I've been reading in order to survive this past few months of Book Tour Madness. My brain can only function if I'm shoving an adequate quantity of books into it, and I've been fortunate enough to get my hands on some really excellent books recently! Here's what they are:
The Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone is a fucking triumph. This book is, as one reviewer put it, Max Gladstone with the brake line cut. It's rich and dynamic and metaphorical and at some points baffling. It's also one of the best-written things I've ever crammed into my eyeholes. I absolutely could not put it down, which is saying something, because I read it while trapped at Ronald Reagan International Airport for twelve hours. (Sidenote: Can we not have an airport named after a genocidal maniac, please? Looking at a bronze statue of a man who slaughtered a huge swath of the queer community: unpleasant.) Empress is, in classic Gladstone style, a book about computers, religion, the religion of computers, selfish supergeniuses, and really cool fight scenes. In my extremely correct opinion, it's Gladstone's best work to date, and given his previous work, that's saying something.
The Need by Helen Phillips is a deeply weird book. (That is a compliment.) Each chapter is only a few pages long, and each one is a tiny glimpse into the life of a woman who is enduring the impossible. Sometimes, the impossible thing she's enduring is childrearing - the protagonist has two very young children and a husband who is out of town. Sometimes, the impossible thing she's enduring is the presence of a stranger from an alternate dimension who knows every intimate detail of her life and thoughts. Sometimes, it's the intersection of those two things. This book grabbed me by the throat and dragged me through the narrative before I could say "wait, no, I'm supposed to be reading this other book." The ending made me want to google "The Need Ending??? Meaning Help" and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it for more than a couple of hours since I put the book down and stared into the middle distance trying to absorb what I'd just encountered.
Finna by Nino Cipri is immensely healing. It's queer and it's kind and it's honest in a way few books are. This is the story of a breakup, wait no it's the story of an IKEA that has portals to alternate dimensions in it, wait no it's the story of a retail worker learning to seek adventure, wait no it's the story of how capitalism ultimately demeans us all. I read Finna in a single contented sitting, and when it was over, I wasn't sad that there wasn't more, because the story completely wraps itself up perfectly. There's room for sequels, but it doesn't feel unfinished. I was so unreasonably pleased by this book that I intend to read it again before the month is out, just because I can.