The Shock of the New

I talk about some really interesting new books being released soon

Issue #3, Wednesday 25 August 2021

In this issue:

Bookish News

New and Upcoming Releases

Since I’ve started paying more attention to publishers’ newsletters so I can stay informed for this newsletter, I’ve begun to realise just how many new books come out each month. Impossible to cover more than a tiny fraction of them. But I’ve picked out the following books, which all seem to be works I’d really like to read, so if you share my interests, you might like them too.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Due out 7 September. Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571365432. 288pp.

I nominated Rooney’s Normal People as my best book of the year for 2020, so I’m certainly interested in reading this one. So are a lot of other people, apparently, as many Advanced Review Copies (ARCs) are being sold illicitly on the internet.

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

Due out 31 August 2021. Allen & Unwin. ISBN9781760529338. 464pp.

I really liked Bailey’s Dark Lake trilogy of crime novels featuring her detective Gemma Woodstock, so I’m looking forward to reading her new, standalone novel:

Three housemates. One dead, one missing and one accused of murder. Dubbed the Housemate Homicide, it’s a mystery that has baffled Australians for almost a decade. Melbourne-based journalist Olive Groves worked on the story as a junior reporter and became obsessed by the case. Now, nine years later, the missing housemate turns up dead on a remote property.

Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines tetralogy and the Fever Crumb trilogy for young people are set in a future world where cities have become mobile on vast traction engines. An absurd premise, yes, but very well handled, and some very serious themes emerge. Highly entertaining. This new book has an entirely different setting:

Due out 2 September 2021. David Fickling Books. ISBN 9781788452649. 288 pages.

Utterly Dark is a foundling, washed up on the shores of the Autumn Isles and taken in by Andrewe Dark, the mysterious Watcher of Wildsea. When her guardian walks into the ocean one day and drowns, Utterly is thrust into the role of Watcher… can she keep the island safe from the threat of the terrifying Gorm? Unforeseen mysteries lie beneath the ocean’s surface. Adventure beckons, and Utterly will unearth astonishing secrets about the sea, her parents and life itself. Wildsea will never be the same again…

Reeve says about it on his blog:

I think I set out trying to write a gothic novel, until Utterly turned out to be much too sunny and cheerful a character to allow gloom and doom to prevail for long. But there are shipwrecks, witches, wandering weed monsters, and plenty of cakes. I think it's one of the best things I've done.

I definitely want to read this, so I’ve already pre-ordered a copy from Readings.

Vaxxers by Professor Sarah Gilbert and Dr. Catherine Green

Available now (hardcover out in October). Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 9781529369878. 352pp.

This is the account by the scientists involved in developing the Oxford University AstraZeneca vaccine against the virus which causes COVID. Looks very interesting, but I’m not sure I want to own a copy, so I’ll probably wait to get hold of it from the library.

Tor Essentials Books Coming Out in 2021

I was very interested to see this list of “essentials” from the major SF publishing company Tor Books, including these handsome re-issues of the Book of the New Sun tetralogy by Gene Wolf. Shadow and Claw bundles The Shadow of the Torturer with Claw of the Conciliator; Sword and Citadel includes The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch.

Nice If You Can Afford It Category

The Art of Stardust

Titan Books have announced a deluxe fully illustrated limited edition art book featuring Charles Vess’ beautiful illustrations of Stardust by Neil Gaiman. Signed by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess. USD $150, though!

The Art of Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess's Stardust (limited edition) @ Titan Books


Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards

The winners and honours were announced on Friday 20 August. The winner of the older readers category was The End of the World is Bigger Than Love by Davina Bell, which looks very interesting, I’ll try to get hold of a copy. The Book of the Year for Younger Readers was won by Aster’s Good, Right Things by Kate Gordon, also looks good. You can read about all the winners here.

Queensland Literary Awards

The shortlists have been announced. The winners will be announced on 9 September. Too many categories for me to cover here, but the full list is here.

Other News

“Troppo” Television Series Based on Candice Fox’s Novels

Shooting has begun on a new ABC television series called Troppo. It’s based on the Crimson Lake trilogy by Candice Fox, and stars Thomas Jane (who plays the detective “Miller” in the Expanse TV series) as Ted Conkaffey and Nicole Chamoun (Safe Harbour, On The Ropes) as the wildly eccentric private investigator Amanda Pharrell.

Looks very good, I’m looking forward to watching it. If you haven’t read the books, you definitely should. I’ll probably publish a review of the whole trilogy in a future issue of Through the Biblioscope.

Orbit bags Emily Tesh's 'epic and intimate' debut novel

Fantasy author Emily Tesh (author of the novellas Silver in the Wood and Drowned Country) has signed with Orbit to publish her upcoming debut novel, Some Desperate Glory.

The narrative follows Kyr, a young soldier who has been trained since birth to avenge the destruction of Earth at the hands of an all-powerful alien weapon called the Wisdom.

“Epic and intimate” sounds rather contradictory! Will be interesting to see what it’s like.

My Reading

Completed Since Last Issue

I finished all four of the books I was in the middle of when I published Issue #2! Here are some quick thoughts about them, I may do longer reviews of a couple of them in future issues:

The End of the Day by Claire North

Charlie has a job which involves a lot of travel. It's all run out of an office in Milton Keynes in the UK. Nothing unusual about all of that. Except that Charlie's job is being the Harbinger of Death. He's a perfectly normal, ordinary human being. It's just that his job is being the Harbinger of Death and his ultimate boss is, well, Death himself, or herself, depending on how you see Death.

Does this sound comic, amusing? Let me tell you it's not. There is admittedly an absurdist tinge to all Charlie's dealings with his head office. But the book as a whole isn't at all comic, it's often melancholy, and consistently thought-provoking. It's all about Death, after all, and sometimes it becomes very grim indeed. And while Death him- or her-self may be a personification of an abstract concept, Charlie is simply human. But Charlie, being human, understandably begins to struggle emotionally with the task.

Ultimately the novel is a celebration of life, not death, of the human, not the supernatural, of hope, not despair. Charlie represents every one of us, who know that one day we must die, but we have to go on living as best we can. The living is what it's all about.

John Diamond by Leon Garfield

Garfield was a wonderful writer for young people, now sadly deceased. But at his prime he wrote many books set in well-visualised historical periods and places.

John Diamond is set in London in the late 1700s. It follows the fortunes of 12-year-old William Jones, living in the country. For weeks, late at night, William has been able to hear the relentless pacing and sighing of his father in the room below his, as his father becomes more and more ill. One night, the sound of the steps falters and stops and William goes down to see if his father is all right. He is, but he is obviously dying, and he tells William of the burden on his conscience about having long ago betrayed his business partner Alfred Diamond, and stolen his money. After his father dies, William runs away from home to London, determined to find Alfred Diamond and do what he can to right the wrong. But things go badly wrong with this plan…

Full of interesting characters and scenes, this is a highly engaging book.

Why am I reading books for young people? Here, read this: Why You Should Read Children’s Books Though You Are So Old and Wise.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

If you were force-fed Dickens at school, you were probably put off him forever. Fortunately, I wasn’t, and though I don’t like all of his novels, I do like some of them very much. This is one of those. I’ve been producing it for Standard Ebooks, where it is available as a beautifully-formatted ebook for free.

Compared to some of Dickens’ novels, this one has more than the usual amount of drama, tension and romance, with a good leavening of humour. The only drawback is the way Dickens too often portrays his heroines as faultless saints, as he does here with the eponymous Little Dorrit. Though to be fair, there are a couple of very strong, if unlikeable, women characters in the book as well. (If you want strong but positive women characters in this era, try Wilkie Collins).

The cover here is the one I chose for the Standard Ebooks production. It’s a detail from Samuel Luke Fildes’ painting Applicants for Admission to a Casual Ward.

Sapiens by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari

This is a very different look at the development of humanity, starting right back about six million years ago when our branch of the evolutionary tree split off from the chimpanzees. Harari has a very interesting take on many aspects of our development. For example, he calls the Agricultural Revolution, which happened about 10,000 years ago, "History's Biggest Fraud". This was the point at which most humans changed from existing as small groups of nomadic hunter-gatherers to settling in small communities tending plants. He calls it a "fraud" because the lives of individual humans before this revolution were undoubtedly better in many, many respects than those of individual humans after this change.

Harari takes a similarly original, analytical view of other stages of our development, such as the development of hierarchical societies, religion, writing, trade and money. He talks about the one true advantage of Homo Sapiens as being the ability to invent fiction: to invent and then deal with imaginary concepts such as community, kingship, and gods. His chapter on the invention of the imaginary concept of money is particularly fascinating.

Currently Reading

The Podcast

You can also listen to my thoughts on books, movies and television, alongside those of my co-host Perry Middlemiss, on the Two Chairs Talking podcast.

And that’s it for this issue of Through the Biblioscope. See you next time!

— David

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