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by Neil Ayres
The following books have several things in common. First theyâ€™re all works skirting the edges of reality and fantasy, secondly they are all damn fine reads you may never have heard of, and thirdly theyâ€™re all written by Serendipity contributors. We hope you take the plunge and grab at least one of these great books from your favourite stockist. Some are pretty hard to get hold of, at least in English.
The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque, Jeffrey Ford
A multi-award winner for his genre fiction, the Girl in the Glass is one of Fordâ€™s more mainstream novels. It details the experiences of an expert painter and his commission to paint the face of a woman, the Mrs Charbuque of the title, whose face he is never allowed to see.
Fisher of Devils, Steve Redwood
A seriously under-served comic fantasy. Author Steve Redwood is now enjoying moderate success with this title in his adoptive homeland of Spain, but criminally few English-language readers have been exposed to this witty and informed and very English take on the power struggles in Heaven and Hell.
The Smell of Telescopes, Rhys Hughes
This interconnected collection of tales is the authorâ€™s favourite among his own work, and he has plenty of good stuff to choose from, so this is a high recommendation. A favourite of Michael Moorcock, like his friend Steve Redwood, Hughes is a writer enjoying a good deal of success in Iberia, though heâ€™s sorely overlooked in his homeland.
Light Reading, Aliya Whiteley
Aliya Whiteleyâ€™s new and slightly weird novel has been causing a bit of a stir on the crime scene. It concerns the adventures of two RAF wives, one of whom collects suicide notes and the other whose pilot husband is gay, who, after finding the body of one of their neighbours in her wedding dress on the kitchen table, visit the odd town of Allcombe and become embroiled in a series of peculiar twists and turns involving a teenage gang, a dead celebrity, a brutalised cat and a sinister care home. The Telegraph described it as grim, with the blackest humour, and a shock ending.
The Labyrinth, Catherynne M Valente
Valenteâ€™s first novel is what the publisher describes as an â€˜anti-quest through a conscious maze without center, borders, or escape - a dark pilgrim's progress through a landscape of vicious Angels, plague houses, crocodile-prophets, tragic chess-sets, and the mind of an unraveling womanâ€¦â€™ As ever with Valente, the prose is lyrical and dense, without affectedness. If you are interested in myth and prose thatâ€™s close to poetry, sheâ€™s definitely one to read.
An Occupation of Angels, Lavie Tidhar
Imagine Brian Lumleyâ€™s Necroscope as written by Kafka and youâ€™ll be somewhere close to the right track of having some idea of what Israeli-born Tidharâ€™s cleverly-structured Cold War spy fantasy is about. In this blisteringly-paced novella Angels are represented by giant Godzilla-sized balls of psychic angst and Nazis plot in secret underground bases in the most desolate corner of Siberia.
Story Copyright © 2008 by Neil Ayres. All rights reserved.
Next: In the Clouds by Aliya Whiteley
About the author
The quintessential jack-of-all-trades and master of none, Neil can put up a wonky shelf, write a half-decent story, train a dog to do a higgledy-piggledy send-away and order a meal in Spanish with minimal use of hand gestures and pointing.
Originally from East London, guv, he now lives halfway between the Capital and the south coast. He hasn't been to a university in Cambridge, Oxford or anywhere else for that matter.