26 September 2013

My September Book Watch Column from the Herald on Sunday

From time to time I contribute to the Herald on Sunday's Book Watch column, and my latest column is below. I write brief notes on four books I've written recently - the Herald usually chooses three of these to include in the column, and this time, they decided to leave out the review of Jane Kelsey's latest book about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. But here are all four mini-reviews!

Hidden Agendas: What We Need To Know About The TPPA, by Jane Kelsey - ebook - http://www.bwb.co.nz/books/hidden-agendas

The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is currently under negotiation between the US and 9 other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand. It has relatively little to do with trade but a great deal to do with taking various aspects of the law of these countries - covering such issues as investment policy, environment policy, and intellectual property and copyright policy - outside the control of their citizens and placing them under corporate control. I don't like that idea, and NZ academic Jane Kelsey doesn’t either. This concise and readable study is a good introduction to why we should all be concerned about the TPPA.

The Apex Book of World SF 2, ed. Lavie Tidhar - print and ebook - http://www.amazon.com/The-Apex-Book-World-SF/dp/193700905X/

Disclaimer: I have a story in this volume. I have not considered it for the purposes of this review.

I enjoyed reading The Apex Book of World SF 2 a lot. Rather than going for the usual Anglo-American suspects, editor Lavie Tidhar has assembled an anthology of science fiction stories from authors around the world, with South America, Europe and Asia especially well represented. Like any anthology, there are some stories that didn't grab me, but also a number I liked very much: my favourite was "The Sound of Breaking Glass" by Joyce Chng of Singapore, a delicate and moving story.

Wolf at the Door, by J. Damask - print and ebook - http://www.amazon.com/Wolf-At-the-Door-ebook/dp/B004V51E0K/

Having enjoyed Joyce Chng’s story in The Apex Book of World SF 2, I bought her novel Wolf at the Door, written as J. Damask. This novel is about werewolves of Chinese descent living in Singapore – and I enjoyed this one too. Its great strength is the way the author interleaves the social dynamics of wolf pack and human family, as both family members and outsiders threaten to disrupt the lives of the protagonist and those near and dear to her. There are some flashbacks that didn’t work as well for me, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of the main story, which is well characterised and well told.

A Man Runs Into A Woman, by Sarah Jane Barnett - print - http://hueandcry.org.nz/man_woman.html

Sarah Jane Barnett’s collection, which was shortlisted for the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards, is notable both for its technical excellence and for the breadth of the poems’ subject matter – from death row inmates to pipeline workers. While I didn’t always connect with the subject matter of these poems, the best poems here both moved and impressed me – such as “Mountains”, selected for Best New Zealand Poems 2012, which I encourage you to read. Any lover of poetry should seek out this book.

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