Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer Reading

Looking for a good genre read for a summer vacation? Since I got a Kindle earlier this year, I’ve been able to buy books on even more of an impulse than before, since now I don’t have to find a place to physically house them. Here are a few, one digital and two physical, I’ve found particularly worthwhile--two just happen to be from the same author:

Fathom by Cherie Priest is the first Kindle formatted novel I purchased, and I was off to auspicious start. This is a modern fantasy, something like some of Neil Gaiman’s work,but who it reminds me of most is Tim Powers. It’s got the usual Powers elements--mythology reinterpreted, a bit of secret history, and obscure tidbits of the real world recast in a clever way. The story stars two young, female cousins on an island off the coast of Florida. They become involved in a battle between two powerful deities/elementals--one of water and one of earth. The water elemental has a plan to awaken the leviathan sleeping in the depths--and destroy the world. The young cousins are transformed into something other than human, and serve as pawns for the dueling supernatural beings.

Boneshaker is my second recommendation from Cherie Priest. This is what the kids are calling “steampunk” these days. Priest calls the planned alternate-history series “The Clockwork Century.” In a world where the Civil War still rages in the 1880s--abetted by superior transportation technology--an arrogant inventor's digging machine has turned Seattle into a no-man’s land, surrounded by 200 foot high walls. These walls are to hold in the blight--a gas, and one of those genre fictions substances that has an amazing variety of effects, all bad. The blight kills many that inhale it, and turns the rest into decaying zombies (“rotters”), and causes corrosion and decay of inanimate objects. Oh, and it can also be used to make a deadly and addictive drug called “lemon sap.”

When Zeke, the teenage son of the inventor responsible, heads into the blight-soaked city in a misguided attempt to clear his father’s name, Briar, his mother, catches a ride on an airship flying over the city to go after him. Yes, there are airships--this is steampunk, remember--so that’s a requirement. It’s also got another evil inventor in a sinister gasmask, an underground squatter society, inscrutable Chinamen, and the aforementioned zombies. What’s not to like?

My last recommendation is a work of nonfiction, but it does deal with magic. Spiritual Merchants by Carolyn Morrow Long takes on a fascinating topic I’ve dealt with here before--so-called spiritual supplies, used predominantly for African American folk magic. It outlines the history and origins of rootwork and related systems, and then details how the spiritual products industry went from local hoodoo drug stores, and small mail order operations, to major manufactures distributing products nationwide, with catalogs and the like. If you like to draw inspiration from real-world belief for your gaming, or just have an interest in real world magical systems, then its worth checking out.

That oughta do it for now.  It's only July, though, and I've still got a stack of books awaiting me.


Unknown said...

Boneshaker has been hovering near the top of my wish list for a while now, but until this morning I had never heard of Fathom. As a huge Time Powers Neil Gaiman fan, I'll have to check it out.

Anonymous said...

Just a heads up for anyone interersted in Boneshaker: it was a book club selection on io9 last month, so there's bound to be some interesting ancillary reading there.

Trey said...

@Risus - I think you'll probably like it.

@Aaron - Thanks. I'll check that out.

netherwerks said...

Long's book comes highly recommended by some other associates, so it's on my short-list to acquire or get from the library, depending on whichever works out fastest/most convenient.

Boneshaker sounds very interesting. Alternate histories stemming from the Civil War are a lot of fun...sometimes. Adding in some steampunk stuff might make it more interesting. Kind of like Brisco County Jr.? Or more like that bomb Jonah Hex--the movie died before I could catch it, but the original comics were quite good.