Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke - another B&N browse pickup. This novel is set in a similar time period to two recent "magical" movies (The Prestige and The Illusionists, respectively) and describes a Napoleonic war era England in which magic is a historical art/science that has fallen out of regular use by most of it's practitioners, who are called theoretical magicians since they all study and discuss it in great detail, but none of them actually can perform any magic. It follows the titular characters who both have different ways of actually practicing the magic and both have different opinions of what it's proper use will be in the service of their own priorities and those of the country. It's been called a sort of Harry Potter for adults, and I guess that's somewhat fair in that it is very English in tone and it's about magic. If you're main foray into literature has been HP, then this may not be your cup of tea, but lovers of good writing with an element of the fantastic will probably like this.
Filtering by Tag: Fiction
I saw this while browsing at B&N and it caught my eye. I have seen his novels on the shelves for awhile now but never picked anything up. This won every major Fantasy/Horror award the year it was published and it looked like a nice modern fantasy with elements of Clive Barker/Stephen King set in America at the turn of the new millienium. After reading the novel I considered it a good read, although I had my doubts as to whether it was worth all the awards. I'm not sure about the other novels it was competing with, so maybe that's not fair. Gaman introduces some pretty cool concepts in the ideas that Gods of all religions and myths survive based on the faithful and their support. As people began to emigrate in great numbers from Europe to America around the time of the colonies, many of the old religions and Gods began to lose supporters in the old world. This eventually motivated many of the Gods to come to America as well, in an attempt to follow the faithful. The story focuses around an ex con and his hiring by a mysterious character with a nebulous past. Without giving the plot away, it's based on what happens when the old Gods have to compete with the new "American Gods" of television, the internet, etc. The God's avatars are all fairly normalish characters walking around in the story and interacting with each other. It's definitely a nice modern twist on the concept of religion and set in the backdrop of a very different America.
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth - tells the story of a classical violinist in a professional touring quartet in Europe. It's equal measures of the musician's life and relationships among the various players. It also is very focused on the failed relationship between the violinist and another student and his regret at losing her. After a chance sighting of her in London he spends the next several chapters trying to track her down only to find that many things have changed and neither of them are like they were. The relational aspects of the novel border on lifetime channel material, but the life of a touring classical musician rings true and is interesting for anyone who is a player or musician or has an interest in that life. I read this after seeing it recommended by Neal Peart on his website.
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson - an interesting dual tale of two men, one the primary architect for the 1893 Worlds Fair in Chicago that was a stunning achievement in architecture, science and modern innovation for its time, the other being one of the first (if not the first) American serial killer who exploited the tumult in Chicago during this momentous season, preying upon many young women who were attracted at the opportunities that this event and city promised. A really fascinating story that works on many different levels and shifts between a great historical novel about American innovation, perseverance and the realities of living in turn of the century Chicago and the intricate web of deceit, misdirection and malevolence masterminded by a well respected Doctor who used his power to commit unthinkable acts of violence. This tale seems so fantastic that it's hard to believe it's actually based entirely on true events without a great deal of embellishment or artistic license.