Reading A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar was an odd experience. I’d been looking forward to this novel for a long time. In theory, it looked right up my alley. I expected to be blown away. Instead, I ended up abandoning the novel at about the midway point. Yet, even though I gave up on it, there’s also a lot to love about it. I may even find myself going back to it, one day.
Plot-wise, the novel is relatively straightforward. Jevick is the son of a pepper farmer/merchant. He grows up on a distant island, hearing stories about the mainland, many from a tutor hired by his father. This tutor also introduces him to the pleasures of reading. When his father dies, Jevick takes his place on the annual trip to the mainland to sell pepper. Once there, he becomes enamored of city life and the availability of untold numbers of books. He also finds himself haunted by the ghost of a girl, and when he seeks help from Olondrian priests, he becomes involved in the struggle between powerful cults.
Conservation of Shadows by Yoon Ha Lee is a terrifying collection of short stories to review. The stories themselves are rarely scary in the traditional sense, but their individual complexity and astonishing level of variety make this an impossible book to encompass in just a few paragraphs.
It’s not that there aren’t any hooks or approaches; it’s more that there is such a bewildering number of them that, as a reader or reviewer, you feel somewhat like you’ve wandered onto a hitherto undiscovered island full of skittery, unfamiliar species that keep turning out to be something else than what you initially expected. More than a review, Conservation of Shadows needs its own monograph. Towards a Taxonomy of Yoon Ha Lee’s Short Fiction, maybe.
In Brandon Sanderson’s new YA fantasy novel, a teenager named Joel wants nothing more than to become a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to give life to two-dimensional figures called Chalklings. They’re also the only defense humans have against Wild Chalklings, who have recently taken over Nebrask and are threatening to overrun the entire American Isles.
Joel, the son of an ordinary chalkmaker, can only watch from the sidelines as Rithmatist students practice their art. But when students start disappearing, Joel and his friend Melody end up helping with the investigation. This will lead them to a discovery that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever…
It’s 1976, and the rule of the Roman Catholic Church is absolute. A stable theocracy prevails across Europe. The Reformation never happened. A papal crusade prevented Henry VIII from taking the throne. Martin Luther became Pope Germanian I. The Church is in charge of all aspects of life, from government and culture all the way down to personal relationships.
Ten year old Hubert Anvil is an incredibly gifted soprano, but as puberty approaches, his voice will break, inevitably destroying his ability to sing in the higher registers. Hubert’s superiors are considering an “alteration”: removing the offending parts of his anatomy before hormones ravage his angelical voice….
The Alteration is a 1976 alternate history novel by English novelist, poet and critic Kingsley Amis. It won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel. This new edition, out on May 7th from NYRB Classics, also features an insightful new introduction by William Gibson.