Oddly, I read barely any new-for-2019 fiction over the course of the year. For me, it was mostly a year of nonfiction and on catching up on some recent novels available as Kindle Daily Deals. However, I did dig into a pair of cracking post-apocalyptic reads:
“The Wall” by John Lanchester
Long story short: in a bleak future wracked by climate change, Britons sign up for duty on a literal wall that surrounds England’s coast. If you read some reviews of this book, it’s going to sound like a hammy Brexit/climate change allegory, but in practice I found Lanchester did a lovely job alluding to a lot of things without really beating the reader over the head. It’s grim, gripping, and deftly provides just enough worldbuilding whilst avoiding becoming a boring dystopian concept book.
Audiobook note: fantastic narration from Will Poulter, who emotes well and seamlessly adopts various UK accents to distinguish different characters. Probably one of my favourite fiction novel performances ever.
“A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C.A. Fletcher
A blend of coming of age, wilderness survival, climate change catastrophe, The Road, and Children of Men, it’s often dark but always page-turning. I found myself fighting the tendancy to skip down the page or read overly quickly.
While the ending is too neat and some may find the liberal sprinkling of ‘My fears would later be realized’ foreboding to be annoying, the book as a whole is a captivating package. In a genre that can often be too dreary or dark, the main character’s perspective offers a refreshing sense of discovery, companionship, and earnestness.
- “This Is How You Lose the Time War” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (2019): Truly one of those reads that’s legitimately “well, that was different”. This Is How You Lose The Time War is an inventive and poetic sci-fi novella that begins as a cat-and-mouse game between rival time travelling agents and evolves into an unexpected LGBTQ romance between the top infiltrators/assassins of the warring factions. While there is definitely worldbuilding in this book, it’s fundamentally about two people discovering each other in the midst of a conflict. Fantastic audiobook narration that probably boosted my enjoyment quite a bit.
- “Circe” by Madeline Miller (2018): Believe the hype. I don’t have much interest or more than basic knowledge of Greek mythology–shamefully, I’ve never even read The Iliad–so I was very skeptical, but this book absolutely delivers. The prose is fantastic, at once sort of lofty and lyrical without ever seeming dense and obtuse. It’s simply an impressive work.
- “Autonomous” by Annalee Newitz (2017): A strange but fun mash of freedom, property rights, and biotechnology that includes a submarine and Canada.