Summer reading list: novels

Being a compendium of some of my most popular novel reviews from the past year, from My Real Children to Raising Steam

My Real Children

Literally kept me up all night, weeping uncontrollably with the most astounding mixture of joy and sorrow I have ever felt, but not able to stop until I'd finished it. I'm writing this the next morning, and I find myself keeping the book at arm's length, lest it trigger another round of tears.

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The Oversight (Oversight Trilogy)

A dark and glinting book set in Victorian London, a fat and aggressively readable novel about a secret society -- the Oversight -- charged with the policing of all the magical and supranatural (yes, supranatural) elements of Britain. The Oversight are nearly extinguished, having collapsed in a great Disaster a generation before, and now they may be at their final moment.

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Out on Blue Six

Ian McDonald's 1989 science fiction novel that defies description and beggars the imagination.

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Lockstep

Lockstep's central premise is a fiendishly clever answer to the problem of creating galactic-scale civilizations in a universe where the speed of light is absolute. The "Lockstep" worlds all enter into a contract to go into suspended animation on a synchronized schedule -- in lockstep, in other words.

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Raising Steam (Discworld)

Follows on from 2007's Making Money, and features the delightful Moist von Lipwig, as well as the characters who often accompany him, such as Lord Vetinari, William de Worde, Adora Belle Dearheart, and, notably, Harry King. It's the story of an inventor, Dick Simnel, who masters steam, invents the railroad, and comes to Ankh-Morpork to make it a reality. Working against Simnel and his "railroading time" is a faction of reactionary dwarfs, deep-down grags who hate modernity and the mixing of dwarfs with the Discworld's other species.

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Twenty-First Century Science Fiction

Collects stories the authors view as significant signposts in the direction of the field since the turn of the millennium.

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It Came From the North: An Anthology of Finnish Speculative Fiction

15 odd and lovely stories ranging from the downright fantastical to the merely uncanny.

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We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Rosemary Cooke was raised by her scientist parents with her older brother and twin sister, but by the time she is an adult, both of her siblings are gone and her parents are shattered. Despite this (or because of it), she has a mesmerizing personality that leaps off the page, and a storytelling style that is nothing less than riveting. It helps that the story she's telling is such an interesting one, of course.

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The Incrementalists

Spectacular new contemporary fantasy novel about an immortal cabal of dysfunctional do-gooders who use their subtle, near-wizardly powers of persuasion to alter the course of history, and change bodies by implanting their memories into the bodies of successors chosen from the population at large.

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Kill City Blues: A Sandman Slim Novel

Sandman Slim has been around the block a few times, experienced several dramatic turns in his life, fought off zombies and vampires and creatures from beyond the universe, discovered the true identity of God and Lucifer, and stumbled upon the universe's impending unwinding.

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Constellation Games

Ariel Blum is an Austin-based game-developer with a crappy job making Pony franchise collectible content games for the ten-year-old Brazilian girl market. Then aliens invade the Earth. The Constellation is a coalition of many alien species who have travelled unimaginable distances to invite the Earth to join their loose-knit, non-coercive, freewheeling anarcho-syndicalist collective civilization, which has more than 100 million years' worth of history. Ariel send the aliens an email.

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Afterparty

It's a Phil Dickian setup, but the setting is a kind of mature next-wave cyberpunk world populated by wired-in spooks (who are also just plain wired on their own tailored neuro-dope); ruthless, dope-peddling microfinance gangsters; ecstatic religious cults subsisting on home-printed tailored God-dope; and an economic backdrop of stark rich/poor divides, all-powerful states, and paranoid ex-special-forces ninjas who fight the world and their own cracked minds.

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The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

It's the 40th anniversary of William Goldman's wonderful, brilliant, amazing novel The Princess Bride, and there's a gorgeous hardcover commemorative illustrated edition to celebrate.

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Young Adults

A hilarious, bawdy romp through the conventions of young adult literature. When got my first paperback copy, I walked around for days, annoying my roommates by reading long passages from this at them until they forgave me because they were convulsed with laughter. Dadaism was never so funny.

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