The Hex team have been bursting to share you some of their recommended reads for April. We’ve got a host of must reads and newer books to suggest as an addition to your reading list this month.
Margaret Atwood is truly an enchanting author with a lot to say, and Oryx and Crake is the story of a world affected and damaged by humanity, a story that is quite terrifying to behold.
Snowman is discovering love and loss in a world where the sickening animal experiments have taken over: vicious pigs that were bred to grow human organs, and monkeys that are so violent they could kill you in seconds. And he’s on his own, with no-one distinctly human to help him. It’s his journey through the world, through his discoveries and memories, and it produces an often harsh and all too realistic image of what the earth’s future could hold.
This is a scary book, dealing with some huge themes, but sci-fi lovers will be surprised by it and dystopia lovers will see the world in a way they could not imagine before.
When asked to recommend a book, there was one that instantly jumped to mind – The Visitor by Lee Child. Another Jack Reacher novel that has kept me hooked over the past few weeks. Its got mystery, murder and a chilling scenario, which keeps you guessing right till the end. Three girls have been murdered, and there seems to be only one link – Jack Reacher. Can Reacher catch the murderer and prove his innocence? This really hooked me from the word go and shows just why Lee Child is becoming one of my favourite authors. A real page turner, miss it at your peril….
That sounds poetic, but I mean it literally: the man is a stellar writer… and he’s dying. Sir Terry was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2007, and the creeping fingers of that “embuggerance” (as he calls it) are all over Raising Steam.
The prose in Raising Steam isn’t as tight as it used to be, with run-on sentances getting lost and tripping over themselves, and the story is sometimes muddled and fuzzy. But what hit me hardest is that the voices of different characters, once so distinct, have begun to blend together. This is a writer approaching the end, and it’s heartbreaking.
So this isn’t Discworld at its best – how could it be? – but it’s written with such passion and righteous anger that I stopped noticing. A sort-of-sequel to Thud, Raising Steam deals with the newfound peace between trolls and dwarves. Pratchett uses that situation, stirred up by the invention of the Disc’s first train, to vent all his frustrations about society. At first it seems like an indictment of extremist religion (which it totally is) but the target is actually much broader than that – Raising Steam condemns isolationism, conservatism, conformism, xenophobia and, more than anything, fear of change. Basically, it condemns the Daily Mail.
Pratchett has a lot to say and doesn’t have long to say it (in this book or in general) so the plot races along at breakneck speed. The last Discworld novel, Snuff, took place over about a week, but this one spans months – possibly years – as steam-travel goes from new idea to continent-wide network. The story rushes along like, well, a locomotive, and it’s impossible not to get swept up and enjoy the ride.
This isn’t a great book, and it’s certainly not a good place to jump into the series (it sometimes feels like a greatest-hits tour), but it’s filled with such raw energy and fury that, as a long-time fan, I absolutely loved it. If Terry Pratchett is a dying star, then this is him going supernova.
As a young teenager/young adult I did plenty of my growing up in and around London. Born in the west of the city, experiencing all it had to throw at me, I ‘ve rarely read a good fictional account based in London. So when Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch caught my eye in January last year I found it strangely hard to put it down.
Magic and police procedure don’t sound like natural bedfellows. But there’s something organic about how the story of Peter Grant, the new officer on the block, gets involved in an undercurrent of magically murders beginning with a ghostly encounter in Covent Garden. Aaronovitch has a style of writing that charms the reader into turning ‘just one more page’. He allows Grant the freedom to follow in the footsteps of one Chief Inspector Nightingale. By the time Nightingale takes Grant on as an apprentice in the realms of magic, the hook of the story was already deeply embedded.
Since reading Rivers of London I’ve yet to return to the scene of the crime as there are now three more books in the series. In some ways I worry that nothing will live up to Peter Grant’s maiden voyage into the underworld of magic within the city limits.
In my opinion, David Gemmell is one of the best kept secrets of British Fantasy writing. Despite being a bestselling author, it is hard to find anyone who has actually read any of his work. With over thirty books under his belt, it’s hard to single out of recommendation, but it’s his first novel, Legend , that really sticks in my mind.
Published in 1984, the book tells the story of the defence of the great fortress of Dros Delnoch, the stronghold of the Drenai people, against the invading Nadir army. It was written as a release and a metaphor for the cancer that had ravaged Gemmell’s body at the time he was writing it.
The book could easily be seen as a cheap knockoff of the Battle of Helm’s Deep, but Gemmell is a skilful enough writer to make sure his novel rises above any similarities and the story feels wholly original. Packed full of interesting and memorable characters, particularly the titular sixty year old and crotchety Druss the Legend, the book is excellently written and tightly plotted, with brutal battle scenes and enough tension to keep your pulse racing.
Despite his death in 2006, David Gemmell’s books have the timeless quality of all good fantasy writing, and Legend is a brilliant and thrilling testament to his longevity.
Not just for fans of the TV series, Back to Frank Black: A Return to Chris Carter’s Millennium offers some of the most thoughtful musings on 90s television that you will ever read. From those who worked on Chris Carter’s darker take on the strange to journalists, academics and fans, the collection of essays and interviews that make up the basis of this book have stayed with me since I read it last year for my first book review for Hex .
Now that I’m back to working on my X-Files retrospective, I am yet again drawn to the world of Frank Black, the main protagonist of Millennium . The show was set in the same universe as The X-Files , but had its own arcs. But why should you read it? Apart from takes in several of the essays on the movements and attitudes towards the end of the last millennium, and the growing interest in crime dramas and 24 hour news, it offers some in-depth analysis of the show and gets to the heart of why it succeeded and what eventually led to its cancellation.
A must read for TV buffs and Chris Carter fans alike.
Do you have any recommendations for April? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter, G+ or Facebook.