Author Archives: E J Swift

Book recommendations – early 2015

A few quick recommendations from recent reading:

guest_cat_cover-v2
The Guest Cat
by Takashi Hiraide

This was my first read of the year, and with cats plus Japan it pretty much had my name on it. Quiet, thoughtful, a mystery that still has me wondering, and some truly delightful descriptions of cats and cat behaviour.

 

StationelevenUKHCStation Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

I’d been looking forward to Station Eleven for months and I was so happy to find it didn’t disappoint. It’s exquisitely plotted, and most importantly wonderfully characterized. I’d been hooked by the description of the post-apocalyptic travelling Shakespeare company, but in the end what has stayed with me most is the before-and-during the breakdown scenes, the moments of realization for those characters, Miranda standing in front of the mirror saying ‘I regret nothing’. A gorgeous tapestry of a novel.

mechanique coverMechanique - Genevieve Valentine

Mechanique is another book that had been on my to-read list for a while, and another one that didn’t let me down. Steampunk circus, an inventive narrative style that slowly unveils the hearts of the performers and the dark truths that lie at the centre of their troupe, this fabulous novel explores mortality, desire, ambition, and the beauty of flight.

calculated life coverA Calculated Life – Anne Charnock

I was first alerted to A Calculated Life via last year’s Kitschies shortlist. This is a story beautifully and simply narrated, the language economical but evocative, and it remains compelling without ever resorting to sensationalism. A coming-of-age tale exploring what it means to be human, it kept me gripped to the end.

EscapeFromBaghdad-CoverPromo21Escape from Baghdad! – Saad Z Hossain

I zipped through Escape From Baghdad in under 24 hours, which says a lot as I’m generally quite a slow reader. For a start, it’s great fun – Hossain’s writing grabs you from the opening line:

“We should kill him,” Kinza said. “But nothing too orthodox.”

From this point on the action doesn’t let up, as three unlikely companions navigate alchemists, immortals and deadly intrigue against the backdrop of post-war Iraq. There are some extremely dark moments, and the humour is correspondingly so (see the torturer who complains he hasn’t been given sufficient time to do his work) but when Hossain wants to make a point he allows the prose to breathe and the emotion to come through. One not to miss.

 

“The Spiders of Stockholm” & The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award

Some very exciting news which I can finally share – I’m thrilled and delighted to announce that my story “The Spiders of Stockholm” from the anthology Irregularity (Jurassic, 2014) has been longlisted for The Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award!

The 19 longlisted writers and their stories are:

The Indian Uprising by Ann Beattie
The Collected Tricks of Houdini by Rotimi Babatunde
The Ways by Colin Barrett
Fat White Cop with Ginger Eyebrows by Louise Doughty
Qualities of the Modern Farmer by Emily Franklin
The Pier Falls by Mark Haddon
The Glove Maker’s Numbers by Rebecca F. John
A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li
Hungry by Elizabeth McCracken
False River by Paula Morris
Interstellar Space by Scott O’Connor
Jules Verne Seeks Dreamers for Long-Distance Travel in Time by Mary O’Donoghue
The Referees by Joseph O’Neill
Lucky by Julianne Pachico
After the War, Before the War by David Peace
Holiday by Mona Simpson
Still Water, BC by Erin Soros
The Spiders of Stockholm by E. J. Swift
The Wedding Cake by Madeleine Thien

The shortlist will be announced on Sunday 1 March. You can find out more about the award and read the stories online here.

“The Spiders of Stockholm” was published in Irregularity, an anthology which explores the tension between order and chaos in the Age of Enlightenment. If you like the sound of “The Spiders of Stockholm”, please do consider checking out this wonderful anthology, and of course, the rest of Jurassic’s titles. Jurassic have a history of supporting new and emerging writers, and producing really beautiful books, inside and out.

Tamaruq publication day!

It’s here! Tamaruq, the final volume in The Osiris Project trilogy, is out today. And here it is looking rather lovely alongside Osiris and Cataveiro:

photo (4)

Here’s the cover blurb:

Fleeing from her family and the elitist oppression of the Osiris government, Adelaide Rechnov has become the thing she once feared, a revolutionary.

But with the discovery of a radio signal comes the stark realization that there is life outside their small island existence. Adelaide’s worries are about to become much bigger.

Meanwhile, as rumour spreads on the mainland, many head to the lost city of Osiris with their own devious objectives. But in a world where war is king and only the most powerful survive, there can only be one victor…

If you’d like to order a copy of Tamaruq, you can find the paperback edition through Amazon, Waterstones, or Foyles, and the ebook via Amazon. Or you can support independent bookshops by ordering through Hive.

SRFC and an excerpt from Tamaruq

With Tamaruq publication day less than a week away, a quick update to say I’ll be reading at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club, along with Sarah Pinborough and Stephen Deas, next Tuesday 27 January at the Grange Holborn Hotel.

SRFC is organised by Den Patrick and Jen Williams, and it’s always a lovely opportunity to meet other people in the genre community. You can find all the event details here on Facebook.

Tamaruq is released next Thursday 29 January, but in the meantime Del Rey UK have published a free excerpt which you can read on the website here.

Best of 2014 and a few things to look forward to

The Christmas tree hasn’t yet gone out, which means there’s just about enough time for the obligatory end of year round-up and looking ahead to what 2015 has to offer.

A few things I loved this year which I’d thoroughly recommend (note – not necessarily published in 2014, but from this year’s reading) –  some I’ve written about previously but their merits are well worth reiterating.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
With its innovative approach to the time travel narrative and clever use of format echoing theme, this was a fantastic read, intricately plotted, with a proper punch of an ending.

The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne
A brilliantly-realized near future setting in India/Ethiopia, combined with a sharp, vibrant voice and nods to mythology made this one of my favourite reads of the year.

The Race by Nina Allan
With its beautifully crafted, intertwining narratives, an evocative sense of place and dreamlike playfulness with reality, I would love to see both this and the Byrne on some awards list later this year.

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
The story of how Macdonald trained a goshawk in the months following her father’s death, and the story of the troubled writer T.H. White. A gorgeous, deeply empathetic memoir.

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood
I adored Oryx and Crake, but was less enamoured with The Year of the Flood. I was delighted to enjoy the conclusion to the trilogy as much as I did the first volume – Atwood never fails to surprise and delight with her inventiveness and style.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen
Engaging and ever-so-slightly unnerving story of a novice writer who finds herself embroiled in the dubious clique of the eponymous literature society, this is a marvellous read.

A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
I enjoyed The Violent Century but this is much closer to the territory of Tidhar’s Osama – intelligent, troubling, funny, at times harrowing, an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.

And a few things I’m looking forward to in 2015, in no particular order:

Company Town by Madeleine Ashby, Persona by Genevieve Valentin, The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall, The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, The First Bad Man by Miranda July.

Next on the reading list is Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, which I’ve been looking forward to for ages, and I’m just waiting for the paperback editions of Kamila Shamsie’s A God in Every Stone and Siri Hustvedt’s The Blazing World.

Plenty to look forward to in 2015.

TAMARUQ cover

Nothing makes you so happy as a writer as the day you get to see the cover design for a new book, and I’m thrilled to share the artwork for the forthcoming TAMARUQ. Del Rey have produced three beautiful covers for The Osiris Project trilogy and this one might be my favourite yet. A big thank you to the designers for all their work.

tamaruq cover

And here’s the three covers together – I can’t wait to see the set in print!

Osiris UK cover final

cataveiro pb covertamaruq cover

 

 

 

 

TAMARUQ is released on 29 January 2015.

Reading recommendations – summer 2014

Some recommendations from the last few month’s reading – wonderful books all:

A Woman in Berlin – Anonymous

I stumbled across A Woman in Berlin in the history section of the beautiful Scarthin Books in Derbyshire – one of those oh this looks interesting moments that reminds you to browse bookstores more. The diaries of a German woman – a journalist in her pre-war career – during the final phases of WWII, it chronicles the Russian invasion and sacking of the city of Berlin. It’s a rare first-hand record of the civilian experience of defeat, and the history of its publication is equally fascinating – the first German-language edition in 1960 received such negative reactions that the text was withdrawn, and it was only in 2003, following the anonymous author’s death in 2001, that it saw print again. With its subject matter of rape and sexual collaboration for survival, this is not the easiest read, but what stays with me is the voice of the narrator; the resilience, the dry humour and lack of self-pity, the will to survive. I was especially struck by the author’s reflections on the returning soldiers. The myth of man, she says, has crumbled – ‘That has transformed us, emboldened us. Among the many defeats at the end of this war is the defeat of the male sex’ – an observation which sadly was not to be proven in the post-war era, but makes this even more of a relevant read today.

tale for the time beingA Tale For The Time Being – Ruth Ozeki

A Japanese schoolgirl writes a diary which in the aftermath of a tsunami washes up on a remote coastline in Canada in a Hello Kitty lunchbox. I loved the premise of this. Nao’s diaries are instantly engaging (so much so that I missed her initially during Ruth’s chapters); inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. As Ruth becomes immersed in Nao’s diary, the novel expands to reveal the fascinating histories of Nao’s family, including her ‘anarchist-feminist-novelist-turned-Buddhist-nun’ great-grandmother Jiko, her kamikaze pilot grandfather Haruki #1, and her post-Dot Com Bubble computer programmer father Haruki #2. Exploring the dynamics of power and bullying, Ozeki examines what it really means to be a hero.

hired manThe Hired Man – Aminatta Forna

I was blown away by Forna’s memoir, The Devil That Danced on the Water, and her novel The Memory of Love. The Hired Man is outwardly a quieter novel, but one that creeps up on you with increasing power. Protagonist Duro creates a slow-burn narration, flitting between a seemingly peaceful present, and the darker memories of the past, as the secrets of a Croatian town in the aftermath of civil war are gradually uncovered.

harry augustThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August has an outwardly simple premise: narrator Harry lives, and dies, and lives his life over and over again, each time retaining the memories of his previous lives. The way it is told is gorgeously intricate. I loved the circular narrative, the employment of form to echo theme, as the book moves back and forth through Harry’s lives, with some playful and at times truly dark historical visitations. The relationship between Harry and his one-time student Vincent is fascinating; as are the philosophical debates eschewing from that relationship. This is a great read from start to finish.

girl in the roadThe Girl in the Road – Monica Byrne

Two journeys are at the heart of The Girl in the Road – Meena, fleeing from India across the Trail, an energy-harvesting floating bridge which crosses the Arabian Sea. And Mariama, a young girl crossing from West Africa to Ethiopia, bewitched by fellow traveller Yemaya, who she worships as a goddess. There were so many things I loved about this – the wonderfully-rendered near future setting; the way the two characters’ journeys intertwine through stories and mythology; the fierce, at times savage voice combined with a gorgeous use of language. I also liked the way it touched on issues such as race, class, sexuality and mental health, whilst not foregrounding any of these; the narrative always comes first.

bad characterA Bad Character – Deepti Kapoor

Kapoor’s A Bad Character explores a very different Indian setting. Sometimes after reading something particularly epic it’s a joy to really focus down, and Kapoor’s novel is exactly that: a distillation of a relationship. Poetic, evocative, burning with suppressed desire and sexuality, it’s told in a series of staccato vignettes by a young woman in Delhi whose name we never learn.

Helen-Macdonald-H-is-for-HawkH is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald

If you read one thing this year, read this. Macdonald’s deeply empathetic memoir encompasses two narratives: it’s the story of how she trained a goshawk in the aftermath of her father’s death, and the story of the troubled writer T.H. White. It’s a book about nature and a book about struggling with grief. By turns exquisitely poetic and unflinchingly raw, Macdonald explores what it means to be wild and what it means to be human, and the at times perilously precarious bridge between the two.