I finished reading Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle with my wife the other day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We decided it was one of those essential childrens' fantasy books that we had to read - and we bought a copy because of it's gorgeous cover. As soon as we started reading it, I discovered it was going to be quite different to what I had expected. It's a brilliantly written, self-reflective, and very, very fun. The characters were fantastic, and I absolutely loved that it crossed over from the fantasy world to the 'real' world at times. It's very different to the anime movie based on it, but I did see that years ago, so it didn't have much of a bearing on my reading of it. Highly recommended!
I've also been reading a few short stories lately, since they're easy to fit in around essay writing. I bought Vera Nazarian's Salt of the Air (not only because it has an introduction by Gene Wolfe) and have read "Rossia Moya", an interesting little science fiction piece set in a near-future dystopian Russia which is about to sever all connections with the rest of the world, and "The Story of Love", a beautifully written story that was nominated for a Nebula Award - though I would question how much a father that beats his daughter actually deserves love.
StarShipSofa's podcasts have be fantastic for providing quick doses of science fiction while walking to and from university. I'm listening through them rather randomly, but so far I have thoroughly enjoyed:
- "Mythological Beast" by Stephen Donaldson (episode no. 11) – a brilliant blend of science fiction and fantasy. It has evil artificial intelligences and unicorns – what more could you ask for?
- "'Tis the Season" by China Miéville (episode no. 56) – an extremely funny story about the commercialisation of Christmas.
- "A Slow Saturday Night" by Michael Moorcock (episode no. 9) – an incredibly funny story in which God is questioned about his divine plan by bar patrons on a slow Saturday night. God, it turns out, is the God of prosperity doctrine - only the wealthy and prosperous get in to heaven. And cats. Apparently God greatly prefers cats to humans, and he essentially only allows humans in to heaven to serve the cats. I suppose I understand that. All in all, some very interesting, and funny, social commentary.
- "And the Deep Blue Sea" by Elizabeth Bear (episode no. 19) – probably the most 'science fictional' of all the stories I listened to. Set in a post-apocalyptic America, the story follows a package courier that must ride across the country on her motorcycle to deliver an important parcel. It was also brilliantly narrated. The story had me wanting to read more by Bear, so I read the first few pages of her recent novel Dust on Amazon.com preview (the description sounded a lot like Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun – massive generational spaceship, blend of sf and fantasy, etc) – now I'm hooked and I must read the rest of it! Only thing is, I can't find it in any bookstore here. Blasted understocked Australian bookstores!