What I Read in August

I’m going to stick to this new monthly post, discussing what I read in the previous month. Nothing formal, and nothing very detailed – just some short recommendations (or warnings) from a reading enthusiast to other readers and writers. So, last month, here’s some of what I read:

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie

Last month I spoke volumes about The Blade Itself, the first book in this trilogy. Despite my stack of books to read at home, I went out and bought the sequel almost immediately. Surprisingly, the sequel is even better. The principle characters are tested in a variety of ways, the world is expanded and explored, and Abercrombie maintains his incredible balance of tension, action and gallows humor throughout. If you haven’t already started this trilogy, do it now.

Hieroglyph, edited by Ed Finn and Kathryn Cramer

I also mentioned last month that I had started reading the anthology Hieroglyph. The collection of stories in here are solid takes on what might happen in a world where technology actually saves humanity instead of destroying it. Like with any collection, you’ll find that some stories resonate with you more than others. My particular favorites were “Degrees of Freedom” by Karl Schroeder – looking at Native communities in Canada achieving independence through social networking – and “Tall Tower” by Charlie Jane Anders, which focuses on an old cowboy who wants his faithful horse to be able to ascend beyond Earth just like humanity.

Soulminder by Timothy Zahn

Being an avid reader of the Star Wars expanded universe (pre-Disney) I’m naturally a huge fan of Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy. This is the first non-Star Wars novel by Zahn I’ve checked out – and you know what, I really enjoyed it. The premise of a device that can hold people’s souls is explored very organically, through a variety of natural repercussions and the question of ethical concerns around technology. I was actually halfway through before I realized that the bulk of the novel is people talking; Zahn does an incredible job here of creating tension, conflict and great pacing with only conversation driving the narrative, and if I ever get the chance to teach a writing class, I’ll probably use a snippet from this novel as an exemplar.

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