Sun, Light and Rain

New releases, crime fiction awards, and my recent reads

Issue #4, Sunday 5 September 2021

When I first started this newsletter, I thought I would struggle to bring it out fortnightly. As it is, I have so much material I’m struggling to keep it from needing to be weekly!

In this issue:

Bookish News

New and Upcoming Releases

So many new books coming out or publication dates being announced! All I can do is pick out a small handful of the ones I personally would be interested in reading. If you share my tastes or interests, you might too.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun is the debut novel from Asian Australian writer Shelley Parker-Chan. An extraordinary hybrid between historical fiction and epic fantasy, this accomplished book is set in China during the fall of the Yuan dynasty in the 14th century. This story of a peasant girl who assumes the identity of her dead brother to escape starvation, and ends up leading a rebel army against the ruling Mongols, is an engrossing, challenging and wildly compulsive read.

This definitely looks worthwhile, should win a few awards, too, by the look of it. I must get hold of it.

More details here

The Turning Point by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Subtitled "A Year that Changed Dickens and the World": A major new biography of Charles Dickens, by the award-winning author of Becoming Dickens and The Story of Alice.

The year is 1851. It’s a time of radical change in Britain, when industrial miracles and artistic innovations rub shoulders with political unrest, poverty and disease. It’s also a turbulent time in the private life of Charles Dickens, as he copes with a double bereavement and early signs that his marriage is falling apart. But this formative year will become perhaps the greatest turning point in Dickens’s career, as he embraces his calling as a chronicler of ordinary people’s lives, and develops a new form of writing that will reveal just how interconnected the world is becoming.

More details here

I Shot the Devil by Ruth McIver

Released 1 September 2021

Ruth McIver’s manuscript of I Shot the Devil won Australia’s Richell Prize for Emerging Writers a few years ago, and on reading the published book, you can see why: this America-set crime novel is riveting from start to end.

More details here

Search History by Eugene Lim

Release date: October 05, 2021

Frank Exit is dead--or is he? While eavesdropping on two women discussing a dog-sitting gig over lunch, a bereft friend comes to a shocking realization: Frank has been reincarnated as a dog! This epiphany launches a series of adventures--interlaced with digressions about AI-generated fiction, virtual reality, Asian American identity in the arts, and lost parents--as an unlikely cast of accomplices and enemies pursues the mysterious canine.

This one sounds completely whacky… but fascinating.

More details here

Crime Fiction Awards

Ned Kelly Awards

Announced 25 August. The winner of the Best Adult Crime Novel was Consolation by Garry Disher. I’m looking forward to reading this.

Davitt Awards

Announced 28 August. The winner of the Best Adult Novel was The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth. Winner of the Best Non-Fiction Book was Witness by Louise Milligan. I’d like to get hold of both of these.

Other News

Gaiman and Clarke: Works in Progress

During a fascinating online discussion on 2 September between Neil Gaiman (author of the Sandman graphic novels, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and many others) and Susanna Clarke (author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell and Piranesi), both writers revealed they are working on new novels.

Ms Clarke's new book is to be set largely in Bradford, Yorkshire (my home town!) and Italy. She expects it to be longer than Piranesi but by no means as long as Jonathan Strange. Gaiman is currently involved in the TV series of Sandman and Good Omens 2, but in between those major projects, is trying to write a long-ish novel.

As a writer myself, it was wonderful to hear them talk about their writing methods; I was interested to hear neither can plan out their books in advance, or not in any detail. That’s me, too!

The event was organised by 5x15 stories. Live access to the event was by ticket only. I set an alarm and woke up at 4:00 am Melbourne time in order to be able to watch it live, but you can now watch a recording on their YouTube channel here.

Robbie Arnott’s Rain Heron named The Age Book of the Year

...the Hobart-based writer’s second novel, The Rain Heron, has been named Age Book of the Year, for which he receives a prize of $10,000, thanks to the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. It is the 40th time the award has been presented and marks its return after a hiatus of nine years.

Now I really need to read it! Great cover by W. H. Chong.

More details here

Gareth Powell and Peter F. Hamilton join forces

Just out, Light Chaser, a collaboration between two well-known science fiction authors which looks very interesting for space opera fans.

Amahle is a Light Chaser - one of a number of explorers, who travel the universe alone (except for their onboard AI), trading trinkets for life stories.

But when she listens to the stories sent down through the ages she hears the same voice talking directly to her from different times and on different worlds. She comes to understand that something terrible is happening, and only she is in a position to do anything about it.

And it will cost everything to put it right.

My Reading

Completed Since Last Issue

Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford

This was on the Booker Prize longlist this year and I chose it as one of three or four from that list which looked particularly interesting.

It starts in 1944 with a V2 rocket which has just plunged through the roof of a Woolworths department store in Bexford, South London. Scores of women and children, and all the staff of the store are killed in an instant.

The author imagines five pre-school children killed that day and switches us into an alternative timeline in which the rocket landed elsewhere and they weren't killed. The rest of the novel is about the imagined lives of these children as they would have been had they not died.

The book gives us snapshots of their lives at different intervals after the moment which the author switches the timeline: five years on, when the children are in school; twenty years on, when they are young adults; and so on, up to sixty-five years later, when they are in their late 60s.

It's a bit, if you like, like that 7-up television series by Michael Apted. The author makes this a very interesting piece of fiction, though, and the whole makes an fascinating narrative about the changes in Britain through the years. Each person's story is really engaging, and you sort of take a deep breath as you move to the next time period. What will have happened to them, how will it turn out? There are many unexpected turns these lives take.

I liked the book a great deal, and can see why it was on the Booker list.

More details here.

The End of the World is Bigger Than Love by Davina Bell

This book was the winner of a Children's Book Council of Australia award, this year's "Book of the Year for Older Readers". The book has also been shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2021.

It's a very strange, very challenging book, but very good, and I think a worthy winner of the award.

So, how to describe the book? It's tricky, because I don't want to give away too many spoilers.

The story is told by two identical twin sisters who are probably 15 or 16 by the time the book finishes. We're told that their mother died giving birth, and that their father subsequently named the girls Summer and Winter.

They are now living alone on an island where they were taken by their father, who was a scientist and a political activist. There's been some kind of major world catastrophe from which their father was escaping.

Unfortunately, their father is no longer with them, as he was taken away in handcuffs by a group of armed men—Summer calls them "ninjas"—and since then the girls have been living alone for several years.

They tell their story in interleaved chapters, Summer then Winter. But as chapter succeeds chapter we slowly start to realise that the narratives of the two girls differ in very significant ways. You can't trust that what you are being told is the truth, and since you only have these two, sometimes contradictory, points of view, it's a real challenge to try to work out where the truth may lie.

The book is confronting in several ways. Themes of suicide, an execution by terrorists, a deadly pandemic and environmental collapse and much more are all dealt with, and not in a comforting way.

The book finishes in an unexpected direction and at the end of it when you put it down, you're still thinking about it for long afterwards.

I thought it was a terrific read, one of the best books I’ve read this year. Forget the “Young Adult” label.

More details here

Peace by Garry Disher

This is the second in Disher’s series featuring Constable Paul Hirschausen (“Hirch”), who’s been posted to a tiny township in rural South Australia. I temporarily set aside Candice Fox’s Fall to read Peace because the third novel in this series, Consolation, just won this year’s Ned Kelly Award for Best Adult Crime Novel, and so I want to read that in the near future. Such is the hard life of us book reviewers!

Peace was really well done on all counts. I’ll probably do an overview of all three books in the series once I’ve finished Consolation.

More details here

Currently Reading

Wish List

Books I’d love to read. They have all been out for a while, so don’t fit under my “New Releases” heading. Getting hold of them isn’t the problem, having enough time to read them is. So many books, so little time!

The Extraordinary & Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle by Catherine Webb

Horatio Lyle is Sherlock Holmes crossed with Thomas Edison as written by Terry Pratchett: witty, action-packed and perfect for fans of detective stories, fantasy stories and good old-fashioned adventure.

Catherine Webb is the real name of one of my favourite authors, Claire North. The Horatio Lyle series looks like a lot of fun.

More details here

Shelter by Dave Hutchinson

I loved the Fractured Europe series by Hutchinson, and this post-apocalyptic series looks very good.

More details here

All Our Shimmering Skies by Trent Dalton

Dalton’s debut novel Boy Swallows Universe was great. This is his second novel, which I eventually want to get to.

More details here

And that’s it for another issue of Through the Biblioscope. Please don’t forget to share this with any of your friends who might be interested! Also, check out our podcast.

— David

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