NPR Reviews: Can Xue’s FRONTIER & Cherie Priest’s BRIMSTONE

My reviewing schedule has had to slow down a bit recently, what with comps reading and teaching, but here are a couple that have recently appeared on NPR.

First, Can Xue’s Frontier, translated by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping:

9781940953540_custom-88db26d979bf1a861f016687395f8942f192029e-s600-c85Pebble Town is at the foot of Snow Mountain. There is a grove of poplar trees, some of which are dead; there is a Design Institute, where many people are employed, but few work; there are people, many people, who aren’t certain about how or when they arrived, what they want, how to speak to each other. These people interact at market, or in shops, or in the grove of poplar trees, or in their courtyards and homes, and they sometimes have startling insights into each other that are as brief and ephemeral as blown dandelion seed, catching on to people’s thoughts before being buffeted along the next breeze from Snow Mountain….Reading this book is like trying to solve a mystery in a dream. Like the Pleiades, it’s best glimpsed without looking at it directly.

You can also read Porochista Khakpour’s wonderful interview with Can Xue here.

Second, Cherie Priest’s Brimstone, which I decided I needed to review after having the pleasure of hearing Priest read from it at ConFusion this January:

9781101990735_custom-e8ad156a32207405b092a6932ccf0511ace7cb66-s600-c85Brimstone is a deeply loving book. Cassadaga is a real place, with a real lineage of devastating fires, and the respect and affection for its history and residents glows from each page. Alice and Tomás are wonderful, warmly drawn characters: Alice’s cheerful vivacity and Tomás’ weary grief fit beautifully with each other, and moved me a great deal. Tomás, especially, often made my breath catch with sympathy, as he tries to make sense of life without his wife, and slowly grows obsessed with the possibility that she may be communicating with him through random acts of arson.

I’m very glad to have read these — reading very different books back to back feels like brain exercise and nutrition all at once — and am really excited about the things I’m covering in May, which include Sarah Gailey’s River of Teeth, Frances Hardinge’s A Face Like Glass, and Elizabeth Wein’s The Pearl Thief.

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