Showing posts from May, 2023

Recent Reading: All These Worlds: Reviews and Essays by Niall Harrison

Full disclosure: Niall is a dear friend, frequent debating partner, and someone who has had a tremendous impact on my own development as a reader, writer, and thinker. The odds that I wouldn't like or recommend a collection of his reviews were pretty low even before I turned the first page. Perhaps more importantly, Niall and I are currently in the early stages of assembling a collection of my reviews, to be published by his new micro-press, Briardene Books . So one could certainly argue that I have a vested interest in his book's success. With all that in mind, and with the understanding that I would have told you to buy a copy of All These Worlds even before I read it, here are some thoughts on the collection itself. All These Worlds is a gorgeous volume, setting a high bar for small press publications that speaks to Niall's love for books as objects. It's cleanly arranged and organized, with the fifty reviews collected here—covering novels, individual short storie

Recent Reading: The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud

Reading Ballingrud's first novel—after a long career as a writer of short fiction—one finds oneself collecting references. Charles Portis's True Grit , Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles , and Edgar Rice Burroghs's A Princess of Mars are only a few obvious influences. It's a combination that is at once incredibly enjoyable—both for the thrill of recognition, and for the audacity of mixing together such disparate works—and which threatens to overwhelm the novel itself.  The True Grit aspect is quickly established when our narrator, fourteen-year-old Annabelle Crisp, witnesses a robbery in her father's restaurant and is outraged by both his and the authorities' mealy-mouthed response. The robbers are known to live in the nearby mining colony, but the local sheriff makes only a half-hearted, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to arrest them, while Annabelle's father merely reopens the restaurant as if nothing happened. Despite this quintessentially W