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Reading time: Globetrotting edition

So I’ve been away and having a bloody great time: and what is a bloody great time without books? A lie, that’s what. So, without further ado, here is What I Read on my Summer Holiday.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

First read this fantastic book when I was in Year 11 (age: 16) and through it I learned what totalitarianism meant and how potent a well-structured, first-person narrative can be. Rereading it now, especially after hearing Atwood explain in an interview that no element of the oppressive Gileadean society was made up, all taken from real-life oppressive regimes, is a powerful experience. The story relates the experience of Offred, a Handmaid under the Gileadean regime. Through flashbacks, you begin to piece together how the Gileadean society took hold and how it controls its populace, as well as the careful, small ways in which Offred tries to fight against it. It is a beautifully crafted work, tight, quick, and intense. If you haven’t much of the excellent Atwood, then I suggest starting here. The Handmaid’s Tale is dystopian fiction at its most satisfying.

Blackbirds -Chuck Wendig

Having followed Chuck Wendig’s blog for mumble-years, of course I was going to devour his books. Blackbirds was Wendig’s first published novel, and a damn fine read it is too. The main character, Miriam, is endowed with the terrifying gift of seeing people’s deaths as soon as she makes skin-to-skin contact with them. She’s smart, cunning, funny, and damaged in profound, heartbreaking ways. She identifies with vultures, blackbirds, and other scavengers, and soon draws the attention of more dangerous scavengers who want to make use of her and her gift. It’s an exciting book, fast-paced, and with just the right amount of violence, batshitcray folks, and wonderful people.

Moxyland – Lauren Beukes

See, one of the problems with following an awesome writer like Wendig on teh blogs and on teh tweets is the vines of awesome that reach out, wrap up other amazing writers, and then draw them back into your field of perception so that every day you’re writing down the names of more and more great books to read. OH THE PROBLEMS. Enter Lauren Beukes: author of The Shining Girls, Zoo City and, her first novel, Moxyland. So fantastic: what an amazing, multifaceted world she creates in Moxyland. Set in a future where technology plays the role apartheid boundaries, where technocrats play with genome-rewriting nanotechnology for branding purposes and to be disconnected is a life-threatening suspension, Moxyland follows the interconnected stories of four people with very different fears and aims. This is such a rich and complex book, it’s hard to know where to start: I loved the intensity of the book and the sense of danger, I loved the tense atmosphere, and I especially loved the characters’ very recognisable fears about authenticity and survival in a terrifying world.

Bonus pre-holiday read:
The Blue Blazes – Chuck Wendig

While Blackbirds was Wendig’s first published novel, the first I read was The Blue Blazes and I think it’s my favourite. It’s got monsters, mobsters, drugs, violence, some very good swearing, a gang of roller derby girls, father-daughter conflict, regret, tenderness, charcuterie, Daisypusher, all set above and below the gritty city. It’s a fast, fun, exciting read with characters that you love (even when they fuck up) (and they do) and characters that you will remember for a long time. I loved Blackbirds, but I’m in love with The Blue Blazes. Super awesome.

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