Two different topics (unless we make Gladstone’s excellent series our designated Summer Reading this year… why not 🙂 )
First… the more I think about it, the less I like the idea of “summer reading” as almost a subgenre of its own. Every magazine, every bookshop feels obliged to create a special list of books you should buy and read on the beach. With implication that people read “serious” books all year, and need some pointers for lightweight books they can relax with on vacation. Lay down your Kafka and Dostojewski, get some Arthur Conan Doyle and Agata Christie 😉 Well, nobody reads any more, and if they do, there are no special books for beach. Or, rather, there are, but they are shit.
If one doesn’t read at all during the working year… I’d recommend re-reading his/her favourites from long ago, be they Narnia, Watership Down or Clancy. And after vacation continue with good books of any kind, maybe in audio, long drives got some of the people I know back into reading.
Ola’s choice in the previous post is excellent and I can recommend every one of the books there, but they will be equally good for winter commuting.
Yesterday I was hitch-hiking in beautiful Beskidy Mountains, and I had third Aubrey-Maturin book on my mp3 player and “Before They Are Hanged” by Abercrombie (this series requires a two-shot joint review at some point, I absolutely love it) in the backpack. Today I’m at home, can’t move due to muscle pain, but Abercrombie is still good.
Personally, I always read pretty “difficult” books on vacation. That’s when thoughts of studies/work don’t cloud my mind and I can concentrate better. Light reading I prefer for commuting, and to Ola’s excellent recomendations of Aaronovitch and Briggs I will add Wesley Chu, but that was already analised in-depth.
So now I’ll proceed to today’s second topic, Max Gladstone‘s excellent Craft Sequence series. I’ll write a full review, sooner or later, but let it be my recommendation for today, for readers on vacation or not.
It is a series of 4 (so far) stand alone novels, taking place in one universe, an universe where magic make the world go round. Gods are the equivalent of our corporations, magicians – our lawyers, and the recent God Wars, are that world’s version of 2008 crisis. It’s way more subtle than this two-sentence version, and the books are fun even if you don’t care about these metaphors. But Gladstone’s novels are what I would recommend to snobby readers convinced that genre fiction has nothing to say about real world.
There is action, mystery and interesting characters, worldbuilding is superb, at least in the first one “Three Parts Dead” – that one I’ve already read. “Two Serpents Rise” is sailing to me from far away, courtesy of Amazon Marketplace, and two others I will get, sooner or later. And review. Right now, a couple of quotes and links about the series.
In the words of the author himself:
I write the Craft Sequence series of books and games, set in a postindustrial (and post-war) fantasyland, where black magic is big business, wizards wear pinstriped suits and conduct necromantic procedures on dead gods, and day-to-day commerce rests on people trading pieces of their souls for goods and services. The Craft Sequence books are legal thrillers about faith, or religious thrillers about law and finance. Plus there are hive-mind police forces, poet gargoyles, brainwashing golems, nightmare telegraphs, surprisingly pleasant demons, worldshattering magic, environmental devastation, and that deepest and darkest evil: student loans.
So, they’re pretty much like real life!
On the surface, the metaphors he employs are straightforward. Wizardry is business. Magic is commerce. It’s contracts and negotiations, laws that are legislated rather than universal. As every courtroom drama on television has taught us, winning your argument is as often as much about the charisma and perspicacity of the lawyer as having the law on your side. And so it is with Craft. The perks, the corporate structure, the manifestations of status are all the same. What makes this fantasy—as opposed to Wall Street fan fiction—is the underlying, thermodynamic trope that regardless of how effortless it appears, magic has a cost. No one in Gladstone’s books makes it to their equivalent of Carnegie Hall without the requisite years of practice. And even then, that’s just to get to the point where one can step onto the great stage and perform.
the metaphor of the corporate business model that defines the characters’ lives runs up against their very humanity, over and over again.
So, great fantasy novels for modern left 🙂
And there are strong female characters aplenty, not only on covers: