Book Summoning - In 5 Easy Lessons

There was a recent twitter meme this weekend about which books would summon you to a pentagram by @cxorlando which got me thinking about which books probably best reflect my tastes; not necessarily my absolute favourites but help define my wheelhouse.  Two of my blogger colleagues also recently decided to give your kind gentle friendly womble some extra job titles….

And lo it came to pass on a dark autumnal evening in a deserted bookshop that C from The Middleshelf and David of BlueBookBalloon drew on the floor dark red pentagram. Wearing glittery robes and traditionally big floppy hats the bloggers assembled the five key components of the spell as they chanted

“All hail Runalong The Book Tempter, destroyer of the balance of your bank account when you enter a bookshop” bellowed C

David wailed “We summon you Womble, Devourer of Bookshelves!! Behold the first summoning…please turn over the page…aha”

1 – Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

So, this book really holds a special place in my heart.  It was an impulse buy because of the cool cover, and it got me reading two authors I would be following forever onwards. A simple tale of the antichrist, a devil and an angel trying to prevent the apocalypse. It’s the Omen crossed with a British comedy and it laughs at religion, life and anything it can get its hand on but it’s hopeful. This was a book that after I read it, I made everyone I knew read it and pleased to say it was very popular with my friends.  This as the book I have reread the most and I’m now on a second copy. I’m reluctant to watch the TV show because this one is really fixed in my mind. Why is it here?  Pratchett’s amazing ability to mix fantasy, humour with social conscience and I love Gaiman’s ability to make the normal world look magical.  Authors also in this category I would recommend Kate Griffin aka Claire North and VE Schwab.

2 – The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

As with many teens my age the world of horror opened up for me with Stephen King but when I read that he felt Jackson had written the best ghost story and was a better horror writer then I needed to read this and oh my goodness this is a brilliant read into madness and a very unsettling read.  I quite like the power of a book to affect your view of reality; especially on a dark night.  Reading in my view should not always be comfortable, and horror is also a fantastic way of examining our fears.  In this book we follow Eleanor who invited to work with researchers in a mysterious and infamous haunted house.  Is it haunted?  Is it Eleanor’s disturbed mind?  You don’t know and that’s why it has haunted me many years afterwards. Similar authors in this category – Stephen King, Sarah Lotz, Paul Tremblay and Sarah Pinborough.

3 – Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

I’ve talked before how I seemed to miss out on 80’s fantasy growing up.  Wheel of Time and the Belgariad missed me instead after a great review in SFX I was really lucky in my corner shop to find this treasure. I’m very sniffy about epic fantasy – I need it to avoid being too boiler plate Tolkien. This novel introduced me to a young boy the bastard of a royal family who is recruited as the King’s assassin. Over the first three books we explore the realm of the Farseers. Hobb can be seen as slow but their character focus, mysterious and wild magic and most of all I fell hard for the cast. This is not a trilogy of happy endings.  While I appreciate why some love Game of Thrones for me Hobb is the grimdark epic author who can make me cheer and in more recent novels make me cry my eyes out!  For me epic fantasy needs to make me FEEL and we are in such a golden age.  Similar authors in this category – Lucy Hounsom, RJ Barker, Joe Abercrombie, Anna Smith Spark, Jen Williams and Anna Stephens.

4 – Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

Hard SF tales tend to leave me cold like my fantasy I need that sense of character, but I also like SF that doesn’t go for the obvious. Clarke and Asimov, I find too dry, but we are in a great period of more diverse and weirder fiction. In Leckie’s novel we meet Breq an ancillary solider who now contains the mind of a warship which was destroyed in an emperor’s political battle.  It’s a cross of revenge drama, epic empire in peril and it’s fascinating not just because it’s book where all characters are described as female but as the series progresses it tackles colonialism, rebellion and the concept of empire.  Its rather brilliant and also has a sense of humour and love of tea you never expect.  Authors in this category are the great Iain M Banks, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Becky Chambers, Emma Newman, Tade Thompson, Yoon Ha Lee and Nnedi Okorafor.

5 – The Fifth Season by N K Jemisin

I will very happily state that this is the best complete series I’ve read this decade. A world ends, a mother Essun finds her young son murdered and her daughter missing. We meet a young girl who it is discovered has the power to move the earth; a young woman and her mentor are exploring the world on behalf of a shadowy agency. These three tales complement each other and as the reader we start to understand this world. It is a series that explores racism, intolerance, colonialism, rebellion, love and hate. It asks that very dangerous question when does a society become irredeemable? Another often uncomfortable read especially as the first section deals powerfully with grief but it challenges you to look at this world and that’s for me what all the best fiction should do. This was a read where when I finished, I cannot stop coming back to various sections years later  Also, when you see what Jemisin has finally done with these character’s stories you just go WOW. I’ve been saving a few remaining Jemisin books for tiding me over until her next release, but this is an author everyone should try.  Not yet found a substitute for this one but welcome any suggestions in the comments

And now back to the bookstore…

The bloggers recoiled in fear as a furry presence pulled themselves up to their full height; inhuman piercing eyes glanced out at the audience…” I believe you wanted some book suggestions…here is a thousand” The bloggers screamed!!!