A beautiful fable. Feels timeless, especially the magical descriptions of the forest and woods, and Dead Papa Toothwort, the spirit protecting them and the ethereal Lanny.
A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)
Ursula K. Le Guin★★★★☆
I have vivid but vague memories of reading this as a teen. My recollection is of how Ged's world fed my imagination, and how his journey was full of wonder and the mastery of his power. It was interesting reading it again, where the focus seemed far more about Ged running from his mistake and his dread weariness until he turns to face it. I wonder if that's a result of life perspective - would be fascinating to hear a teenage first-reader's perspective.
The Tombs of Atuan (1971)
Ursula K. Le Guin★★★★☆
This was also very surprising to read again. My memory was of how the Earthsea series was all about Ged, but in this book he is barely present, and the story is told through Tenar. It's an amazing switch of perspective, reminding me of how Philip Pullman did a similar thing with the second book of the His Dark Materials trilogy, *The Subtle Knife*. Atuan also turns the wide open world of Earthsea on its head, focusing instead on a solitary small island. Once again the overriding impression is of Ged's suffering rather than his supremacy, despite his ascent to the heights of wizardry.
The Farthest Shore (1972)
Ursula K. Le Guin★★★★★
The final book of the trilogy most closely matches my memory. The majesty of the dragons here is beautifully written, and seems to be the template for everything dragons represent in my mind - along with Smaug. Ged is in full control of his powers, and is a stately and serious presence throughout. But I'd forgotten how Arren becomes the focus of the story - Ged again moves through the story almost in the background. Reading the trilogy again, I was suprised how it was far more about complex adult emotions rather than teenage wide-eyed wonder. But I'm sure if I read it again as a teen it would be the reverse: the amazing lands, people, and creatures of Earthsea, and feeling of unbridled horizons.
Boy Swallows Universe (2018)
Rollicking tale of Brisbane grit and sibling magic. The prison-break sequence is terrific, as are the many convincing personal relationships and characters.
The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972)
Revelled in the uniquely imagined warped-colonial world in the first story, but the following two (particularly the finale) left me cold. I struggled to connect the three, which made it trying to continue.
Kieron Gillen / Stephanie Hans★★★★
A D&D comic! Gillen creates another convincing and complex world where role-players find themselves inside the game. I do often feel with his writing that I'm not quite grasping exactly what is going on. But I'm bad at metaphors - though I did catch the Tolkien one eventually :-) Hans' artwork style isn't my favourite, but it does produce some excellent moments.
Spinning Silver (2018)
Felt like a short fable strung out into a novel, and suffered as a result.
The Peripheral (2014)
Re-read prepping for the sequel (below). Loved every minute of this, a classic mix of far and near future, with a unique time-travel element. Future-London surviving under the thumb of a mostly-benevolent klept is startlingly believable. And the concept of the Jackpot is perfect Gibson.
A strangely passive book, given the title. We inhabit the protagonist, but she has less agency than just about everyone in the novel, merely following directions and observing. I guess the story is about the emerging agency of AI, but it feels oddly incomplete, or empty at the core, without our hero making choices. Still contains enough ideas to stay interesting.
House of X / Powers of X (2020)
Hickman / Larraz / Silva / Gracia★★★★
Every now and then I dip back into the world of X, and this was a great sequence to jump on. A reboot, I guess, and full of classic X moments. Following and making sense of the power politics and deep history of the X-Men is impossible, but this has enough 'now' (whilst also teasing plenty of 'then') to be fascinating. The A-Team of Marvel writers and artists on the X-Team makes for a gorgeous book.
Axiom's End (2020)
Enjoyable first-contact tale. Took a while to settle in but fun once it did.