Per my reading resolutions, I was hoping that quite a bit of my reading in 2008 will have some other date on the copyright page. Then I sat down and started making notes for this post. No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, it seems.
January: Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth by Xiaolu Guo
Long-time readers will remember that I rather liked Guo’s previous, Orange-shortlisted novel, so this, when I saw it on the shelves in Borders, was an automatic purchase. Unlike A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Twenty Fragments is set entirely in China, being the story of a girl who moves from the country to Beijing to find a job in the film industry. It looks like Guo’s semi-autobiographical tendencies are still in force, then, but if Fenfang is anything like as engaging as Z, this should be a winner. (In other news, according to this profile, “her next book and film [...] are about UFOs and aliens, loosely inspired by China’s place in the world.”)
February: Mushishi, volume 3, by Yui Urushibara
Or, at any rate, so claim Amazon. I hope they’re right, because Urushibara’s series is one of the two best comics I discovered last year (or more accurately, was introduced to by Micole, the other being Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim, which is its opposite in many ways). I keep trying to write something about the first two volumes and failing. I get as far as explaining that mushi are an entire kingdom of living beings half way between a sort of microorganism and a sort of spirit, that each volume collects five or six short stories about the travels of a mushi master (mushishi), that the setting is rural Japan, and that the artwork is beautifully textured — but then I don’t know how to capture the tone of the stories, the poignancy of them. Maybe I’ll have another go when I get my hands on volume three.
Also out in February: Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut collection, Pump Six and Other Stories (having read very nearly all of the intense science fiction stories that make up this book already, it seems likely that it’s going to be one of the best collections of the year; maybe reading them all together will reveal weaknesses not previously obvious, but I doubt it); Death at Intervals by Jose Saramago; a new Victor Pelevin novel, The Sacred Book of the Werewolf; Paul Melko’s interesting-looking debut, Singularity’s Ring; and Weaver, the conclusion of Stephen Baxter’s Time’s Tapestry sequence, which looks like it will actually tip over into full alternate history.
March: Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell
Godawful cover, but it’s a new novel by Mary Doria Russell! This one looks to be a posthumous fantasy set behind the scenes at the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference, but really that’s irrelevant, because it’s a new novel by Mary Doria Russell; it gets bought. Also in March, Swiftly by Adam Roberts (set in a world in which, after Gulliver returned from his travels, others went after him and enslaved the various races he found; the short story that makes up the first chapter of this novel is possibly my favourite of Roberts’ short fiction, so I have high hopes for the rest of the book) and, according to Locus at least, Ian R Macleod’s Song of Time, which “tells the story of this century through the eyes of a great musician as she unravels the mysteries of her past, and contemplates making the ultimate leap into life beyond the body.” I have my doubts as to whether it will actually show up in March, since PS novels have a habit of appearing a bit later than advertised, but I have my fingers crossed.
April: Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn
This is the book which elaborates on the taxonomy of fantasy that Farah Mendlesohn started using a few years ago (portal fantasy/immersive fantasy/intrusive fantasy/liminal fantasy); it should be a book to get one’s teeth into. I’m looking forward to it not least because I understand it actually engages with examples from contemporary fantasy, in all its diversity. Also this month: Jonathan Strahan’s YA anthology The Starry Rift (complete with gorgeous cover, and Kelly Link sf story); a UK edition of a new Michael Marshall Smith novel, The Servants (I read a couple of the Michael Marshall thrillers, but never found them as satisfying as the MMS books); House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds, which sounds as though it will be epic in scope even by Reynolds’ standards; and a new Philip Pullman novella set in the world of His Dark Materials, Once Upon a Time in the North.
May: Incandescence by Greg Egan
June: Flood by Stephen Baxter
Isn’t that a good cover? This looks, on the face of it, like Baxter does global warming, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be an update of The Kraken Wakes (given that the Amazon description begins “Next year. Sea levels begin to rise. The change is far more rapid than any climate change predictions; metres a year”, which sounds like external intervention to me). Either way, I’m ready for another hefty Baxter science fiction tome, now that he’s done with the historicals. Also this month a brace of notable debuts (Superpowers by David J Schwartz, Principle of Angels by Jaine Fenn, and The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway — the last of which really sounds like it’s got a bit of everything, although the comparisons to Douglas Adams that have cropped up in a couple of places make me nervous) and Ellen Datlow’s Del Rey Book of SF & Fantasy.
July and beyond
The Locus forthcoming books issues and Amazon’s advance listings will only take you so far, and this is the point at which the future becomes misty. I’m sure there are many books scheduled for the second half of the year that I’ll want to read just as badly as the ones mentioned above. In August, the ones I know about and know something about are Ken MacLeod’s The Night Sessions (which, set “after the Middle East wars” in a time when “terrorism is history”, looks like a complement to The Execution Channel in a number of ways), Jo Walton’s Half a Crown (although I have some catch-up reading to do before I can read it), and Benjamin Rosenbaum’s collection The Ant King and Other Stories (which may give Bacigalupi’s book a run for its money); there’s also Sarah Hall’s next book, The Bottles, about which I only know the title. After that, there’s a new Kelly Link collection, The Wrong Grave and Other Stories; Lydia Millet’s new book How the Dead Dream (yes, I know it’s out in the US already — don’t tempt me); and, dare I hope, the fifth volume of Scott Pilgrim?
In short, it seems there’ll be enough to keep me out of trouble. What’s everyone else looking forward to?