Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hey Adam (Part 1)

Sorry if I was late in getting this letter to you. I really had to think hard about my answer to your question even as I scanned my bookshelves.

I suppose I found it hard to give you recommendations on what's being published now in fantasy, science fiction and horror (and everything in between) given what I know of your books tastes. I don't just make book recommendations to anyone-- I try to find out first your preferences, your type of personality, etc. before I raise a possible book or two that you might enjoy. I respect books as much as people to make careless matches.

In your case, from what I know of your reading (and writing!) tastes, I would say you were more partial to more experimental types of fiction especially of the European type. However, I also do know that your childhood had its fill of reading SF/F classics like Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov and Fritz Leiber (if I remember your bookshelf-crammed home correctly).

So what books would I suggest to you? Given those rather extreme positions, I'm not exactly sure. Which is why I immediately thought of writer extraordinaire Jeff Vandermeer, who has not only created the very dark city of Ambergris (whose books range from The City of Saints and Madmen, Shriek: An Afterword, and Finch which I would all push for you to try) but who also makes exceptional reviews and book lists that I regularly plunder for very different books. Yes, his name is familiar: he co-edited The New Weird anthology I gave you.

In terms of recommendations, you can trawl through his lists like here, here, and here. Though I may sometimes disagree with Vandermeer's recommendations, I do think they're always a top-notch risk worth the chance. A caveat however: a lot of stuff he recommends are not available here or only at Fullybooked. (Though the occasional miracle happens and you may find some books at Booksale; this has already happened twice for me.)

Of the books he cited, I currently have Jessie Bullington's The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and Catherynne Valente's Palimpsest. I'm still trying out Bullington but I would definitely recommend Valente's other works available locally like The Orphan's Garden as well as the said Palimpsest.

You had earlier asked me how was China Miéville's The City and The City. I can say that I would side with those who look favorably at the book and think it a very good work. But I would also say that I'm an easy target for books that deal with cities so what do I know?

You can also check out his previous works centering on the city of New Crobuzon (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, and The Iron Council) as I think they serve as a very good urban counterpoint to the alleged pastoralism in J.R.R. Tolkien's opus. (Fortunately, some of China's works are available at 2nd hand shops while the rest are on the local bookshelves.)

Other recommendations: let's see, you can try out Kelly Link's surfeit of magic realism in her short story collections (one of them available for free online), while [identity-protected] would throw Jeffrey Ford at you for his almost-CNF-type of writing but I suggest trying out his collections first. (His recommendations page is also a good source to plunder but these always change monthly and he doesn't archive his previous recommendations.)

Hmmm... who else can you try? I think you might like Nick Mamatas, whose books are surreal-strange-funny (the Jack Kerouac-meets-Lovecraft Move Under Ground isn't available here but I've seen copies of Under My Roof at National Bookstore). And if there's one writer who is my personal Harlan Ellison (without being Harlan Ellison), that's Lucius Shepard. Why? He was the writer that really blew my mind away and got me started thinking, "Fuck, I would love to write like this man."

That's all I can think of at the moment. Will write again soon on other recommendations, possibly and hopefully more "newer" authors.

Your faithful servant in reading,

The Banzai Cat

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