Guy Gavriel Kay

NVCL Reads: Science Fiction and Fantasy

First up in our reading recommendations for the Canada 150 #NVCLreads Bingo game (adult version) is the Science Fiction and Fantasy square, #NVCLreadsSciFi! The following is a mix of new(ish), classic, and personal favourites by our talented Canadian SF/FAN authors:


Among Others, by Jo Walton (2011)

While Jo Walton is usually categorized as a fantasy writer, I wouldn’t hesitate to also recommend her to non SF/FAN readers as well because of her masterful prose and wonderfully realized characters.  This haunting (and Hugo award winning!) novel follows Mori, crippled and struggling to escape a troubled childhood and the tragic loss of her twin sister, killed in a confrontation with their mother who had been dabbling in dark magics.  But her attempts to build a new life for herself, including a cautious return to magic, bring her back to the attention of her mother and an inevitable confrontation.

If magic isn’t your thing you could try the more speculative My Real Children or, if philosophy is more your bag, her Thessaly trilogy and any of them will count towards the science fiction or fantasy square!


walkawayWalkaway, by Cory Doctorow (2017)

Doctorow’s latest is in the speculative fiction genre, and an interesting blend of utopia and dystopia.  Based in post-scarcity society where you can 3D-print any of the basic necessities of life including food and shelter, its premise begins with a young couple who simply choose to walk away from mainstream society and its out of control wealth and power gap and lack of jobs.  Away from society and occupying lands devastated by climate change they and those who join them discover one thing that the ultra-rich have not been able to achieve – a way to conquer death itself.

* could alternately be used for the #NVCLreadsEnvironment or #NVCLreadsDystopia



Company Town, by Madeline Ashby (2016)

Nominated in the 2017 Canada Reads contest (eventually won by Andre Alexis’ awesome Fifteen Dogs), Ashby’s biopunk novel takes place on a defunct, city-sized oil rig that was recently purchased by an uber-wealthy family company. Its main character, Hwa, is one of the few people in her community (the former oil rig) without any biotechnology enhancements, making her the ideal bodyguard for the young heir of the company. While at its basic its a murder investigation, it contains some excellent world-building, and Hwa is a fascinating, compelling character and the true strength of the book.



Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen #1,
by Steven Erikson (1999)

Ok, now it’s time to admit I haven’t read one of the consistently ranked best Fantasy series of all time. This one’s been on my bucket list for ages, and if it’s on yours too then this is a great excuse to pick it up.  Gardens of the Moon kicks off a 10-volume fantasy epic that spans thousands of years and follows the struggle for power in the Malazan empire. It’s renowned for its world-building, huge cast of characters, and its sheer scale. So, epic fantasy at its most epic.

*coming in at 666 pages, this could alternately be used for the #NVCLreads400


Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay (2016)

childrenofearthandskyUsually categorized as “historical fantasy”, Kay’s novels are not really fantasy and are only quasi-historical (although they are meticulously researched, so the term “alternate history” might work better), so, here’s a good read for those of you who are not really fantasy readers, but need to fill that square! Kay’s latest is set in near-Renaissance Europe (specifically 16th c. Croatia) and follows the intertwining lives of a large cast of characters – among them a woman out for revenge, a spy, an artist,  a merchant’s son, and a boy training to become a soldier – against the backdrop of a looming war.



Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2004)

I’m not sure how one could responsibly write a post on Canadian science fiction and not mention Oryx and Crake and the Maddaddam Trilogy, so if you haven’t yet read it now’s the time. Science-fiction of the post-apocalyptic variety, this novel follows Sandman, who may be the last human left alive. Mourning his friend Crake and Oryx, the woman they both loved, he searches for answers in a world destroyed by genetic engineering run amok. While many people I know preferred the sequel – The Year of The Flood – to its predecessor, Oryx and Crake remains my favourite for its disturbing and unforgettable vision of the future.

*could alternately count for the #NVCLreadsDystopia or #NVCLreadsMargaret


Need more? Other Canadian Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors include Kelley Armstrong, R. Scott Bakker, Julie E. CzernedaWilliam Gibson, Tanya HuffRobert J. Sawyer, S.M. Stirling, Robert Charles Wilson

Happy reading and Happy 150th, Canada!

Patricia’s Big Books Resolution

I like big books (and I cannot lie…).  There are few things as satisfying as spending a month or more absorbed in other lives that you can fall into and out of as your real life permits.  They become bigger than themselves – signposts of a time in your life that once was.  Backpacking Poland in my twenties will forever be associated with the sweeping drama of A Suitable Boy, for example.  So it makes sense that my New Year’s Resolution for 2013 centres on me reading some (or at least one) of those ‘big books’ left on my TBR list.

 TBR Pile(Yes, this is an actual photo of what is known in our household as ‘the book pit’ – where all the books that follow me home patiently wait their turn.  Unless they’re on my kindle, in which case they wait in cyberspace.  Equally patiently.)


Jonathan Strange and Mr. NorrellJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

The story of a rivalry between two magicians set in England around the time of the Napoleonic Wars.  How have I not already read this?  No, seriously… how?  Well, the pressure is on because the BBC recently announced plans to film it for TV and I certainly don’t want to watch it before I’ve read it.  Do you?

Under HeavenUnder Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Historical fiction and fantasy come together in this tale inspired by 8th century China.  Before River of Stars, which picks up centuries after the events of Under Heaven, comes out this spring, I want to read the first book.  (Like many of you, I just hate starting a series midway through.)

Parrallel StoriesParallel Stories, by Peter Nadas

It took 18 years to write and four years to translate this book; the stories of three interconnected men in Central Europe.  Having waded through another of his books, A Book of Memories, I am certain this one will be a challenge, but a rewarding one.  Even before it appeared on the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2011 list, I was desperate to read this book.  I have started it, but it and I have yet to have that click moment wherein I’m transported.  I strongly feel like it could happen… maybe this coming year?

ShantaramShantaram, by Gregory David Roberts

A convict escapes an Australian prison and heads to Bombay where he becomes involved in healing and the criminal underworld. Just as I was writing this, a customer walked by my computer and saw the cover of Shantaram up on the screen.  “You have to read that!” he exclaimed, “It was so good it made me late for work a couple of times… and I didn’t care.” 

Is there any recommendation better than that?  Post your Big Book favourites below. 

May your 2013 be filled with wondrous new worlds… if only when you read.