Shastrix Books

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A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit

Becky Chambers

27th November 2022

The second Wayfarers novel loosely continues from the end of the first. While I don’t think it’s necessary to read the first novel to read this one, this probably does carry spoilers from some events from the first novel, so it likely makes sense to read them in order.

This then is a novel about relationships, romantic, friendly, family, and parent-child. It’s a galaxy where these particular examples are outliers though, due to some of the participants in each being seen as undesirable by the current civilisation. And these relationships we experience serve to underline the absurdity of considering some of the characters as lesser members of society.

What I love about this series is that the stories are totally about the characters. There’s no big epic arc going on that means it’s a plot driven saga. There’s no focus on the technology and the sci-fi elements to drive the narrative. The sci-fi setting is just that - a setting in which it’s possible to tell the story of the lives of this small group of characters, and how they weave together.

I’m really happy to have found these novels, and already have the next two lined up ready to read soon.

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Lamb

Lamb

Christopher Moore

27th November 2022

This has been on my wish list for so long that I can’t remember who recommended it or why, but I eventually picked it up in a sale, and have not been at all disappointed.

The conceit is that Christ’s pal Biff has been resurrected around the year 2000 to write a more accurate gospel, and this is the result, along with some notes about his time trapped in a hotel room with an angel during the writing process.

In some respects, the novel is respectful to Christianity - the Christ represented remains the actual son of god, many of the events from the traditional gospels do take place, and it doesn’t meddle with the theology.

In other respects it’s hilarious and there’s tons of stuff that Moore has added to make the story more believable or more fun. I particularly enjoyed Biff’s frequent inventions and discoveries.

As the author notes in the afterword, there’s potentially a niche audience - you’ve really got to have that background of knowing the traditional biblical stories to get the jokes and references, but not be the sort of person to get offended by the same. Luckily that’s me.

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A Trail Through Time

A Trail Through Time

Jodi Taylor

27th November 2022

The fourth book following Max as she travels around time is the first to feel like it’s a full single novel-length story - it doesn’t have the same episodic nature of the previous books, and instead flows from end to end.

It’s a confusing situation for both Max and the reader, as she’s thrown into an alternate universe that’s just subtly different from her own, and none of her previous friends really trust her.

I found it easiest to just go with the flow and forget about trying to reconcile everything with what’s gone before, and got from the book exactly the sort of fun relaxing read that I was looking for.

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Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone

Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone

Benjamin Stevenson

27th November 2022

A book I bought based entirely on the title, this is an Australian novel about a man who’s family have all killed somebody, and we follow the events of their family skiing holiday as he introduces them all to us.

It’s a fun narrative which peels back layer after layer of mystery to reveal more and more about the background to what’s happening, keeping the reader engaged throughout.

I did find that I kept forgetting that the setting was Australia, and having to reset my mental picture.

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Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Gabrielle Zevin

27th November 2022

This was a great genre-defying novel which I picked up purely after seeing it on a table in the bookshop. I’m not sure what I was expecting - possibly something aimed at a younger audience based on the cover - but it’s not that.

This is essentially a romance - but a complex, modern, neuro-atypical romance between friends and colleagues, which feels incredibly realistic and relatable.

Zevin carefully builds up her characters and world, following them from their late teens, gradually revealing their formative years and letting the audience begin to understand what makes them tick.

The setting is perfect for me to relate to, being around geeky popular culture and software development, and this definitely helped draw me in. I did find however that the book to me some time to get through - there’s a lot to take in emotionally, and I don’t feel that lends itself to consuming large portions in short timeframes.

Really good, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more opportunities to explore Zevin’s works.

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The Bullet That Missed

The Bullet That Missed

Richard Osman

28th October 2022

Richard Osman’s gang of retirees return for their third adventure - which because the characters are well established can come as two distinct plot threads.

I find these books incredibly readable. I got through this one in about three days, which is a pace I’ve not enjoyed for a while. It helps that the text is really big so the pages turn quickly, and the chapters are short - but not intense, so it never feels an effort to continue.

Osman introduces new characters with ease, and as the series continues its great to see that they aren’t just here as one-off guests - they are enriching the cast and returning to make for a bigger more interesting world.

Great fun.

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The Hedge Witch

The Hedge Witch

Cari Thomas

28th October 2022

This spin-off (and I think maybe prequel) to Threadneedle follows one of the original’s secondary characters as she heads to Wales for the summer.

It’s in some ways the classic tale of the teenager sent to live with some rural relative who makes a gang of friend to investigate some mystery. But it’s also more than that.

It’s really focussed on the character, and the worldbuilding that’s possible by seeing things through another pair of eyes. This helps add to the universe created in the original novel, without relying on the reader having actually read the original either.

Totally, it’s quite different though - this is lighter, a bit more fun, and while there’s some serious moments and character development, it’s not really focussed on that seriousness from a plot perspective.

I really liked seeing this side of Thomas’s world, and look forward to more variety like this.

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Reading soon

  1. The Weird Accordion to Al
  2. The Cartographers