Thursday, August 17, 2023

6 More Books with Premee Mohamed

Premee Mohamed is a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Aurora award-winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Ignyte, British Fantasy, and Crawford awards. She is an Assistant Editor at the short fiction audio venue Escape Pod and the author of the Beneath the Rising series of novels as well as several novellas. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues and she can be found on Twitter at @premeesaurus and on her website at She is represented by Michael Curry of DMLA.

Today she returns to Nerds of a Feather to tell us about Six More Books.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I'm in the home stretch of Simon Jimenez' The Spear Cuts Through Water, which is by miles the best book I've read this year. I'm struggling to sum it up in a couple of sentences, but among other things it's a fantasy story about two young warriors who meet by chance and swear an oath to fulfil the final wishes of a dying god. The language is beautiful and precise, the mythology is intricately multi-layered -- nothing is what it seems, secret identities abound, the complicated historical relationships between characters and gods and demons and monsters are revealed in bits and pieces. In some places, it seems like a superhero movie; in others, a tiny, intimate stage show with only a few actors. I'm also struck by the effortless elegance of what small-minded editors might call 'head-hopping' -- you'll see it right away -- italics that tell us what someone else in the scene is thinking. It lends such an interiority to this beautiful, cinematic story. You feel what people feel, you hear what they aren't saying out loud, what they aren't admitting even to the people they're interacting with. The point-of-view character watches a man pick up his child in the face of a natural disaster and the next line is the man thinking: If this is the end, she is the only thing I wish to hold close to me. I've never read another book like this. Jimenez is an insta-buy author for me now and I hope he writes dozens more books.      

2. What upcoming book are you really excited about?

Last To Leave the Room, by Caitlin Starling. In the interests of full disclosure, I've read this one already, but I'm still excited for it to come out. People's heads are going to explode. What I kept thinking in this book was that there were so many scenes where another author would have pulled the punch, made it 'look' convincing but with no real impact -- and every time, Starling is like "Nope, I'm putting my full weight behind it." It's a story about weird physics and the corrosive effects of ambition and exploitation, on the one hand, but also identity, memory, the construction of self. What are we made of, what pieces did we use to put ourselves together? Do we really think it's us doing it, or is it the world? Even the parts that seem like a respite from the horror are, in retrospect, the horror. It's all horror. I can't wait for people to read it. I'm rubbing my hands together like a movie villain in anticipation.

3. Is there a book you're currently itching to read again?

I just read Ed Yong's An Immense World in April, and I'm itching to read it again already. It's not that I didn't absorb information from it and annotate it heavily the first time! It's that it was a wonderful experience. The science, the anecdotes, the footnotes, the asides, the interviews and quotes, even the photos. What I love about Ed Yong, both in his books and in his long-form journalism, is that he writes about all his subjects, from researchers to bats to ducks to bacteria, with such interest and respect. He's never patronizing or twee; he doesn't chop down the science because he's writing a 'pop-sci' book; he just explains it carefully, using appropriate language and analogies, and building on concepts introduced earlier in the book. And you can feel how fascinated he is with everything he's learning, and how eager he is to share it. I enjoyed reading it so much, I felt like I was going on a journey with an amazing tour guide, and I want to do it again!  

4. How about a book you've changed your mind about - either positively or negatively?

I recently re-read Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, and I think I was a little too harsh on it the first time I read it six or seven years ago? The first time, I think I was expecting this very angry, inflexible condemnation of Hannah and I could not fathom why Michael kept in contact with her after she went to jail, so I condemned them both and to the same degree. To me, 'pity' was not enough of a reason. This time I find myself more forgiving -- it's not the novel's job to make me calculate someone's motivations. It's to make me feel them.

5. What's one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

I think I must have read Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain (all the books, but particularly the first one, The Book of Three) a hundred times as a kid. I loved the intense visual images, the adventure, the humour, the villains (those terrifying undead soldiers!), even the frustration of all the characters trying to force their friends to do something that they didn't want to do. I guess it was an object lesson in inter-personal conflict as a driver for plot, although of course I wasn't thinking that at the time. 

6. And speaking of that, what's your latest book, and why is it awesome?

My most recent is my debut short story collection No One Will Come Back For Us, published by Undertow Publications! I'm very excited for this to be out -- this contains some of my favourite short stories I've ever written, and the whole collection has a dark fantasy, horror, sci-fi with horror elements theme. There are some shared-universe stories and some stand-alone stories; it contains my only Pushcart-nominated story and my only published novelette; and it also contains author notes on all of them. I also love the cover art (by Slug Draws; art direction by Vince Haig), which seems to tell a story all on its own!

Thank you, Premee!

POSTED BY: Paul Weimer. Ubiquitous in Shadow, but I’m just this guy, you know? @princejvstin.