Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Reading List: The G

This is the first in a series by all our contributors, where we discuss what's on our reading queue for the summer that just started day-before-yesterday. As usual, the list comes in multiples of 6. First up, The G:

As soon as the warm weather hits (or in the case of LA, as soon as the "moderately warmer/more humid than the rest of the year" weather hits), I hit the books. Must be a vestige of my childhood, when summers  promised endless sunny days at the beach, pool or porch. I consumed books voraciously, then as now; and summer for me has always been the time when I tore through the most, with the most pleasure and the deepest level of reflection.

My method for choosing summer reading has been to mix challenging, mind-bending "literature"(i.e. stuff accepted by the New Yorker/New York Review of Books crowd as "high art") with thought-provoking, high quality genre-fiction (i.e. stuff that, quality notwithstanding, the snooty crowd sticks in a genre-ghetto). Think J.G. Ballard and Roberto BolaƱo side-by-side with George R. R. Martin and John Scalzi.

The list of books I plan to read this summer reflects this approach. It's a little more SF/F heavy than in some other years, but if you ask me, that just reflects the strength of the genre right now. Will I read them all? Probably not. Will I read stuff not on the list? Definitely. But here's the first six books I plan to soon as I finish 1Q84, that is!

The G's Summer Reading List

1. Redshirts by John Scalzi [Tor, hardcover]

Scalzi's long-anticipated return to space opera is also a paean to SF television, and Star Trek in particular (redshirts = away party cannon fodder). Advance reviews characterize it as a funny and clever spoof, but one that's much more affecting than that description implies. The Old Man's War series was a bit like that, though I expect the satire to come on a little heavier in this one. Should be a blast--this will be my first post-1Q84 read.

2. The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski [Orbit, paperback]

This collection of linked short stories is the first of Sapkowski's Witcher books to be published in English. Though popular outside the Anglosphere since he emerged in Poland in the 1990s, Sapkowski's work was largely unknown to English readers until the Witcher video games introduced nerds to one of the richest fantasy worlds ever created. From all I've heard, The Last Wish is a must read for fantasy fans. So yeah...I'm eagerly anticipating this one.

3. Kingdom Come by J.G. Ballard [Liveright, hardcover]

Ballard has, over the years, provided some of my most memorable summer reading. Posthumously published Kingdom Come is, like every Ballard novel of the past two decades, a mystery novel. But like those, the mystery mostly serves as a vehicle for exploring the dark, frightening and revolutionary in mundane, middle-class social spaces. In Cocaine Nights it was the seaside resort; in Super-Cannes it was the gated community; in Kingdom Come, it's the suburban mall. As if I needed more prodding, the New York Times went ga-ga over it.

4. The Company by K.J. Parker [Orbit, ebook]

The pseudonymous Parker's novelette "Amor Vincit Omnia" was a revelation, and reason to delve into his/her full-length work. The Company is a magic-free fantasy about military veterans who, looking for a better life, settle on an abandoned island. Then stuff goes wrong. Sounds Ballardian, but in a medieval fantasy context and thematically focused on questions of what happens to warriors when the wars are over. Reader reviews have been mixed, but you can chalk that up to the fact that some people take marketing too literally.

5. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey [Orbit, ebook]

Corey is a pseudonym for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Abraham, an accomplished fantasy novelist and critic, is someone I've long wanted to check out. But I faced a dilemma: go for the solar-spanning space opera/detective story of Leviathan Wakes, or for the well-regarded epic fantasy The Dragon's Path? The kindle edition of Leviathan Wakes solves the problem for me, as it comes with a free copy of The Dragon's Path. Color me excited.

6. The Keep by Jennifer Egan [Anchor, paperback]

Egan's recent New Yorker story, "Black Box," filled my mind with thoughts like this is groundbreaking, followed by no wait, it's genre-smashing and then OMG THIS IS TEH BEST STORY EVAR! Naturally, the experience piqued my interest in Egan's novels. The Keep, which the New York Times describes (in a roundabout way) as a paranoid and macabre thriller set in a creepy-ass Eastern European castle, struck me as a good place to start. Should be suitably freaky.


Well, there you have it. Look forward to future installments in this series, both from The G and other nerds-feather contributors!