More Recent Reading

The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay is a brilliant book. It’s huge – in themes, in scope, and in sheer fun. I’m not going to review it, but I wanted to at least tell people they should read it. The book follows the lives of two cousins. One is a Czech artist called Joe Kavalier (also trained as an escape artist), and Sam Clay, raised in Brooklyn. It’s set mainly in the years leading up to the Second World War, where the cousins become major comic writers as the industry enters the Golden Age. I love the themes of escape that prop up this beast of a novel (Kavalier, who is trained as an escape artist, escapes his homeland because of the build up to WWII, and who then seeks to help his family escape). Chabon, whilst not quite as stylish as Letham at his best, certainly knows his way around a sentence, too.

Then, onto C. L. Moore, the first lady of weird fantasy. I read the collection Black Gods And Scarlet Dreams, the Masterworks edition, and even in the first story, I could see it contained more imaginative power than a lot of this year’s combined fantasy output. My initial excitement wavered a little after that, for there were endless descriptions of psychological reaction, of emotion, of fear, of abstract shapes and entities. And I’m all for a little exposition, but some of this was way beyond heady. I admit I stopped halfway, after the adventures of Jirel of Joiry – a hugely important character in genre taxonomy, because she was the first proper female warrior/lead. I was impressed: Jirel was utterly non-sexualised, not made into some leather-clad male fetish – she was properly hard as nails, the equal of any male warrior.

I’m now half-way through a bound manuscript of Kraken, by one China Miéville. (I should say here how wonderful my publicist and editor are for supplying me with a copy.) About a hundred pages in and by god it’s good fun.

After that, I’m hoping to escape core genre for a bit. Possibly, I’ll read some John Cowper Powys, though I’m not hugely knowledgeable on some of his output. I very much enjoyed Wolf Solent – which was written in the style of a horny Thomas Hardy on speed. JCP’s books look intimidatingly big, so if anyone out there knows of some of the smaller tomes, suggestions would be welcome. I found some available on Faber Finds, their Print on Demand range, but I’m not forking out £15 for a copy.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. I can’t help with short Powys (did he do short?), but I can thoroughly recommend his big historical novel Owen Glendower.

  2. Ever thought about reading some Flannery O’Connor, Robert Penn Warren, or William Faulkner to go with your other non-core genre reads? I think it’d be interesting to hear the takes of non-Americans on some of the better Southern writers of the 20th century.

  3. Can I interest you in some Camus sir? Sure, every angry teenager has read L’Etranger, but La Peste? La Chute? Les Justes? All great.

  4. I’m currently enjoying Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik. Her first book Temeraire was very good. This next volume is better though.

  5. That’s what’s surprising me most about Kraken – and we’re about the same length in; halfwayish. It’s dense, prosaic, fantastic, all the usual Mieville magic, but by God, it’s fun. Extreme origami and talking tattoos… oh my. Fighting the urge to power through the rest to get a review up good and timely versus the compulsion to savour what remains of it.

  6. Lawrence – very good point. I’m certain that, given such a huge output throughout his career, there must be some smaller books! Yes, OG is on the potential list of bigger tomes – along with Weymouth Sands.

    Larry – I’ve got Faulkner on my to-read shelf actually, so hopefully I’ll get around to him in the next couple of months.

    Paul – for whatever reason, I’ve never read any Camus, other than L’Étranger many moons ago. I’ll have a browse on my next Amazon binge.

    Phillip – those books have never really appealed to me for whatever reason. Not to say I won’t in the far future, though.

    N.R.A. Yes, and some very funny dialogue in there too, which is the first time I’ve seen him really write like that.

  7. Mark is that the same far future where it’s dim, dark and there is only war? 🙂