Inkwell Wishes

With a few hundred books on my tbr pile, it’s not like I need to buy more to add to it, and it’s probably a bad idea anyway, seeing as my shelves no longer have space for them. But let’s face, I can’t resist, so here are the top 5 books from my wishlist that I’d like to buy in 2011. So far.

Palimpsest (2009) by Catherynne M. Valente

An urban fantasy about a “sexually transmitted city” – you can enter the city of Palimpsest in your dreams, but only by sleeping with someone who has already been there. Once you’ve entered the city, a map of it is tattooed on your skin. The novel follows four characters “who become infected and then obsessed with Palimpsest, as they try to discover the nature of the place, and how to emigrate there, permanently” says Valente in an interview with Tor.com.

Tor describes the novel as “clockpunk” and Valente explains that

“[Its] political era might be called belle epoque… Casimira is the foreman of a vast factory that turns out clockwork insects by the millions—they form her army and her spies. Throughout the city, half-human, half-animal war veterans roam, mute, cared for by public works projects. The city is surreal, decadent, sensual, a conglomeration of the warring dreams and passions of its inhabitants.”

Which just sounds like a really cool, sexy, totally weird idea. How can I pass that up?

For a taste, you can read the original short story that started it all.

One of Us (1998) by Michael Marshall Smith

After reading and enjoying Smith’s sci fi thrillers Only Forward (1994) and Spares (1996), I’d be stupid not to try out One of Us, a novel about a man who makes easy money holding other people’s memories for a few hours, like when a petty thief needs to pass a lie detector test.  Things go awry, as they should, when a woman commits a murder and won’t take her memories back.

Smith’s writing is wittily entertaining and his imaginative storytelling is top notch, if on the violent side. Anyway, the occasional crime thriller is good for the adrenaline and the sci fi variety is even racier.

The Mall (2011) by S.L. Grey

S.L. Grey is the pseudonym for South African authors Sarah Lotz and Louis Greenberg, and together they’ve created a horror novel about a pair of teenagers trapped in an otherworldly mall that sounds like Silent Hill in Sandton City.

The Mall was made available to South Africans for $12 during Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle promotion (£1 for those with a UK account), but as this is the only South African horror novel I know of and it sounds like a pretty cool read to boot, I decided to wait for the hardcopy, which unlike an eBook can be signed (if I get lucky) and shown off on my shelf. The Mall will be released in June.

Kraken (2010) by China Mieville

If China Mieville is the author I don’t even need to know the plot details before I’m ready to buy the book, but I looked it up in case you’re curious:

An inexplicable event has occurred at the British Museum of Natural History — a forty foot specimen of giant squid in formalin has disappeared overnight. Additionally, a murder victim is found folded into a glass bottle. Various groups are interested in getting the squid back, including a naive staff member, a secret squad of London police, assorted religious cults, and various supernatural and mostly dead criminal elements. The wondrous squid represents deity to the Church of Kraken Almighty. Did they liberate their god, or could it have been stolen by a rival cult? (From Kraken’s Wikipedia page)

I was surprised to find that this a dark comedy, as humour hasn’t featured much in the other Mieville works that I’ve read. But, since this is about a giant-squid-worshipping cult, it’d be hard to pretend there wasn’t something amusing in the content, and I imagine there will be a good deal of satire as well. Mieville called the book “a dark comedy about a squid-worshipping cult and the end of the world. It takes the idea of the squid cult very seriously. Part of the appeal of the fantastic is taking ridiculous ideas very seriously and pretending they’re not absurd.”

The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I read Lolita once, enjoyed most of it, and still find the opening passage to be one of the most beautiful, captivating pieces of writing I’ve ever had the pleasure of constantly re-reading. But I won’t pretend to be a ridiculously well-read genius who managed to properly appreciate more than a fraction of  it.

Listening to Yale open lectures on the novel, I was astonished by the deluge of literary references, themes, imagery, etc. that had gone way over my head, so I think multiple better-informed re-reads are in order, and getting the annotated version is a start.

On that ambitious note, here’s to a 2011 of amazing literary discoveries, great reads, and more new books than you have space for!

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