific, and funny.

    All of Bolano’s works are intimately connected in both plot/characters and theme (besides the example you mentioned, Amulet is an expansion of a ten page section of The Savage Detectives – one of the documentary style narratives in the middle of the book). The title of 2666 is explained/alluded to in Amulet and Savage Detectives (as it is nowhere in the eponymous novel), and there is a brief allusion to characters from Savage Detectives in 2666. I recall there being more subtle connections that will probably be more evident to me upon rereading.

    I would also recommend reading 2666 or By Night in Chile first. Savage Detectives is great, but it didn’t have the same effect on me that 2666 did.

  15. TA Pratt says

    Consider me summoned. The Marusek collection is really strong — he’s one of those story writers who writes slowly but produces more than his share of masterpieces. I wasn’t particularly interested in reading Drood by Dan Simmons, but there’s a review of it upcoming in the January Locus that makes it sound really interesting, and now I’m looking forward to it.

  16. Ian Mcdonald says

    James: The reason ‘Cyberabad Days’ is coming out in trade paper is because it’s a story collection, simple as that. But there is a big new novella ‘Vishnu at the Cat Circus’ for novelty seekers, and to round out the (loosely chronological ) story cycle.