Smugglivus Smugglivus Guest Author

Smugglivus 2010 Guest Author: Mark Charan Newton

Welcome to Smugglivus 2010: Day 20

Throughout this month, we will have daily guests – authors, bloggers and publishers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2010, and looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2011.

Who: Mark Charan Newton, British author of Speculative Fiction/ New Weird with his Legends of the Red Sun series. Mark’s blog is also one of the BEST author blogs around with a lot of interesting, and sometimes controversial, opinion posts from politics, climate change to writing.

Recent Work: City of Ruin, second book in his series, reviewed by Ana HERE.

Everybody, please give a warm welcome to Mark!

Mark’s reading year

I’m that worst kind of reader. I can never make up my mind what to read and when; I decide what to read purely on whims; I turn into an absolute emo when I can’t find what I want to read. But, that said, I’ve read some really interesting books this year. I’m still blaming writing for making me not keep up with as many current genre books and authors as I’d like to, and it’s why I stay tuned to the blogosphere so much – so I can at least watch from the sidelines. So you’ll probably see my reading list consisting mainly of older books.

So, the good:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon was a cracking read, and probably the best of the year. The book follows the lives of two cousins, a Czech artist called Joe Kavalier, and Sam Clay, who was raised in Brooklyn, and the two of them become major comic book writers as the industry enters its Golden Age. The theme of escape was powerful (Kavalier, who was trained as an escape artist, escaped his homeland because of the build up to WWII, and who then sought to help his family escape). I genuinely adored this novel – it manages to do that very difficult thing of being extremely entertaining and extremely intellectual simultaneously, and appealed massively to my inner-geek.

Dracula by Bram Stoker, was a re-read, but I’d never appreciated just how wonderful it was the first time around. I adored this book (which was also the first book I read fully on my iPhone, which meant I could read anywhere). It’s what vampires are truly about: they’re monsters, they’re sadistic and cruel. Stoker’s arrangement of the narrative – in letters and diary entries – was also a perfect technique to develop the tension. And what tension! It’s a Gothic masterpiece, and rightly so.

Other worthy mentions: The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell – where zombies were described in a deeply poetic language; The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip, which – though I didn’t admire it much at first – has really grown on me.

I’ve also read some brilliant non-fiction this year, mainly about the environment, the best by-far being Stuffed and Starved: Markets, Power and the Hidden Battle for the World Food System by Raj Patel. It’s a tough book, handling a massive subject, but is also written with a surprisingly poetic language for a non-fiction title. It’s an assiduous breakdown of the way the global food system works, and how the consumers and producers are suffering at the hands of the corporate food monopoly. Sobering stuff indeed.

The disappointments: White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which to be fair I didn’t get into because the prose disagreed too much with me. I really wanted to like this, and perhaps I’ll revisit one day. I also wanted to mention Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell– which though I didn’t finish, I do want to go back to. (Just because I only got a third of the way through doesn’t mean I didn’t like it – I know I will at some point.) But sometimes a book isn’t quite right for me the time I’m reading it – or is this me being an emo still?

And also Depths by Henning Mankell – I love, love, love his Wallander novels, but this was something a little different, a First World War psychological piece… only nothing really happened. AT ALL. Well, not in the first 150 pages, and that’s where I gave up.

2011… well, given that I’m so behind, I’m not eagerly awaiting many titles. I’m keen to get my hands on China Miéville’s Embassytown as well as Dan Abnett’s forthcoming SF novel Embedded. I plan to read a lot of horror fiction, too, but I never really know what I’ll end up reading; I buy novels that I think I’ll like, and build up a library ready to browse.

As for my own work, the third in my Legends of the Red Sun series is published in June – The Book of Transformations – which manages (hopefully successfully) to blend superheroes with an epic fantasy setting, and also features a transwoman as a lead character, something which was very difficult to write about. Hopefully I’ve managed to achieve my main aim, which is to have readers accept her and warm to her and barely notice her background. It was a lot of fun to write, though. I will hopefully finish writing the fourth and final book in this series in 2011, which will feel quite strange given that it has taken about four or five years of my life…

Yet, already I’m eager to write new things… if my editor will let me.

Thank you Mark, and Happy Smugglivus!


  • Book Smuggled & A Quote Worth Quoting
    December 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

    […] wrote a guest post for the lovely Book Smugglers on my favourite and disappointing reads of the year, so if you’re interested in that, check […]

  • Anne
    December 20, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Dude, you must finish Wolf Hall. It is a slow burn, yes, but by about 2/3rds of the way through it becomes completely absorbing. Is my opinion! Kavalier & Clay is also great… until the ending? It felt to me like Chabon wasn’t really sure how to wrap things up, and I found the conclusion disappointing. But it’s been a few years since I read it; maybe my opinion would be different now.

  • Mark
    December 20, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Hey Anne – I know, I did enjoy the way it was written, but something didn’t click at the time. I’ll revisit.

    Yeah, I know what you mean. I guess it was a tough one to finish – as in, in such a sprawling life story, what stage do you stop things?

  • redhead
    December 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is one of the best books I’ve ever read. and I too am eagerly awaiting Mieville’s Embassytown, although I wish he would just do another BasLag book.

    Stuffed and Starved looks like something I’d enjoy as well. tough subject matter no doubt, but something that is important and needs to be read.

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