Books read in February 2013

LessingCleftDoris Lessing: The Cleft.

A Roman senator relates a story based on ancient documents, telling about the dawn of humanity when there only were females (clefts), and the sudden birth of males (squirts), the conflicts and cooperation between these. This story, almost lacking actual characters, is interspersed with the senator’s comments on life in Rome. A truly fascinating novel or fable, discussing gender issues in an extraordinary way.

RailseaChina Miéville: Railsea.

Although I have not read Moby Dick I definitely see that this story is based on that book. The ocean is replaced by a stone desert covered by rails, where trains go, many in search of strange animals under the surface, as the captain who hunts a gigantic mole instead of the white whale. The main character is a young boy, and the book is marketed as YA, but it is absolutely enjoyable for adults.

44-when-she-wokeHillary Jordan: When She Woke.

I heard John-Henri Holmberg recommend this in a radio programme. In a future USA an extreme form of Christianity has led to punishment of abortions by genetic colouring of the skin in addition to prison. The story is thrilling and of course scary, but it is somewhat hard to understand how this society could have evolved even if there are worrying signs in the USA of today.

CugelJack Vance: Cugel’s Saga.

A continuation of The Eyes of the Overworld, with strange adventures where the hero Cugel wins and loses money and comfort repeatedly in a picaresque fantasy. Excellent entertainment.

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TupolevBrian Aldiss: A Tupolev Too Far And other stories.

The title story is a superb alternate history where the protagonist lands in the Soviet Union instead of the expected tsarist Russia. I liked the other stories as well, but found the dictionaries for the planet Myrin a bit boring.

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TheBookmanHistoriesLavie Tidhar: The Bookman.

The first novel in The Bookman Histories is an entertaining mixture of steampunk, science fiction (there are aliens), sea pirate adventure and classic fairy tale, where many characters and gadgets from other stories appear, like Moriarty and Nautilus. Naturally the story is sometimes less than convincing, but you cannot help being interested in the fate of the protagonist even when he makes mistakes.

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