I had thoughts about all of these at the time; but I've it off too long to have anything meaningful to say.
41. The Wylde Hunt by Gunnar Roxen
Bought this from the author at BristolCon last year. It's a far-future hardboiled detective/scifi adventure. The London in it is so far-future and alternative that I think it would have been better placed in a wholly fictional environment. The plot, while a bit predictable, was pretty damn good.
However, it was let down by some seriously awful copy editing - comma splices abounded where they did not add effect or emphasis, wrong words used - which made it more difficult than it needed to be and ruined the whole experience.
42. Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough
September's Bibliogoths selection. I've heard a lot of good things about Pinborough, from people like Paul Cornell who I esteem highly.
It's a fictionalised interpretation of the Thames Torso Murders, which happened about the same time as Jack the Ripper. (Remember: I have close to zero tolerance for all things Ripper). While I wasn't feeling immersed in Victorian London, I only picked up one linguistic blunder.
It's a good enough yarn, but I didn't feel the love at all. Partly because a lot of it centres around opium dens in East London in the 1880s and I recently attended a talk about how everything we think we know about them come from one "news" source written by a guy who'd never been to one. Partly because there's too much poverty tourism on the subject already. Mainly because nothing about it really grabbed me.
I was in the minority - everyone else loved it.
43. Revolutionaries: Inventing an American Nation by Jack Rackove
So some time ago we were watching Turn and Sons of Liberty concurrently and I realised that most of what I know about the American Revolution is primary-school level stuff that was probably more legend than truth, and this had been on my wish list since the author was pimping it on the Daily Show years ago.
The early bits about how the Adamses and Washington etc evolved their thinking to becoming independent were quite interesting; the later bits about how they actually built a new government from the bottom up were important to know but not that gripping. And someone the story of Adams and Jefferson in Paris came across as very dull indeed.
44. The Education of Auggie Merasty: A Residential School memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty
My brother sent me this for my birthday. It's a very short volume in which an aging Native man recalls his harrowing experience at one of Canada's infamous residential schools. (I'm not articulate enough to explain: Google it. Let's just say it's not Canada's finest hour).
Harrowing stuff, but an absolutely essential read.
45. Railsea by China Mieville
Moby Dick but with giant moles where the sea is a giant quicksand desert only passable by rail.
It took me ages to get into it but eventually I quite enjoyed it.
46. A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell
The complete short stories of Paul Cornell. I bounced off a few of them, but some are very good indeed. My favourite, conceptually, is a mashup of MR James and Scooby Doo. I laughed very hard at that. I by far prefer his Shadow Police novels though.
47. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Last month's Bibliogoths book. I can't believe I've never read it. Something Wicked is one of the few books I've kept re-reading regularly since I was 12 but for some reason I thought I didn't like Bradbury's science fiction.
I liked this a lot more than I expected. There's a lot to it, none of which I can articulate here. And his prose is lyrical and magical.
48. Base Spirits by Ruth Barrett
Disclaimer: I have known Ruth since 1986. She was my partner in crime when I first came to Leeds as a student in 1989-90.
This is a ghost story about a Canadian woman who is in a terrible marriage, has writer's block and is on a deadline for a commissioned play. Her husband has some academic commitments in England so they rent Calverley Old Hall (a real place, with a real traumatic past) to stay in so she can work. Along with some friends, they get drunk and summon the spirits of the place. Things go badly.
It's genuinely spooky - I couldn't put it down. But it's really about domestic violence and toxic relationships and the damage those do.
Highly recommended. I'm not just saying that because I know her.
49. The Age of the Vikings by Anders Winroth
An introductory text to the Viking Age but presented in a way that was really different from every other basic text on the time I've read. For a start, it starts with a Viking raid on Nantes in the 840s rather than the standard opening of the raid on Lindisfarne, because we have a much more detailed description of the raid on Nantes than we do for any other single raid. How did I not know that?
Whereas most English-language books on the Vikings focus on contact with Britain and Ireland, Winroth gives more information on interaction with Northern Germany and the Carolingians. As well as the standard material about exploration into the Byzantine Empire and points east.
This is a fantastic book - engagingly written, I learned new things and saw things I know from new perspectives. It's a really lovely volume too.
50. Spirits from Beyond by Simon R Green
I read one of Green's Nightside novels years ago and although it's sheer pulp, I loved it, mostly for the characters. I've been meaning to read more since. Green is very prolific and has many different series of books. He was at Bristol Horror Con last month and only had some of his "Ghost Finders" series so I bought one.
I didn't like this as much, mainly because the characters are just assholes. However, when the book finished all the set-up and story arc stuff and it got to the nitty gritty of the haunted pub, I couldn't put it down.
51. The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf
I went to a panel at Foyles last year about writing historical fiction, and Jack was on the panel. It was probably the most interesting literary discussion I've been to in a very long time; and I was totally convinced about this novel.
It's the story of Tristan Hart, a squire's son in Berkshire in the mid-18th century, who goes to London to lodge with Henry Fielding and study medicine with Hunter. Hart is an avowed atheist and scientific rationalist.
Except that he's a sexual sadist and (most of a problem) completely insane, absolutely convinced of the existence of a malign world of fairies who have it in for him.
It's written in as close to an authentic 18th century voice as Wolf thought he could get away with. A lot of people (note to self: Don't read Good Reads, ever. Bunch of morons who don't get out much) find that really annoying, but I think he trod the line really well. It's 550 pages long and at the start I thought, I wonder how long it will be before this pisses me off, but it didn't. It conveys the protagonist's conflict between rationalism and madness really well.
It's pretty difficult, emotionally and textually, but I found it was thoroughly worth the effort - even though it's taken me about two months to read, in small bits, I absolutely loved it.