I read three amazing books this month. I also chewed through some Young Adult fiction, and a sobering novel on climate change.
Australian Speculative Fiction
James Bradley‘s new novel Clade is an ambitious exploration of climate change, one of those rare books that has been embraced by both the literary world (it is beautifully written) and the science-fiction community (it is set, for the most part, in an imagined future). Though I loved the ideas, the massive time span it covered reduced it to a series of episodes, rather than a continuous narrative, and I was frustrated by not being able to get to know the characters better. Still, some of the episodes it depicted were striking and memorable and it had much that interested me overall.
Young Adult Fiction
I’ve been on a little YA fiction binge lately. I was lucky enough to be on a panel at Perth Writers Festival with bestselling science-fiction writer Sean Williams, and I absolutely ripped through the first two books in his Twinmaker Series Jump and Crash. They were a great deal more complex and intelligent than the average YA action thriller, with an original and exciting premise, and I enjoyed them immensely. Joelle Charbonneau’s The Testing was extremely formulaic and blatantly derivative of The Hunger Games but it was exactly what I was in the mood for and I read it in two sittings.
Jenny Offil‘s novella Dept of Speculation is a portrait of marriage and motherhood, told as a series of gorgeously written and heart-rending snippets. I’m very interested in how writers choose to depict these things at the moment because those are the subjects of my work-in-progress, Self/Help.
Alright, I know I am a little late to this because Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch was the book everyone and their dog was talking about twelve months ago. I put it off because I wasn’t a fan of Tartt’s previous novels, The Little Friend and The Secret History, but also because it was so damn big. But when I finally got to it I was enthralled from the first scene. I loved the voice, the flawed protagonist and the exploration of family, fate, love, art and addiction – what a potent mixture. It felt unbearable when I had to put it down and I was quite lost when I finished, so immersed had I been in Theo’s world.
I have heard lots of people say The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber was slow, or flat or even just downright boring. But I was completely gripped by every aspect of it. It tells the story of Peter, a Christian missionary (I know, it sounds offputting, but read on) who travels to another planet (cool, hey?) to teach the word of God to an alien race. If you’re thinking, I’m not a Christian and I don’t like science-fiction, hold up, because it’s really a book about relationships. Peter’s interactions with his wife back on Earth, his oddball colleagues in the colony, and the aliens themselves are so funny, and also so strangely touching. It is really a wonderful book.
Your turn: what good things have you read this month?