The obvious answer to that is with a book. Having struggled yet again to engage with the Narnia chronicles (probably just not my cup of tea), I returned it to borrow something else. I toyed with J. G. Ballard’s Atrocity Exhibit, but instead I ended up with this. In an earlier post, I wrote about one of muy students who loved detective fiction, and had a fondness for Holmes. The Nagoya International Center has not only the collected short stories and novels for Sherlock fans, but a very special book called Arthur & George. This fine novel is about the real life hero of the Sherlock Holmes books- its author, the very strange and wonderful Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The novel (which should have won the Booker prize, in my opinion) takes us on ajourney from Doyle’s childhood to his late fame (and somewhat ill repute as a spiritualist). It reveals the real Arthur and the real England of the time. In a Victorian England filled with class and racuial prejudice, we also meet a young British Indian (clerk?) who stands falsely accused and imprisoned. Sir Arthur helps this young man find his freedom by advocating on his behalf and solving this true crime. The novel alkso deals with the pitfalls of love and fame. Love leads Doyle into all sorts of superstitious beliefs (famously, he believed in fairies) and fame distances Doyle from this brave young Indian for whom he is a hero. So what’s the new book about? Well, I haven’t read it yet, but it won the 2011 Booker Prize and is promised to be a devastating meditation on memory, aging, time, and identity. “Who are you? How can you be sure? What if you’re not who you think you are? What if you never were?” asks one reviewer. Well, I’m Grant, I trust my memory and basic stuff like my identification cards and if I’m not I guess, I was always someone else. Maybe I’m the Pope of Queensland. Who knows? More promisinglystill, “At 163 pages, The Sense of an ending is the longest book I have ever read.” Oh God, that sounds tedious. So my essential point is its very difficult to trust reviews. I trust a couple of things- 1) the author and 2) people whose judgement has proven reputable in the past. In Julian Barnes case, I love him for two books, Arthur & George and his very fine first novel, Metroland. I haven’t finished anything else although he does have a famous book about a writer and his parrot. So, this The thing is I’ve started lots of it and I get a bit bored. I couldn’t even finish American Gods. I liked the beginning、but I just got bored. Same with Blood Music by Greg Bear. VALIS was just too weird. Some other Lem didn’t interest me.
promises to be one of the longest reviews you will ever read, because my aim is to review a library. This is the Nagoya International Center Library as I left it, as it was just before I left Japan in April 2013.
In this essay, I will just tell the reader of some books off the shelf that may be of interest for them. This is part of my
voluntary community service to the city that has provided me with such a fine voluntary service as found at the NIC. I hope that this will benefit other Gaijin in Nagoya and help them find a good book more easily. I aim to organise the catalogue.
GENRE 1: CRIME
The Nagoya International Center has an extensive range of crime novels to choose from. George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly, Karin Slaughter, Dennis LeHane, G.M. Ford and Harlan Coben all have written excellent crime novels set on the hard streets of modern American cities. I love Pelecanos for his compassion, Connelly and Lehane for their style and easy readibilty. Coben and Ford write in a similar fashion and are a little lighter. Karin Slaughter’s novels tend to be a bit darker but are insanely readable. Similar to Slaughter, is a British novelist called Mo Hayder. Tokyo is an especially important novel for those who are living in modern Japan. John Connolly is another excellent crime novellist. Hailing from Ireland, his Charlie Parker novels have a more supernatural element and are set in middle America. Of course, James Ellroy probably needs no further introduction for fans of the crime genre. Some stand alone novels that I absolutely adored are the Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow, Gone for Good by Harlan Coben, No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay and, of course, Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter. I would say its a similar book to Fury by G.M. Ford but its kind of comic as well. Some people claim it to be the first post modern serial killer novel. Just read it and if you see a copy of Citizen Vince by the same make sure to pick it up. It’s fabulous. Also check out the Bottoms by Joe Lansdale and Boy’s Life by Robert McMammon. Their both good books and a little similar in style and content.
Other American crime series you might enjoy are by James Lee Burke, Tony Hillerman, Janet Evanovitch, Jeffrey Deaver, Elmore Leonard or Jonathan Kellerman. There’s a lot there. Most of these novellists have several books on the shelves.
British Crime Fiction is also well represented. My favorite British Crime Novellist is actually living in Canada. His name is Peter Robinson. He writes kind of updated detective fiction set in the Yorkshire Dale. He’s a fine writer. A similar writer, although a little grittier and for me, slightly flatter, is Ian Rankin, whose Scottish series features the on the wagon, off wagon alcoholic, Inspector Rebus. Some claim he is the finest contemporary Scottish novellist, though I can’t see how. I hae also heard excellent things about Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter (who wrote Inspector Morse), P. D. James and Reginald Hill. Susan Hill’s novel might also be worth checking out. A book which sounds very interesting is called Dark Matter by Philip Kerr. He wrote a detective series set in Hitler’s Germany that is highly esteemed. Robert Harris, John Le Carre and Owen something or other have also written highly regarded novels. Tim Weaver’s The Tracks has excellent press.
The library also has a lot of Crime Fiction in translation. As well as having The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo trilogy and a lot of Henning Mankell （who wrote the Wallander books, they have other fine crime in foreign climes novels. Fred Vargas has an excellent Parisian novel in stock, and Craig Russell has both Eternal and Brother’s Grimm, which are serial killer novels set in Germany ( possibly Hamburg). He’s quite good. Camille Lackburg’s novel the Ice Princess has gained a lot of acclaim recently and Therapy, Patricia Melo and City of God are set in Brazil.
For historical crime fiction please read CJ Sansom. These are some of my favorite books ever. Set in King Henry VIII7s England, our hunchback hero, Matthew Shardlake is a modern renaissance man, a kind of proto humanist who battles money, fundamentalist mind. This is fiction at it’s finest. For more on Cromwell, read the Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell. She won it this year too for the second book in the series. This is a rare feat. For reasons of my own (Amazon reviews) I didn’t bother. I’ll stick with Sansom.
For post modern crime read Savage Detectives or Name of the Rose. (I haven’t)
BOOKS I ENJOYED IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Barnes, J (Arthur & George), CJ Sansom (in order) , Fred Vargas, Peter Robinson (Innocent Graves, followed by Aftermath), Connolly (Bad Men), Pelecanos (Night Gardener), Jess Walter, Winslow, Barclay (No Tine), Connelly, M, Dragon Tattoo 1 (Number 2 is ridiculous), Coben (Gone for Good), Ford (Fury), Lansdale, McMammon (Boy’s Life), Lehane, Hayder, Russell (Eternal), Slaughter (Triptych),
GENRE2: SCI FI FANTASY
I have a confession to make. I don’t read much Sci Fi or Fantasy. Fantasy because the series seem endless and Sci Fi because its kind of hard to get into. I read sci fi a bit because I love some of its visions, and fantasy because its my brother’s genre. I do know quite alot of the author’s in the field and I can tell you what’s in stock.
BOOKS AT NIC AND RATINGS (From 1 to 10, over 10 means its a seminal text, the difference between 9 and 11 is massive for me.
Abercrombie, J (Blade itself) 9; Rothfuss, P (Name of the Wind) 9; Martin, G (Game of Thrones 1) 9; GRRM (GoT 2) 8; Pullman, P (Trilogy) 9; Adams, D (Hitch Hiker 1) 9, Card, O (Ender’s Game) 8, Pratchett, T (Small Gods) 9
OTHER BOOKS I’VE READ AND ENJOYED IN SFF
Orwell, G (1984) 12, Vonnegut, K (Sirens of Titan) 11, (Cat’s Cradle) 11, (Player Piano) 10, Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker), 9, Keyes, D (Flowers for Algernon) 10, Macleod, K (Stone Canal) 9, Tolkien, J (Hobbit), 11, Lynch, S (Lies of Lochie Lamorra) 9, Scalzi, J (Old Man’s War) 10, (Night Brigades) 8, Dick, P (Man in High Castle) 9, Lem, S (Solaris) 9, Sturgeon T (Whatever that was called) 9
That’s about it really. I have read some other stuff, but nothing I really liked. I’ve never read Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Haldeman, Brin, Benford, Miller, Jordan. I’ve never even read Lord of the Rings. I love the hobbit but I copuldn’t see the forest for all the trees. I’ve tried so many times. That and Narnia are the longest books I’ve ever read. So, this The thing is I’ve started lots of it and I get a bit bored. I couldn’t even finish American Gods. I liked the beginning、but I just got bored. Same with Blood Music by Greg Bear. VALIS was just too weird. Some other Lem didn’t interest me. I read the guy with the Delorean earlier this year, and I liked the stacks and the writing and its readibility but I hated the future being so dystopic that they had seen War Games 138 times or whatever and had forgotten Shakespeare and Beethoven. That vision of the future was real dystopia for me, one in which trivia was celebrated but history forgotton. I want to see that guy update 1984 next, because I know he can write. I just want him to ground his reality. I will keep trying though. I really like Scalzi and I want to try Wool, Doctorow, Neal Stephensen, Cory Doctorow, some Iain M Banks and a bit more Macleod, and also Altered Carbon and Windup Girl. As for fantasy, I will read whatever my brother is into at the time. I’ll probably read Game of Thrones 3 at some stage, and stop there. There’s a lot of good in it but it goes on and on. I like shorter books, I guess.
So what is it at the library that I haven’t read.
There are lots of 80s giants like David Brin, Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Kim Stanley Robinson, Orson Scott Card in science fiction.
There is also cyberpunk old and new. Cyberpunk, as I don’t really know but from what I can gather is about the near future now, and the internet revolution. It’s kind of about virtual world’s, like that in the Matrix. The NIC stocks a lot of William S Gibson (the originator of cyberpunk, Neal Stephensen’s Cryptominicon, Anathem and the Diamond Age. There’s also Richard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon and Market Forces, as well as his polarising dark fantasy Steel Remains, which features vilolence and gay sex scenes involving the main character. Joe Abercrombie loved it, some fantasy fans hated it. I’m going to throw in the Windup Girl, here.
For contemparary space opera there is Book 3 of Ken Macleod’s Engines of Light trilogy, as well as heaps of Peter F Hamilton, and some Alistair Reynolds and a couple of Iain M Banks books. Another novel that Sci fi fans might be interested in checking out First Landing by Zubrin. It has stellar reviews on the back.
Famous sci-fi authors stocked at the International Centre include Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Stephen Donaldson, Eddings, Fiest, Jordan, Dan Simmons, and Tolkien. They also have feminist science fiction by Ursula Le Guin and this by Marion Zimmer Bradley. For another take on King Arthur try the Once and Future King or for something really offbeat, try John Steinbeck.
Classic nvels of the 60s that are o were present include Atrocity Exhibit by J.G. BAllard (I’ve read some of these stories: they are excellent), Gene Wolfe, Fritz Lieber, or Richard Matheson.
In contemporary fantasy check Glenn C Cook’s stuff or China Mieville or this, by Brent Weeks. My favorite fantasy novel is Dr Strange and Mr Norrill. Other works using “real” magic include Glen David Gould’s Carter Beats the Devil, and the Prestige by Christopher Priest. Sci fi “magic” can be found in the work of Brandon Sanderson who worked on later Robert Jordasn books Pullman and Dianne Wynne Jones are available as is a complete trilogy by Garth Nix, a young adult Australian writer. Other books of interest might be the Last Wichfinder or the B ook Thief or Shadow of the Wind. These last two titles are not “fantasy” but I think they may have crossover value.
For the benefit of my sci fi lovers, let me tell you you what I might read:
CLassic: Asimov. G. Cook. P.K. Dick. Lieber. Wolfe (Peace).
Eighties. Bear, Benford, Brin. Robinson. Simmons.
British. Hamilton. Morgan. Iain M. Banks. Mieville. Reynolds.
Cyberpunk. Stephensen. Morgan. Gibson.
Contemporary fantasy. Abercrombie, Mieville. Morgan, Rothfuss. Sanderson. Weeks
Jordan fans. Eddins. Fiest. Donaldson. Jordan. Sanderson.
Space opera. Banks. Reynolds. Reed.
Crossover. Gibson. Stephensen. Susaanna Clarke. Garth Nix. Steinbeck. T.H. White. Zuzak.
That’s who I’d go for. Thanks for reading “the Book Guy”.
Part two is on contempaorary British and American mainstream fiction.