Required Reading

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Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Essays on Writing, Science Fiction, and Fantasy by Ursula K. Le Guin, A Spotlight

Essays on Writing, Science Fiction, and Fantasy by Ursula K. Le Guin

With a new introduction by Ken Liu

 

 




“We like to think we live in daylight, but half the world is always dark; and fantasy, like poetry, speaks to the language of the night”: so begins Ursula Le Guin’s famed essay collection, THE LANGUAGE OF THE NIGHT: Essays on Writing, Science Fiction, and Fantasy, which Scribner will proudly reissue on May 14, 2024.

 As Ken Liu says in his introduction, “there is one good reason to read an introduction to a monumental classic – a book of criticism so influential that it has become a work of art itself –which is to converse with a fellow reader who also admires that classic.” Another good reason, I would argue, is to reframe that classic in a modern context. Liu does just that, pointing out that the questions Le Guin poses in these essays (Why does art matter? What happens to a society without art?) are as relevant today as when Le Guin first published this collection in 1977.

 As one of the most prominent speculative fiction writers today (the NYT profiled him in 2019), Liu is uniquely positioned to introduce the work of one of the most brilliant and prolific fantasy and sci-fi writers of all time. But you’d be remiss to think that LANGUAGE OF THE NIGHT is just for dedicated Le Guin fans or fantasy/SF readers. While centered on these genres, Le Guin’s essays extend far beyond the bounds of genre and become rigorous, deeply engaging cultural commentaries, asking the reader to contemplate the necessity of art, the responsibility of the artist and the audience to each other, the societal convention of gender, why a robust imagination is integral to both individuals and societies, how the politics and culture of a country affects its national taste, why Americans are “afraid” of fantasy, and so much more.  There is truly something for everyone in this timeless classic.

 

URSULA K. LE GUIN (1929–2018) was the celebrated author of twenty-three novels, twelve volumes of short stories, eleven volumes of poetry, thirteen children’s books, five essay collections, and four works of translation. Her acclaimed books received the Hugo, Nebula, Endeavor, Locus, Otherwise, Theodore Sturgeon, PEN/Malamud, and National Book Awards; a Newbery Honor; and the Pushcart and Janet Heidinger Kafka Prizes, among others. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and in 2016 joined the short list of authors to be published in their lifetimes by the Library of America. Le Guin was also the recipient of the Association for Library Service to Children’s May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Award and the Margaret A. Edwards Award. She received lifetime achievement awards from the World Fantasy Convention, Los Angeles Times, Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, and Willamette Writers, as well as the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Grand Master Award and the Library of Congress Living Legend Award. Her website is UrsulaKLeGuin.com.

 

KEN LIU is an award-winning American author of speculative fiction. His collection, The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories, has been published in more than a dozen languages. Liu’s other works include The Grace of Kings, The Wall of Storms, The Veiled Throne, and a second collection The Hidden Girl and Other Stories. He has been involved in multiple media adaptations of his work, including the short story “Good Hunting,” adapted as an episode in Netflix’s animated series Love, Death + Robots; and AMC’s Pantheon, adapted from an interconnected series of short stories. “The Hidden Girl,” “The Message,” and “The Oracle” have also been optioned for development. Liu previously worked as a software engineer, corporate lawyer, and litigation consultant. He frequently speaks at conferences and universities on topics including futurism, machine-augmented creativity, the history of technology, and the value of storytelling. Liu lives with his family near Boston, Massachusetts.

On-sale May 14, 2024

 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you click on a purchasing link below.#CommissionsEarned

Monday, May 6, 2024

THE SILVERBLOOD PROMISE by James Logan



THE SILVERBLOOD PROMISE by James Logan

Finally, a protagonist I can relate to, Lukan is stubborn, driven, prone to unwise verbal outbursts and emotionally vulnerable which leads to overcompensation.  Oh, he also drinks too much.  Lukan is on a quest due to a promise he makes.  The quest  is arduous and leads him to unforeseen perils.  

Lukan’s personality is off-set by Flea who provides him with a street-wise sidekick who protects his undeserved six. 

There is magic, monsters, greed, mysteries, treachery, perfidy, and action.   What more could you want.  

I highly recommend the book and can’t wait for the sequel. 


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you click on a purchasing link below.#CommissionsEarned

Sunday, April 14, 2024

The First Binding by R.R. Virdi



 Ari is a storyteller.  The book is his story.  It is well-written and captivating and frustrating.   Virdi jumps all over the place in his tale-telling.  Back story is good, side stories and future stories and what the heck is that in here for stories aren’t as good to me.   I really enjoyed the book but admittedly I’m fond of a more linear approach.

The book is set in a feudalistic world with some Fagan components.  Implacable supernatural enemies and powerful political forces are abundant in the book.  Ari is a complex child and an adult with a self-created complex identity.

Despite my frustrations, I will be reading the next volume.  I enjoyed it but am just not fond of the story structure. 


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you click on a purchasing link below.#CommissionsEarned

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

WICKED PROBLEMS byMax Gladstone

 

This may or may not be a dystopian story, I never could tell.   There is a wealth of gods, characters, and monsters.  It really needed a backstory.   I vaguely remembered the plot but the complexity of the book made my recollection quite foggy.

The likeability of characters is a major criterion of how much I enjoy a book.   I liked Mal but was a bit indifferent about Dawn and Tera.   Frankly, the number of characters was a bit overwhelming.   The book has aspects I enjoyed but it will never land on my most liked books page. 



 



This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you click on a purchasing link below.#CommissionsEarned

Friday, March 8, 2024

A Calamity of Souls by David Baldacci


 

This book departed from what I normally expect from David Baldacci.  Normally, it would be a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-chair action adventure, ie. The Camel Club, which I highly recommend or Mercy, or Amos also highly recommend.  This book is a thought-provoking metaphor for our current state of affairs.  Baldacci recreates “To Kill a Mockingbird” in his own unique, and oblique manner.

The book forcefully makes you look at how you look at people of another color.  Race is the plot's focus, but the situations posed are not just plot devices.   Baldacci weaves a mystery around social commentary.  I’m not privy to Baldacci’s thoughts but from my perspective, the book abounds with similes that apply to current events.   

I always enjoy David Baldacci’s writing but this book may have provided more fodder for introspection than any of his other many books I’ve read. 

I applaud his courage to tackle a controversial topic.

I highly recommend it.



This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you click on a purchasing link below.#CommissionsEarned

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Forge of the High Mage by Ian C. Esslemont

 


After finishing the fourth book of this series I must reiterate that the author is fond of complexity and that forces you to pay attention. On that note, Dorin from earlier books is now Dancer.   Wu is now Kellanved.  Luckily Esslemont who is still Esslemont the author, provides a list of characters in the preface. Succinctly the plot is that Kellanved wants to conquer the known world.

 Esslemont will introduce a character, provide significant details to their portrait, and then abandon them for a hundred pages.  

 There are oddities and characters to appeal to any appetite.  Giants, shape-shifters, semi-sentient cyborg monsters, gods, demi-gods, mages, warriors, soldiers, frankly if you have read any fantasy, you will probably find a character to identify with in this book.

 Again a strong admonishment that due to Esslemont’s attention to detail and the complexity of the plot, I would recommend reading the books in order and pay strict attention to what you read.

 

I recommend the book. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you click on a purchasing link below.#CommissionsEarned