China Mieville

The Best Books of 2016

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The Best Books of 2016

2016 may not have been the best of years, but it saw the release of some amazing books. And since Elizabeth has been focusing more on her artwork these last few months (check out her Daily Doodles on instagram) this year I get to keep the entire “Best Of” list for myself, myself, you hear?! Mwa ha haaaa!

*Ahem* Sorry, got a little carried away there. Click the jump for a list, in no particular order, of my ten favorite books from 2016.

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Review: The Last Days of New Paris

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Review: The Last Days of New Paris

…the other was a torso, jutted from the bicycle itself, its moving prow, a figurehead where handlebars should be. She was extruded from the metal. She pushed her arms backward and they curled at the ends like coral. She stretched her neck and widened her eyes.

Thibault swallowed and tried to speak, and tried again, and screamed, “It’s the Vélo!”

Just a novella this week, but that’s okay because there’s enough glorious weirdness in China Mieville’s latest work to fill a whole novel.

The story begins with the sound of gunfire. German soldiers scatter as they’re attacked by a creature in the shape of a woman merged with a bicycle. Even stranger, the reaction of the French Resistance fighters watching is less Dear God What Is That Thing, and more Look Out, It’s Another One.

The Last Days of New Paris is set in an alternate history version of Nazi-occupied Paris, where an unexplained event, the S-Blast, has somehow tapped into the soul of the Surrealism movement. Now images from works by Max Ernst, André Breton, Yves Tanguy, and hundreds more are stalking the streets, while demons called from Hell reluctantly follow the German soldiers’ orders, and the very landscape of Paris has been twisted into something impossible.

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The Best Books of 2015

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The Best Books of 2015

Whelp, it’s that time of year again. Time to look back on fifty-two weeks of book reviews and decide which ones were our favorites. Not gonna lie here, this was a tough decision. Even when ruling out anything that was published before 2015, there were still more than a dozen books that fell into the “best” category, and picking just three apiece feels unfair to the ones that didn’t make it into the top three. The solution? A ton of honorable mentions and, wherever possible, cheat.

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Review: Three Moments of an Explosion

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Review: Three Moments of an Explosion

I’ve said it before, but my favorite thing about China Miéville’s writing is how he comes up with ideas that are so off the wall, so completely out of nowhere, and then builds a whole story around them. And they become such a matter-of-fact part of the world you accept the idea completely, as if it wasn’t the most bizarre thing that couldn’t possibly exist in reality.

He did that with oceans made up of crisscrossing train tracks in Railsea. He did it again when two metropolises exist in the same place simultaneously in The City & The City. And he does it again dozens of times in his latest book of short stories Three Moments of an Explosion.

I loved most of the stories, was completely confused by several, and disliked a couple. But not a single one was boring, you can definitely say that.

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Review: The Scar

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Review: The Scar

Imagine a world that’s run on magic and steam. Fill it with a collection of races so different from each other that they might as well be alien species. Then picture a pirate fleet that takes every ship it captures and adds it to the collection of ships already bolted together into a miles-wide floating island.

What you end up with is a city-on-the-sea, one made entirely of steamboats and tall-ships and blockade-runners and pleasure yachts, all of which have been gutted and turned into libraries and markets and workshops and sports arenas, or just scraped down to the waterline and covered in soil to make farms. And around each corner is a woman with a scarab for a head, or a human with pistons instead of legs, or a cactus-man, or a priestess who used to serve as the figurehead for her ship, or any number of other people who were taken prisoner when their ship was pirated and are now trying to make a life for themselves as a citizen of the floating city.

And that’s only the setting. The story quickly moves on to a quest to find a hidden civilization, in order to recruit the one scientist who can track down and capture an impossible underwater creature big enough to pull the floating city to the literal end of the world: a fissure in the ocean (and the planet, and reality) known only as the Scar.

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

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Valentine’s Day: Our favorite literary couples

A dual post from Kathryn and Elizabeth

When talking about great couples from sci-fi and fantasy books, there are a lot of obvious ones:  Harry and Ginny, Westley and Buttercup, Drogo and Daenerys, Katniss and Peeta (or Gale), and Bella and Edward (or Jacob), to name a few.

We decided instead of listing all the famous ones, we’d talk about some of the other sci-fi and fantasy couples from our favorite books.

(Except that Kathryn just HAD to go and include Ron and Hermione. ~ Elizabeth)

(I regret nothing! ~ Kathryn)

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The Twelve Days (Years?) of Books

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The Twelve Days (Years?) of Books

This got started when I wondered if you could do a “Twelve Days of Christmas” list with books and graphic novels. Turns out you can, if you play a little fast and loose with the rules.

Here then is a list of some of my favorite books and series, in case you were looking for a reading list for next year. And the year after that. And…well, as near as my limited math can figure, if you read six of these a year, you’re good for the next twelve years. You’re welcome.

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China Miéville’s Railsea

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China Miéville’s Railsea

The secret to reading a China Miéville story is this: he’s going to give you an impossible premise to accept. It’s going to be weird and unrealistic and against all laws of nature, but you’re going to have to believe that that’s the way this world works. Once you accept it, your reward is a very tightly-woven creation built on an internal logic that always makes sense within the boundaries of his world.

And the first impossible premise of Railsea is this: you can’t walk on the ground.
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Review: China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station

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Review: China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station

China Mieville’s newest book actually came out a couple months ago, but I’ve been saving it for the long flight I’ve got to take next week. So in the meantime I’ll just do a little review of the book that turned me on to his writing in the first place: Perdido Street Station.

I’ll say right from the get-go that I don’t feel this is a steampunk story, though I’ve heard a few people call it that. Steampunk tends to cover a pretty wide range, so I get why people lump Perdido in there. But I think its only steampunk element is that it takes place in an extremely high-tech world that never got further than the steam engine. Instead of planes, you have dirigibles. Instead of robots, you have steam-powered “constructs” clanking past with coal-burning boilers inside. There’s plenty of clockwork and trains and “computers” that are programmed with levers and punch-cards, but that’s where the steampunk element ends. There isn’t much of a Victorian feel to anything, there’s an almost modern industrial grittiness to the world, and the aliens all over the place detract from any steampunk vibes.

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