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Recent Reading: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida and The Birth Lottery by Shehan Karunatilaka

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is, of course, last year's Booker winner, a slightly out-of-nowhere choice for an award that has been getting more adventurous and interesting in recent years. The Birth Lottery and Other Surprises is a collection of Karunatilaka's short fiction, currently slated for publication in the US and UK in the spring, but I was able to snag a copy during a work trip to India earlier this month. Taken together, they not only make for some engrossing and delightful reading, but reveal Karunatilaka as firmly embedded in the SFF tradition. There's an entirely defensible case for Seven Moons as a nominee in the upcoming Hugo awards (or if not that, one of the wider-ranging genre awards like the Crawford or World Fantasy), and my only real complaint about The Birth Lottery is that it doesn't include a publication history, making it impossible to know which of the stories in it are awards-eligible. The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida begins with the

Recent Reading: Deep Wheel Orcadia by Harry Josephine Giles

Every Clarke Award shortlist includes at least one utterly unexpected nominee, a complete wildcard. Think Iain Pears's Arcadia , originally envisioned as an app experience in which readers would choose for themselves the order of the story's chapters. Or Patience Agbabi's middle grade novel The Infinite . It's less common for these nominees to win the whole thing, so Harry Josephine Giles's Deep Wheel Orcadia , a verse novel written in the Orkney dialect (on offshoot of Scots spoken on the Orkney archipelago), was a book that I approached with some interest, having claimed the award over more conventional nominees like Arkady Martine's A Desolation Called Peace , and much bigger names like Kazuo Ishiguro's Klara and the Sun . While I'm not quite certain that I would have made the same choice (Mercurio D. Rivera's Wergen , and Aliya Whiteley's Skyward Inn , strike me as no less worthy winners), Deep Wheel Orcadia is an exciting winner, one whose

2022, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year

I read 97 books in 2022. A large number by anyone's standards, but particularly impressive to me when I consider that for the first two months of the year, I barely had the energy to read anything. A house move sapped my ability to concentrate on the written word. In January, for example, while preoccupied with packing, moving trucks, and endless bureaucracy, and inspired by the recently-released movie , I read only the first two Dune sequels. Which might have occasioned some glaring looks from my TBR pile, except that it was all in boxes. Packing my books, in fact, was an occasion to think about my reading habits. Nothing makes you wonder whether the time reading it was well-spent so much as looking at a book and realizing that you're not willing to expend box space on it. And even in my new home (with a bit more space to spread out) I've found myself hesitant to bring more physical books into it. With every paper book I purchase, I wonder whether I will really be able to

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Roundtable at Strange Horizons

At the beginning of this year, I participated in a Strange Horizons roundtable on the unexpectedly entertaining first season of Amazon's adaptation of the Wheel of Time books. In that discussion, I was present as the token non-book reader, the person who enjoyed the show but had no idea what greater significance its events, setting, and characters foretold. Now at the close of the year, I'm taking the opposite position on another roundtable about another Amazon show, the Lord of the Rings prequel series The Rings of Power . The other participants are author and reviewer Will Shaw, Strange Horizons coordinating editor Gautam Bhatia, and reviews co-editor Aishwarya Subramanian. The discussion was ably organized, led, and edited by reviews co-editor Dan Hartland. Abigail Nussbaum: I’d say my main issue with the show is its bifurcated approach to its storytelling, and especially how it filled in the source material. Yes, sometimes it felt incredibly imaginative and creative.

Slip Through Your Fingers: Thoughts on Andor

Look, I was not expecting this. Two years and more than a dozen shows into the Disney+ experiment, I think we've all developed a decent enough sense of what to expect from the television incarnations of the two biggest entertainment franchises on the planet. And for the most part, these shows have been  fine . Some fun moments. Some actors who are better than their material. Maybe a hint of a political idea. There was no reason for Andor —a prequel to a prequel whose original premise was already quite dodgy—to be any better. And then it turned out to be good. Not just good for Star Wars , but just plain good. Best TV of the year good. I have to admit that I went a bit Kübler-Ross about this. First there was Anger—this show is too good to be Star Wars . No way does a story this smart, this thoughtful about the compromises of life under fascism, and the costs of rising up to resist it, exist only as a lead-in to a floppy-haired teenager doing an amusement park ride. Then a bit of Den

The Menu

There's something about filmmaking that lends itself very easily to cooking metaphors. Cooking and filmmaking are, after all, very similar. They're both the act of combining many different ingredients—some with chains of supply and production that stretch far beyond any one artist's ability to influence or even perceive—into a whole that should, if successful, feel entirely of a single piece. They're both the work of many pairs of hands that ends up being ascribed to a single mastermind—whose role, in reality, is often more in the realm of administration and logistics than artistry. And they both produce a range of results that can suit different palates at different times. An unassuming dish made with care and precision. A challenging, avant-garde experiment. A dazzling bit of cleverness. A junk orgy, full of fat and carbs, that leaves you entirely satisfied but with a looming stomachache. Or, you know, maybe that's just nonsense. Shortly into The Menu , Mark Mylod

Recent Reading Roundup 56

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The "recent" in the title is a bit deceptive—having switched over to running mid-length reviews as their own posts (an experiment which I think has been a resounding success), this post selects books from the last six months of reading, books I had something to say about, but not at a length that justified its own post. Later this week, I'm leaving on a holiday where I expect to do a lot more reading, so this feels like a good opportunity to clear the decks—and leave space for more reviews. Moon Witch Spider King by Marlon James - the first volume in James's Dark Star trilogy, Black Leopard Red Wolf , was meandering, clotted, powerful yet frequently overbearing. It's not surprising to find the same qualities in its follow-up volume, but going into it I had assumed that the reading experience would be smoother, simply because I knew what to expect. Instead, I found myself having a very similar experience to the one I had reading the previous book, feeling incredi