Every month, I go to a book club that meets at a local taproom. Rather than reading a specific book, each month has a theme. May's theme was the Nebula Awards because, well, they are awarded in May. The Nebulas are one of those awards I've always been vaguely aware of from stickers on books, though I do enjoy Ceridwen's Blogging the Nebulas posts. I was a bit surprised to see how many previous nominees I'd read. I had to cull down to just a handful of recommendations.
Here's what I ended up bringing from this year's ballot:
Six Wakes - Mur Lafferty. I wanted to read something on topic for the month, so I compared this year's Nebula and Hugo nominees. The overlap included Six Wakes, which I hadn't read yet, and is published by Orbit. The Hugo voter packet includes whatever publishers provide, and Orbit has traditionally included excerpts of nominees, not full books. Strategery! Turns out, I liked it quite a bit.
The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter - Theodora Goss. I read this one last year, and abso-fucking-lutly loved it. Great characters in an interesting concept, and there's a sequel out really soon. I was so happy to see it on an awards ballot. I won an auction for a signed copy that arrived a day before our May meeting.
I also decided, like I had when our theme was the Hugos, to bring some of my favorite losers. The awards hadn't been announced when we met, so I didn't even know my first two picks had lost. I would have brought Stone Sky, but I've rec'd to this group before. But here are some real losers:
A Stranger in Olondria - Sofia Samatar. I adored this beautifully written fantasy novel about a book nerd's misadventures. The not-sequel is also amazing. Samatar's prose is just wonderful. My copy of this was signed here in Alabama, at a lecture she was giving MFA students in Tuscaloosa. Because if a master of the genre is going to make an appearance in my state, I can be a little late to work the next morning. Oh, since I'm late posting this, I can link to her recent AMA. This book lost to Ancillary Justice in 2014. But it did win a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, and a Crawford Award. Samatar also won the Campbell Award for best new writer. Her blog has since become private, so I can't link to her post about the WFA, but more on that in the next book.
Who Fears Death - Nnedi Okorafor. My copy of this is technically a gift for my niece. I got it signed at Worldcon in Chicago. She's almost old enough to read it. This is a different indictment/celebration of fantasy than Samatar's, but no less powerful or wonderfully written. It lost to Blackout/All Clear in 2011, and I can't even. It did win a Kindred, and a World Fantasy Award that year, sparking an essay that eventually resulted in a redesign of the award statue 5 years later.
China Mountain Zhang - Maureen F. McHugh. I read this so long ago I don't have a review for it. It combines a vast scope with a well done character study. McHugh has done a lot of outstanding work, and this is no exception. This lost to Doomsday Book in 1993, but won a Lambda, Locus, and Tiptree.
Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny. This is one of those books that starts off firmly a fantasy, but reveals itself as science fiction, and the author is a poet. One of my favorite books. My current not for load copy is the leather bound Eaton Press edition. In addition to being a piece of goddamned art, this book was the cheesy sci-fi novel used as cover for the Canadian Caper, aka, the CIA operation in Argo. It lost to The Einstein Intersection in 1968, but won a Hugo that year.
All Flesh is Grass - Clifford D. Simak. Simak wrote at least three versions of alien invasions that followed roughly the same plot. This is the best one. A small town finds itself cut off from the outside world and some purple flowers are revealed to be extraterrestrials. Creepy and weird, it's worth a read if you're visiting that era of scifi. It lost to Dune in 1966, making it one of the first losers.
Next month's theme is Urban Fantasy.
I enjoy and appreciate the writing style of Jeremy Bates, like his descriptive narrative, his casual voice, and I have read most of his novels, but this story leaps ahead of the others in the Scariest Places series due to the intense historical background that was cleverly added as a thread against the current day's story plot.
The true historical event that happened in the Russian mountains back in 1959 that was named the Dyatlov Pass Incident, was well researched and smoothly intertwined that tale (which Bates totally expanded creatively) with the main story of the protagonist's search for answers. It was more than a search though, the protagonist was obsessed with the original mystery, compelled to do the trip.
More important, the old mystery was intriguing by itself, then add the current story of an obsessive man trying to come to grips with demons by throwing his all into a crazy expedition, dragging his BFF along, meeting up with unlikely climbing mates, who of course all have a reason for being there as well, and it makes for a stew of explosive scenes. There were moments I felt sorry for his dearest friend who faithfully followed Whitey and hoped things hadn't turned out the way they did for him, but .... it is a horror story.
I could not have predicted the action scenes with the racing for your life kind of momentum, literally the story took me by surprise. As original and unseemly the characters who banded together were, the last few scenes were even more unexpected.
There were extra horrors added to the story when the main character and friends stumbled across additional mysterious and deadly places, while on their way to the final peak/pass.
I enjoyed reading this story very much and highly recommend this novel.
MOUNTAIN HOME by Bracken MacLeod wasn't quite what I expected, but it was still a very solid read.
Joanie is ex-military. She's purchased a home with a view up in the mountains. Trying to move on with her life after a tragic experience during her time overseas, she runs into more trouble with a local. This is the final straw. Life's kicked her ass, now she's ready to strike back. It certainly had a Rambo/First Blood vibe in spots, which was cool.
What this book needed was more Joanie. All the scenes and bits with her past and present were compelling. I would have liked it better if the entire book was written from her POV.
I just couldn't get into the diner characters. I found myself wanting the story to move along and get back to Joanie. Unfortunately, the majority of the book is the diner and its cast and how they are dealing with being under fire.
I loved the set up and the ending of MOUNTAIN HOME and really was captivated by Joanie and her background.
I give MOUNTAIN HOME 3 stars!