So, this post at Random Musings of a Bibliophile caught my eye this morning: Most Unique Books I’ve Read
Brandy lists ten titles, six of which I’ve read. Of those ten, I would particularly pull out one as really unique. (I know unique does not take technically take qualifiers, but here in this post it’s going to.)
That one is Ash and Bramble by Sarah Prineas.
What makes this book so very unique: I’ve read a lot of fairy tale retellings. I don’t really get tired of the form, so no doubt I’ll read a lot more in my life. But I don’t expect ever to read another one that deconstructs the whole idea of fairy tales as thoroughly as this. Prineas did an amazing job taking the whole concept apart. I’ve got the sequel on my TBR pile, but although it may be very good, I don’t see how it can possibly be as startling in construction.
I would like to add a handful of other seriously unique titles. So —
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fford.
Speaking of deconstructing stories and the whole idea of Story, it’s hard to think of any other fictional world which does this more completely than the world of books and fiction in this series. In this world, “England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë’s novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide.”
How does anybody ever think of things like that?
Okay, here’s one that also strikes me as unique, although not in a deconstruct-fiction way.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennen.
This series is soooo close to the tone of a naturalist’s writing from, say, the eighteen hundreds . . . but delicately slanted just a touch toward modern sensibility in order to make the protagonist sympathetic to a modern readership. I don’t think you can spot this unless you’ve read actual accounts written by real naturalists around the late 1800s or early 1900s. Then it will probably leap out at you. As novels go, these aren’t the kind I just fall into and get absorbed by . . . but intellectually, they are just SO COOL. Plus, such stunning covers and artwork.
The Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliot
More absorbing as stories, the cluttered worldbuilding is particularly noteworthy in these because of the inclusion of the “feathered people” — troodon-derived people who are human-like enough to interact with humans, but who really have quite different instincts. A wonderful detail of almost-science fiction included in this baroque fantasy setting. I wish I’d thought of doing that.
And that leads me to —
The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein
There are plenty of fantasy novels sort of wrapped in a science-fiction-esque setting (Pern, for example; and The Warlock series by Stasheff). But I have never seen a REAL science fiction setting so thoroughly disguised as fantasy in my life. Also, some of my favorite characters ever, and exciting storytelling. There’s a reason this series was my single favorite reading experience the year I read it.
Okay, moving on to something different:
The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
I’ve seen created languages before . . . I’ve never read A Clockwork Orange, so I can’t really compare these two dystopia/postapocalyptic stories, but Newman’s book does the most amazing things with language. Even more so than in Hellflower by Eluki bes Shahar, although that’s as comparable as I can think of. (The stories are nothing alike otherwise.)
I thought there was supposed to be a sequel . . . which is needed because the first book leaves us in such dire circumstances . . . yes, I see references to a sequel in interviews with Newman. One of these days, then, I trust.
And now, unique in a whole different sense:
Illuminae by Kaufman and Kristoff.
The title and cover of the third book just got released, by the way. It’s Obsidio, so of course the cover is black black black.
One rather assumes the authors’ names are going to be on there somewhere too, but no sign of that here. Hmm.
It is, of course, not the plotting or characters or storytelling or any of that which is unique in this trilogy. It’s the layout and visuals used throughout the story.
Which naturally leads me to this one, not out yet, which I mentioned yesterday:
Apparently half novel and half art book, with 120 full pages of artwork included in the novel, this sounds like quite a departure from the standard format. I’m kind of excited about it myself, even though I’m trying not to expect too much of the storytelling just in case that is not a strength.
Okay, how many is that? … Eight. All right, what are two more contenders for “most unique” SFF novels?