I'm still reading my book a week from Tor. They publish a wider range of fiction than I expected – more than just sword and sorcery epics and techno thrillers.
This week, I'm reading Farthing by Jo Walton, a thought-provoking piece of alternative history in which England makes a truce with Hitler in 1940 instead of resisting his advance across Europe, thus freeing Germany to attack Russia unmolested. The war grinds on in Europe while England exists in a state of uneasy calm, sliding slowly and quietly into fascism, placing increasingly onerous restrictions on homosexuals and Jews and the poor, becoming more like Nazi-controlled Europe all the time. The book is part country-house mystery, part drawing room comedy, and part political dystopia. I'm enjoying it, although I'm a bit anxious about how it will end – badly I fear.
Last week I read The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. This was a bog-standard fantasy novel complete with elves, irredeemably evil demons and a conflicted young hero trying to come to terms with his magical powers while discovering that it's his destiny to save the world. It wasn't awful, although the undigested lumps of exposition scattered throughout caused me some pain, it was just totally unoriginal. I was left wondering why fantasy for adults is often so much less inventive and sophisticated than fantasy written for young adults. If you're after a clever, complex depiction of a troubled, prideful young magician, Ursula le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea is a great place to start. If you want wit, good writing, and fantasy elements that have symbolic weight (often magic functions as a metaphor for the power of the emerging adult self in these novels) instead of sitting blank and flat on the page, try anything by Diana Wynne Jones, or Margaret Mahy's young adult novels. As a bonus, there's not an elf, goblin, or dwarf anywhere to be found in these authors' work, and no sign of the cod-medieval setting so beloved of the post-Tolkien writer of adult fantasy.