Some summer reading

  • Charles Stross – Rule 34 A sharp and funny thriller set in 2020s Edinburgh, full of observations on the impact information technology might have on policing, politics, and our personal lives. Like many of Charlie’s books, I found the ending a bit too vague. He seems to like leaving you with questions and opportunities for you to use your imagination to fill in the details. Apart from that, brilliant.
  • James Gleick – The Information A history of how we deal with, well, information: language, writing, communication. Gleick spins a thread of discoveries, inventions, and insights from pre-literacy right up to present information age. It’s the earlier chapters I found most compelling, though. The book is subtitled, “A History, a Theory, a Flood,” and once Gleick gets through Shannon and into the era of the Flood, many of the anecdotes and details feel incomplete, or drift off into unsatisying speculation. Gleick is at his best as a chronicler, but the story of the information Flood has only just begun, so it’s hard to paint a complete picture. The Information actually complements Rule 34 very nicely: together they vividly cover both the past and the future of the subject.
  • Kate Griffin – A Madness of Angels Urban Fantasy didn’t used to be my cup of tea, but I’m discovering more and more hardboiled Urban Fantasy books that sit with me rather well. I’m not sure if this strictly qualifies as hardboiled, but despite a certain tendency towards overly descriptions it doesn’t have any of the goth-ish faux-noir sensibilities that I (perhaps unfairly) associate with the genre. Tough, well-drawn characters and a present-day London that is both gritty and filled with thinly disguised wonder are going to have me coming back for more.
  • Harry Connolly – Game Of Cages No doubt whatsoever about the hardboiled nature of this one. I read the first book in this series, Child Of Fire a couple of months ago after having read Harry’s guest posts on Charlie Stross’s blog. Harry’s Twenty Palaces books tackle Lovecraftian horror with a very head-first American hardboiled flavour in the same way that Charlie’s Laundry books cover it with a uniquely British twist. His new book, Circle of Enemies is just out, and will be on my next Amazon order.

  • Derek Landy – Skulduggery Pleasant 3: The Faceless Ones Alex got the first book in the Skulduggery Pleasant series for Christmas, and declared it “awesome”. He persuaded me to read it, and damn it, he’s right. It’s funny, and full of fast-paced action and snappy dialogue. So now I’m following behind Alex as he works his way through the whole series. (I wish he’d hurry up on book 4; I’m eager to find out what happens next!)
  • Lev Grossman – The Magicians Very mixed reviews on Amazon for this one, and I can see how it might not suit everyone, but I loved it. It builds up a complex set of relationships very quickly, but it doesn’t linger lovingly on them, or tease out every nuance, because it moves through the plot at a blistering pace. It appears blatantly derivative of Narnia, Harry Potter, and The Secret History, but it blends these old and new archetypes with an insouciance I found entertaining. In fact, the multiplicity of influences is exactly what keeps it interesting: just when you think you know what the next chapter will bring, it actually turns in a different direction.