Read-Alikes: Mad at Game of Thrones edition

So you’re mad online about whatever Game of Thrones did last episode. I don’t watch the show but it’s all over my timeline right now, and from what I can tell there seem to be three or four major complaints you have about this show that you keep watching only to complain about.

Here’s a quick little list to help you find something that might be more to your taste. So which bolded statement did you tweet out on Sunday?

Characters are doing things that make no sense. Hunger Makes the Wolf, by Alex Wells.
Instead of people doing things just to make a plot happen, why not read a scifi/fantasy novel where they act on very familiar motivations: class struggle? Wells’ novel follows a backwater mining world trying to fight off the megacorp who’re exploiting its people. Yes there’s a badass fire-witch, but she knows no amount of magic can help her stand up to corporate bureaucracy without a union backing her.

It apparently doesn’t take time for characters to travel anywhere now?  The Year of Our War series, by Steph Swainston.
One of the major plot points of the second book is that characters are stuck for literally months on a ship traveling overseas while there’s civil wars and insect invasions they can’t lend a hand with. Outside of this refreshing nod to realism, Swainston’s series has battle scenes that are equally brutal to ASoIaF’s while criticizing its own government and heroes with gleeful abandon. I read the first book nearly ten years ago and can’t get over how relatably hateable Jant is.

I can’t say “slay kween” as a compliment anymore. Winterglass, by Benjanun Sriduangkaew.
You probably shouldn’t have been using that phrase in the first place? But regardless, there are better-developed, better-fighting female protagonists you can read about. Nuawa is a gladiator intent on assassinating the Winter Queen who’s conquered and oppressed her homeland. Kind of the opposite of Daenerys, and with all the heinously problematic elements replaced with evocative prose and a deft approach to worldbuilding.

This was supposed to be subversive but it’s ultimately just retreading the same tired fantasy ground while posturing about it. Viriconium, by M John Harrison. Or The Etched City, by KJ Bishop. Or The Narrator by Michael Cisco. Or or or…
Authors have been subverting all that stuff for about forty years. It’s not hard to find if you look beyond pop culture.

Read-Alikes: Carnivorous Lunar Activities

We got a new batch of read-alike bookmarks at work and they were obviously made by someone who doesn’t read much. We’re talking “If you like BRAD THOR then try OTHER DAD-THRILLER” level of recommendations. Could I recommend you a book that you’d find on the best-seller list? Sure, but… you can just look at the best-seller list if you want to read that. There are plenty of books in the library without nationwide marketing campaigns — what’s the point of a librarian if they can only rec the same books you’d see commercials for on daytime TV?

 

I’ve always liked the idea of werewolves, but they get stuck with the worst media. There are maybe three good werewolf movies, the World of Darkness Werewolf RPG had clunky rules and even weirder players than Vampire, and I don’t think there were any decent novels about them. But there have been a few titles that broke the curse over the last couple years.

The most recent surprisingly good werewolf novel is Carnivorous Lunar Activities, by Max Booth III. Most of the book is a conversation between two former high school buds over the course of an evening, and Booth wrings an impressive amount of tension out of two down-on-their-luck guys and a dingy basement. His characters and dialogue have enough pathos and humor to easily carry the story until things come to a head in act three.

The book is a frickin’ romp, and you probably tore through it faster than a lycanthrope through an unsuspecting police deputy. What particular element of Carnivorous Lunar Activities has left you hungry for more?

Give me another character who’s in waaay over their head when dealing with the supernatural. Red Sky Blues, by Matthew Davis. 
Red Sky Blues follows Thomas Gray, an errand-boy to otherworldly beings who winds up foiling world-ending plots nobody else can be bothered to piece together, and it doesn’t help that magic is severely physically exhausting for mortals. Both novels feature protagonists who are dedicated, though a bit burned-out and mouthier than a professional would be, but they’re still gonna get the job done. Or get some other folks killed trying.

I just like a flawed protagonist being bad at things, supernaturality be damned. Notes from the Internet Apocalypse, by Wayne Gladstone. 
Gladstone is just your average Very Online guy trying to navigate meatspace and figure out why the entire Internet just stopped working. Nothing paranormal, the people trying to form little in-person Something Awful communes completely obey the laws of physics. While it’s riddled with humorous observation and caricatures, it’s as much a study of the quasi-Nice-Guy narrator as it is the Internet at large. Gladstone ain’t a bad guy, but he isn’t any better of a detective than Ted is a hunter, so pratfalls abound!

If werewolves can have a decent turn in fiction, what’s next? A zombie novel that isn’t tedious? The Last Weekend, Nick Mamatas
There’s more to werewolves than platitudes about ‘the beast within,’ and there’s more to zombies than the warmed-over fantasies of guys who are really into EDC. The Last Weekend follows an alcoholic writer who won’t let the fact that society is crumbling around him stop him from making excuses to not write his great American novel — It’s tough to sit down and write when you spent a day working for what’s left of the city drilling holes into corpses’ heads. If you dug the unique self-deprecating human spin that Booth put on the werewolf formula, Mamatas’ literary-zombie-satire will probably start gnawing at your cranium just as easily.

BONUS FORMAL DIGRESSION: The poem “Unlimited Teenage Werewolves” by Zachary Evans in Pulpmouth Issue 1.

Read-Alikes: Scruffians

One of the most sheerly fun things I’ve read in recent years has been Hal Duncan’s series of Scruffian stories, which are a unique variation on stray child fantasies like the Lost Boys or the Borribles. They incorporate clever twists to history and mythology, a cheeky-but-probably-reliable-enough narrative voice, and a rambunctious spirit that’s as punk and D.I.Y. as any fold-over ‘zine you’ve ever rattled off on your day job’s Xerox machine.

The Scruffian stories come in the form of a Lethe Press collection (above) and a handful of chapbooks available in print, epub, and e-audio formats through the author’s Bandcamp page. There’s a new one coming out in a couple weeks, so if you’re a fan you might need some recommendations to tide you over. Or, if you like the books I’m reccing but haven’t read any Scruffians yet, that means now is a great time to get in to it!
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Read-Alikes: Leech Girl Lives

One of my favorite books from last year was Leech Girl Lives, by Rick Claypool.  It’s a wonderfully satirical and decidedly leftist novel about a safety inspector in the far-future who gets exiled from her bubble-city after being framed in a plot to create an unsafe environment. While in the wilderness, two symbiotic leeches devour her arms and latch on to her shoulders, and things only get stranger from that point. There’s a LOT going on with this book, the ideas it tangles up, and the surreal world it presents. Which means there’s a lot of possible angles from which it looks a little like other books.

So you enjoyed this bizarre romp of a book and are still hungry for more. If…

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