Devourer of Words: My 2012 in Books

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 31, 2012 by Esther Sherman

My bold assertion last year that I would top 2011’s total of 92 books in 2012 was stymied somewhat by several major events. Near the beginning of the year I agreed to sit on the first jury for the British Fantasy Awards, along with such superior company as Maura McHugh, Hal Duncan, James Barclay and Damien Walter, which was a serious honour for me.  Although I had already read many of the titles on the shortlist, I re-read for comparison as much as possible, and deliberations were agreeable and enjoyable, but time-consuming. I also agreed to arrange and compere the Saturday night burlesque and cabaret slot at FantasyCon in September, and as I have said before, organising performers is much akin to herding cats. Last but certainly not least, I got married in July and the preparations took up a lot more time than I’d wagered, though our honeymoon in Mexico certainly allowed for plenty of beach reading.

Because of my BFA jury duties, I decided to stop tweeting my reviews, and fell out of the habit, so I don’t have an accurate record of exactly when I read everything. My New Year’s resolution is to resume this, as I found it very useful and interesting for last year’s review.

Jan 2nd finished The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Sweet and spooky, slight but fun

This was a comfort read for me.  Did everything I expected it to, but I couldn’t bring myself to dislike it for that, it was quite charming. Would be a great one for younger readers.

Jan 2nd finished How to Leave Twitter: My Time as Queen of the Universe and Why This Must Stop by Grace Dent

Grace often makes me laugh, but I found this book light on content and blinkered in perspective. Fun for an hour or so!     

Jan 3rd finished Florence and Giles by John Harding. Interesting experiment, but annoying tics & not scary.

I loved the idea of playing around with The Turn of the Screw, one of my favourite scary stories, but this had few ideas beyond that and ultimately failed in execution.

Jan 4th finished New Model Army by @arrroberts. Took a while to get going but once it did, boom!

A crowdsourced, anarchist army? Lovely ideas.


Jan 5th finished Engineering Infinity ed Jonathan Strahan. Mixed hard SF anthology, interesting but uneven.

Jan 7th finished Empire State by @ghostfinder. Fun sci-adventure w echoes of Dark City, The Big O & Fringe.

Took many of my favourite subjects and crafted an enjoyable ride.  I’m expecting good things in the future from Adam Christopher.  


Jan 11th Finished A Book of Horrors ed Stephen Jones. Interesting mix, more hits than misses, from Reggie Oliver, Lisa Tuttle, John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Original horror stories by a diverse group of authors, some absolute gems included.  

Jan 12th finished The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein. Inventive tale of a lucky family & a fairy bargain.

Made an interesting comparison with Among Others and Some Kind of Fairytale later in the year.


Jan 17th finished A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd. Devastating.

Can’t add much more to that, it’s an essential read.

Jan 27th finished Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James. Exciting idea falls a little flat in execution.

I’m not much of a fan of mash-up fiction anyway, unless it’s in the capable hands of a Moore or a Newman, but Darcy and Elizabeth as crimesolvers was pretty bloody dreadful.

Feb 1st Finished Anne Billson on Film: collected columns from the Guardian 2009 by @AnneBillson. Buy on Smashwords for pennies, worth far more!

Yes, get this, and get all her other writing (and photos) too. Perceptive film columns and fun, rewarding fiction.

Feb 20th finished Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Hard-boiled SF, clever but very familiar.

Feb 21st finished The House at Midnight by Lucie Whitehouse. Ugh. Waste of time, try-hard tale of dullards.

I wanted something like The Secret History. Amazon lied to me. Rich kids playing in a fancy house plus a poorer outsider doth not a Donna Tartt make.

Feb 26th finished Osama by Lavie Tidhar. Interesting alt-universe noir. Melancholic, mysterious, confusing.

Impressive and imaginative, this was one I admired greatly, even if I didn’t totally enjoy it.

March 10th finished Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. A wonderful, sprawling, exuberant treat of a book.

I couldn’t wait for this after his debut, The Gone-Away World. An enormous amount of fun to read, despite thinking it could have been tightened up in places. Packed full of shiny ideas.


March 14th finished After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh. Well-written but ultimately too slight for me.

March 19th finished The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees. Imaginative, exuberant but somewhat underbaked.

A simulated war-zone filled with the most evil personalities from history? Interesting, and fast-paced, but the dialogue clunked in places and plot-holes gaped if you stopped to think for too long.


March 22nd finished Harmony by Project Itoh. Thought-provoking SF from late writer of Metal Gear novel.

March 24th finished Among Others by Jo Walton. Brilliant. A love story to SF, libraries & magic. Unmissable.

I was pleased to find this on the shortlist for the BFAs, and even more pleased to have a part in its winning the award for best fantasy novel.


March 28th finished Tales for a Dark Evening by @Grafire. An accomplished & broad selection. Over too quickly!

April 6th finished The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan. Oh yes! A great addition to fantasy. Exhilarating.

I’m a sucker for a gay hero and the plot kept me hooked. The Cold Commands is on my to-read list for 2013.

April 15th Finished Stonemouth by Iain Banks. Pretty unexciting and with a few slips (gameboy?). At least we have an ‘M’ to look forward to next.

Awards reading came next, with the shortlist announced at the beginning of May.  I refreshed my memory of the books I read last year – 11.22.63, A Dance with Dragons, The Ritual, The Heroes and moved on to the novellas and shorts, which I won’t include in this post. Then I started on the collections, graphic novels and remaining anthologies. 

May 18th Finished Rumours of the Marvellous by Peter Atkins.

May 29th Finished Mrs Midnight and Other Stories by Reggie Oliver.

June 1st Finished A Glass of Shadow by Liz Williams

June 6th Finished Cyber Circus by Kim Lakin-Smith

Unwritten vols 1-6

Batwoman vol 1

Animal Man vol 1

The Walking Dead vols 6-16

Gutshot edited by Conrad Williams

Everyone’s Just So So Special by Robert Shearman


On July 14th I got married and headed off to Mexico on the 17th, with one remaining awards nominee left to read – comprehensive anthology The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer


I steadily worked through this vast tome on my sun-lounger, interspersing its stories with the following books. I didn’t have great access to wifi so couldn’t tweet about most of these.    

Never Mind, Bad News and Some Hope by Edward St Aubyn

Better than the posh misery memoirs these sound like, they are a fascinating and darkly humorous account of the damage caused by a psychopath in a family and the resulting fallout and recovery.   


Zodiac by Neal Stephenson

An early Stephenson, this eco-thriller with a cooler-than-thou activist as its hero was a smart, diverting beach read.  

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 22 edited by Stephen Jones

An essential annual read for me.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

Clever idea, great setting. Ending fell a bit flat for me.

Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

I prefer Gaiman’s short fiction to his novels, this was a great collection, though I’d read many of the stories before, elsewhere.

The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross

An enjoyable geek wish-fulfillment riff on James Bond. With demons and the beyond, of course. 

Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson

A re-read, as I’m determined to finish the Baroque Cycle this time – last time I tried, the heft of the paperbacks inconvenienced me.

The Way of the Wizard edited by John Joseph Adams

Very enjoyable anthology, well worth a look.

Mother’s Milk by Edward St Aubyn. Ouch, another uncomfortable series of vignettes. Searing.

Sunnyside by Glen David Gold. One from Mexico. Shallower than it thinks it is.

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino. Another I read on the beach. Like a Columbo.

Sept 14th finished Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson. Same template as WWZ but robots are smarter adversaries.

It was almost shocking how closely this stuck to the World War Z pattern, but perhaps the inevitable film will prove to be better?


Sept 18th finished At Last by Edward St. Aubyn. A fitting end to the series. Or will we get any more?

Sept 19th finished The Minotaur by Barbara Vine. Interesting cast but predictable mystery, unnecessary coda.

Sept 23rd finished The Privileges by Jonathan Dee. The rich & bored cope with life. Hardly Fitzgerald.

Oct 3rd finished The Double Shadow by Sally Gardner. Original, but not as intriguing or affecting as hoped.

The ideas and images in this tale of a damaged 1920s girl trapped in a memory machine were right up my street, but the anachronistic dialogue and lack of depth to the characters made me struggle to care.


The City’s Son by Tom Pollock

I read this in hardback, thanks to an auction lot I won at a BFS Open Night of all Jo Fletcher Books titles for a year. Tom’s imagination and enthusiasm for writing shone through in this first volume of his YA fantasy trilogy. The characters are well-drawn, likable and believable.  I’d like to see what he can do away from the familiar London setting and conventions of the format, though.  


Pandemonium: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by Anne C Perry and Jared Shurin

An inspired anthology idea (stories of the apocalypse, influenced by the art of John Martin) with a lot of talented writers involved, but quite a lot of similarity to the stories.

Some Kind of Fairytale by Graham Joyce

Another hardback read. I love Graham Joyce’s prose and loved the idea and subject matter, there are some bravura set-pieces, but couldn’t quite get on with it as a whole. It seemed curiously adrift in time, particularly the flashbacks, it lacked a dramatic climax and the revelations disappointed me.  


The Big U by Neal Stephenson

Another early Stephenson, this deserves to be better known. Events in a corporate mega-university, very funny.

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre

A good palate-cleanser as an experiment, from a recommendation. Will read more.

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

More romantic fantasy from the author of one from last year’s list, The One Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. Emo gods fight and sulk and the poor soppy people who love them get caught in the middle, again.


The Bellwether Revivals by Jonathan Wood

Did The House at Midnight teach me nothing? Another failed attempt to find another Secret History.

Nov 24th finished Temeraire by Naomi Novik? Napoleonic war with dragons! Bloody hell, it is gloriously entertaining, finished in 1 sitting.

Talking about one particular scene in this still brings me to tears. Probably my favourite discovery of the year.


A Sincere Warning About the Entity in Your Home by Jason Arnopp

Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett

Carnivale is one of my favourite tv programmes and this conjures up that depression-era, battle between good and evil vibe. Hard for me to say too much about this without spoiling it, I grew to hate it for its inevitability, but eventually respected it for its ultimate feeling of rightness.


30th Dec finished Sea of Ghosts by Alan Campbell. The world reminded me (in a good way) of Final Fantasy VII. Mysterious ancient tech and sea zombies.

Several things I loved about this – grizzled cigar-chomping badass of a hero, psychic witches, a properly nasty baddie, a world with a wealth of intriguing history, oh, and did I mention the mysterious ancient tech? Another interesting discovery, which has persuaded me that I have to go back and read his earlier trilogy.


31st Dec finished The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan. Sad tale of magical sex trafficking.

A great one to finish the year on. The selkie legend is one which has always interested and disturbed me, the seals who become women and are trapped in marriage with the theft of their seal-skin. A deep sadness settled over me while reading this, for the dysfunctional Rollrock community, the unhappy and exploited seal women, the men bewitched by them but conspiring to possess their beauty and compliance, the smart, clever women spurned for their human looks and for knowing their own minds, the bitter but deeply hurt wise woman, and the seals’ sons, trapped between sea and land. I would have liked to have read a section from the point of view of one of the selkies, but there was so much here to impress me already. I hope to see this high on awards lists next year.      

Other comics I caught up with this year: Vol 5 of Locke & Key, Blacksad – which I cannot recommend highly enough -, Hellblazer Vols 1 & 2, Stray Toasters, The Hive, American Vampire Vols 1-4 , and Grandville Mon Amour. 

So, that’s my 2012 in books, 59 ignoring the comics.  On my list for next year I’ve already got Iain M Banks’s The Hydrogen Sonata, Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country, a couple by Sarah Pinborough, more Temeraire, Yellowcake, another Margo Lanagan short story collection, more Richard Morgan. Anything I’m leaving off? I’d love your recommendations.


Devourer of Words: 2011 in Books

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 31, 2011 by Esther Sherman

In case you weren’t aware, I read a lot. I’ve been tweeting my reads for most of this past year, so decided it would be interesting to look back over these books, and flesh out my brief thoughts from the time. I wondered if some books I’d dismissed as slight might have stuck with me, or if those I thought weighty had become pompous and self-important on reflection.

When I got my kindle for my birthday in November 2010, one of the added benefits I saw was the ability to keep track of what I’d read. I did tweet a little about my reading list, but this didn’t really take off until Amazon launched the facility to tweet that you’d finished a book, and then I became an obsessive. I have an idea about what books I may have read in Jan, Feb and March 2011, but these might also have been from November or December 2010.

The best books I read that might be missing from my Jan – March tweets include: The Observations by Jane Harris, The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, A Game of Thrones by G.R.R. Martin, Ghosts and Other Lovers and My Pathology, both excellent short story collections by Lisa Tuttle, The Mount by Carol Emshwiller, Black Juice and Red Spikes, both collections from Margo Lanagan, With Deepest Sympathy by Johnny Mains, The Dervish House by Ian McDonald, The Silent Land by Graham Joyce and The Children’s Book by AS Byatt.

I only tweeted about two:

Jan 4th: finished Datlow’s Poe anthology earlier than expected, as I’d read the last two already. Feels like someone ate the last chocolate.


I love Ellen Datlow’s themed anthologies. This was a strong one, influenced by Edgar Allen Poe, but by the time I came to it I’d already read several of the stories in other un-themed (I think ‘best of year’) anthologies, so good as they were, I was disappointed. With short story collections or anthologies, I like to dip in and out between novels, so it can take me ages to finish them. I started this when we were visiting Prague at the end of November 2010, and particularly remember reading this on the train journey to and from the ossuary, where quite appropriately we saw big rats at the station.

Feb 24th: finished reading Harvest Home – interesting comparison to The Wicker Man, published after WM filmed but before release. Nastier ending IMHO.


Really enjoyed this 1973 Thomas Tryon horror, with a nice New York family relocating to a farming village and discovering nasty pagan fertility rituals. I’ve still not seen the TV version with Bette Davis, it seems rather hard to find, but it would benefit from a re-film.

Once kindle’s ‘tweet when you’ve finished’ button was launched in March, there was no stopping me…

Mar 20th: finished Inverted World by Christopher Priest. Intriguing, thought-provoking and imaginative.


Fascinating SF about a world where the city travels by rail, constantly trying to stay in the steadily-moving optimum place to avoid distortions in space and time. A young man is sent out to explore, to help in planning the rail ahead.

Mar 22nd: finished Son of Heaven by David Wingrove. Will try vol 2 of Chung Kuo but not altogether convinced.

David Wingrove’s eight volume SF epic is being re-written and re-released (hopefully with a better ending as I heard that was a stinker) so decided to give it a go. My reservations stem from the main hero of this prequel being an investment banker or some type of trader, and the whole premise being that evil Chinese take over the world and form some neo-dynastic empire. Oh, and the evil Chinese are Fu Manchu-style evil…

Mar 22nd: finished White Time, another wonderful collection from @margolanagan

I cannot recommend Margo Lanagan highly enough. I’m a big fan of Angela Carter and Margo is cut from the same cloth. I would say her stories have been one of my greatest pleasures this year. I’m very sad that her newest volume, Yellow Cake, isn’t yet available in the UK.

Mar 26th: finished Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie. Brutal & unpredictably moving. On to book 3!


I love love love Joe Abercrombie. His books are a glorious antidote to the more serious fantasy epics. I read a lot of his books this year.

Mar 27th: finished The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. Absorbing family history, linked by netsuke.


I’ve got a bit of a thing for netsuke (small Japanese carvings which were used a bit like toggles, for keeping one’s moneybox attached to one’s sash) and I can spend far too much time looking at the collection in the V&A museum. My only regret about reading this on kindle was that there’s now a beautiful fully-illustrated hardback…

Apr 5th: finished Slightly Behind and to the Left (Conversation Pieces) by Claire Light. Strange & disturbing.

I often find book recommendations on io9, particularly when they publish a round-up of the year, and this was one of those. A slim volume of short stories, one of which tackled what women would do if all men started dying in their mid teens. Odd.

Apr 9th: finished Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie. Wow. That is all.

Not much more to say.

Apr 11th: finished Holloway Falls by Neil Cross. Too many coincidences, sub-Barbara Vine thriller.

Took a chance on this as the premise seemed interesting – family man fakes his death – but no. It was rotten.

Apr 13th: finished Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. Can’t praise it highly enough.

ImageAn abused girl and her children take refuge in a fairytale world. Having thought about it since I’m not totally satisfied with the ending.

Apr 17th: finished Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Not one of my favourites.

My abiding memory of reading this is of moaning about it to my best friend while smoking outside the Florist pub during a break in the film quiz. I may sounds like a total philistine, but the main character is a lazy, boring douchebag, with no redeeming features, and everyone bends over backwards to help him. I read it because I felt I should. Bad idea!

Apr 19th: finished The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo. Exciting, satisfying, but not wholly convincing.

These Scandinavian crime thriller are my guilty pleasure.

Apr 23rd: finished A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. Can’t wait to read the next book.

I’d always thought of giving this series a go, but was put off by the investment – I hate buying hefty books which I hate but then have to finish, I made that mistake with Peter F Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn Trilogy. Reading about the great casting of the TV series, and the ease of sampling books on kindle both sucked me in.

Apr 25th: finished The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Bewitched, beguiled and bewildered.


Another situation where the programme looked like it would be interesting, so I raced to read the book before seeing it. I do that a lot.

Apr 30th: finished A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin. Many twists and turns & exciting events.

May 2nd: finished The Centauri Device by M. John Harrison. Disappointingly dense, a hard slog.

I’d been recommended Light, by the same author, but as that’s not available on kindle I plumped for this. Ouch.

May 3rd: finished The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories by Michel Faber. Most welcome, but still want more Agnes.

May 9th: finished The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. Lots of twists, exciting & pacy.

Sometimes I hate myself for the blah-ness of my opinions. Like here.

May 12th: finished This is Not a Game: You Don’t Get a Second Life by Walter Jon Williams. Fun, unchallenging.

ARG creator get trapped in country undergoing political unrest, recruits gamers to help her.

May 18th: finished The Book with No Name by Anonymous. Hmm. Constant references date it. Maybe fun for teens.

I still want to know who wrote this! Definitely not an American, but a big Tarantino fan…

May 20th: finished Year’s Best SF 14 by David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer. A good mix, loved the Swanwick.

This had one of the funniest reviews on Amazon, I just had to read it.

May 20th: finished Stories by Al Sarrantonio & Neil Gaiman. Standouts from Lansdale, Joe Hill, Wynne Jones.

I had a problem with a few of these, as they suffered from ‘lit writer slumming’ syndrome – used tired genre tropes as though they’d invented them. But the three mentioned above, as well as Gaiman’s, were brilliant and worth it.

May 23rd: finished Them by Jon Ronson. Made me laugh even more than Goats. Looking forward to Psychopath Test.

May 24th: finished Feed by Mira Grant. Well-thought-out tale of media in post-zombie world. I cried. Awesome!

Haven’t yet got round to reading the sequel, but it’s on my list for next year.

May 25th: finished The Language of Dying by @SarahPinborough. Devastating, brilliantly written award-winning novella.

I’ve always got time for Sarah, she’s intimidatingly talented, and this is a great example of how powerful her prose can be. Words wielded to devastating effect.

May 30th: finished Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. A great cast of violent and untrustworthy bastards.

Jun 2nd: finished Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente. Beautiful, ambitious & I loved the main idea, but couldn’t connect w characters.


A dream city as STD? Love it! But overly flowery language and an obtuse plot.

Jun 5th: finished A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough, just in time for the next! Looking forward to it.

Mmmm. Gritty, slightly supernatural, sort-of futuristic sort-of crime, yes please. I have bought the sequel, but it’s still on my TBR pile for next year.

Jun 6th: finished Yellow Blue Tibia by @arrroberts. Charming, playful & inventive. A welcome distraction.

Adam Roberts is a very clever man, if his puns on twitter make me groan out load, and this tale of cold war SF writers sewing seeds for the future had me hooked.

Jun 8th: finished The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman. Like her last gig in London, it was light on material and I’d heard/read most of it before.

Jun 10th: finished Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. A mixture of everything you’d want in a humorous urban fantasy thriller – laughs & thrills.

ImageA few unnecessary complications, and some predictable twists, but still a rollicking adventure.

Jun 12th: finished How to Make Friends with Demons by the ever-impressive @Grafire. Wondering if the London pubs listed actually exist. Crawl?

Graham Joyce is one of my favourite writers, and this was very enjoyable, even if I have pretty much forgotten the plot by now. Would still love to try the pub crawl.

Jun 15th: finished Land at the End of the Working Day by Peter Crowther. Interesting exercise, very believable location and characters.

Couldn’t really get excited by this. Several stories connected by a bar, a bit of a supernatural Cheers, if you will.

Jun 17th: finished A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin. Very glad I don’t have to wait too long.

Westeros descended further into anarchy, and I missed my favourite characters.

Jun 18th: finished The World House by Guy Adams. Fun, fast-paced and with some great ideas, but think it would have worked better as a YA.

Boisterous and with some lovely imagery. Will try the follow-up at some point.

Jun 21st: finished Peter Bagge’s Other Lives last night, which made me howl. The ‘Second World’ stuff was brilliant. Such horrid characters.

ImageI can’t get enough of Peter Bagge’s despicable characters.

Jun 23rd: finished Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt. Liked some of the ideas, but writing was nearly impenetrable and main characters uninteresting.

Jun 24th: finished The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia. Beautiful, heartbreaking.

ImageA bit girly for me, this one, the tale of a clockwork girl in thrall to her reserved creator, but I was won over.

Jun 26th: finished Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovich. Charming, funny, lives up to Rivers, wonder how long he will take to bring us another.

Jun 27th: finished Solar by Ian McEwan. One third farce, two thirds regurgitated research. Did make me laugh.

Had the cheek to include the ‘Stolen Biscuits’ story, then point out this is urban legend.

Jun 28th: finished Digital Domains, ed by @EllenDatlow. Well worth 70p, esp the @annodracula story!

I wish more of Ellen Datlow’s anthologies were available on kindle, particularly the Year’s Best Horror ones. This was a nice little sample, and the short story by Kim Newman referred to above is a lovely homage to retro futurist utopias a la Futureworld.

Jun 28th: finished Embassytown by China Mieville. Absolutely brilliant, exhibit A for SF being about ‘ideas’. Embarrassed myself on train (crying).

ImageMy book of the year. Read this on trip to Scotland and cried on the train to Glasgow.

Jun 29th: finished Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. A ripping yarn, rattles along at pace, loads of fun.

Jul 4th: finished Finch by Jeff VanderMeer, well worth taking the time over. Weird fantasy noir, must read more.

ImageOne of my discoveries this year. World has been invaded by mushroom people from below. Very yucky, I could almost smell the damp and mildew. Alas the Amazon edition is quite unreadable, riddled with typos.

Jul 6th: finished How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. Brain hurts, it’s melty.

Short but weighty tale of time-traveller trying to get closer to his father.

Jul 10th: finished The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht. Seemed calculated. Inferior to Carter or Lanagan.

I still can’t believe this won the Orange prize. Oh well, prizes, schmizes as they say. Unspecific Slavic-set roadtrip tale, mingled with folktales.

Jul 16th: finished A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin. Augh! What a place to leave it. So sad.

Jul 17th: finished Moxyland by Lauren Beukes. Loads of interesting & topical ideas, but lacking in real people.

I was disappointed, as I’d read good things about Zoo City, and this was going cheap. Will give the other a try, still.

Jul 21st: finished The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie. This time it’s war! A very welcome return to the North. Whirrun of Bligh invents a cheese-trap.

A tie with Embassytown, I think, for my book of the year.

Jul 22nd: finished Anticopernicus by @arrroberts, short but sweet, satisfying & thought-provoking. Recommended.

Jul 23rd: finished Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory. Alt-world where superhero-like ‘possessions’ have been disrupting life since 1950s.

ImageAnother discovery of the year. Reminiscent at times of Peter Milligan comic Enigma. Definitely top 10.

Jul 27th: finished The Holy Machine (Cosmos 1) by Chris Beckett. Interesting attempt, ultimately unsatisfying.

I was being diplomatic here.

Jul 30th: finished Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. Could write a book on why I’m so unimpressed.

But I won’t.

Aug 4th: finished The Girl on the Landing by Paul Torday. Bit predictable but still engrossing & creepy.

Really stayed with me. I’ve read criticisms of the depiction of mental illness, but as a story it was involving.

Aug 5th: finished The Reapers Are the Angels by Alden Bell. Unrealistic in places (harsh of me) but beautiful, exciting, sad poetry.

ImageI said harsh of me, as it is a post-zompoc book, so you’re having to suspend disbelief anyway, but some facts and behaviour seemed a bit off. However, it was still pretty wonderful.

Aug 7th: finished Black Wings ed. ST Joshi, mixed Lovecraft-inspired bag. Preferred Lovecraft Unbound, but @ememess tale Substitution was superb.

Michael Marshall Smith wrote one of my favourite shorts of 2010 (What Happens When You Wake Up in the Night) and his story here is brilliant. Plaudits also to Ramsey Campbell, who raised a wry smile with a well-observed tale of literary correspondence gone bad, internet nutter-style.

Aug 9th: finished The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by @nkjemisin. Bit romantic for my tastes but imaginative.

ImageGreat world-building, a big exciting original fantasy with echoes of Zelazny’s Lord of Light and another Pete Milligan comic, Egypt. The heroine swooned a lot, though.

Aug 17th: finished The Sad Tale of the Bros Grossbart. Tried hard to be amoral, offensive & unlikeable, found it a little dull, predictable & meh.

I don’t like the word ‘meh’, but it was a good description of how I felt. Barely redeemed nastiness. I laughed a few times.

Aug 21st: finished The Psychopath Test by @jonronson. Entertaining as usual. Also: are we all a bit psycho?

Aug 26th: finished Echo City by Tim Lebbon. World-building reminiscent of Mieville, but lacking soul.

On reflection, it was harsh of me to say this lacked soul. Much of the imagery was amazing, and the world was wholly believable and fascinating, but I couldn’t get worked up over the characters’ religious disagreements, unlike say, the relatable and valid political struggles which affect denizens of Mieville’s Bas-Lag.

Aug 30th: finished The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers. Interesting but fairly simplistic YA.

Booker longlisted, probably for ‘topical’, controversial subject – women get BSE-type illness when they become pregnant.

Sept 2nd: finished Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. Darker than her debut, it’s a disturbing, absorbing treat.

Deliciously wicked tale of fandom and obsession. I loved The Observations, and this was a great follow-up.

Sept 6th: finished The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Bret Easton Ellis V Narnia/HP. Fun if you can take the emo.

ImageQuentin’s infuriating, but, ah, how I love Brakebills Academy and the Narnia references.

Sept 11th: finished Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. Scary, sweet & exciting YA adventure, plausible future.

I enjoyed The Windup Girl, and this, set in the same world, was that good, plus hope.

Sept 13th: finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Too much tell, idea better than execution, still fun tho.

Everyone’s going a bit crazy for this right now, but it would have been 25% shorter without all the goddamn explanations of what a modem was.

Sept 16th: finished The Devil’s Alphabet by Daryl Gregory. Can’t believe the sole, negative amazon review. Loved it. He’s an awesome writer.

I’ll say it again, he’s an awesome writer.

Sept 21st: finished The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Tries hard, v pretty but disappointingly unaffecting.

ImageProbably my biggest disappointment of the year. I love circuses, I love night-time, I love magic. It’s got a really pretty cover and lovely pretty words. What went wrong? I never felt anything was at stake and the star-crossed lovers were dull.

Sept 24th: finished Role Models by John Waters. Fascinating eclectic ramble through mind of brilliant oddball.


Oct 5th: finished Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré. Unforgettable & captivating shades of grey.

I read this just before seeing the film, and perhaps its freshness in my mind spoilt the film for me slightly. The precipitating episode in Prague jumped off the page when set in woodland, but didn’t pop for me when I saw it occur outside an arcade cafe. I particularly love Smiley’s final confrontation with [redacted], and found it lacking on screen.

Oct 9th: finished The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 17 by Stephen Jones. Standouts: A Nevill & E Massie.

Oct 9th: finished Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld. Jolly yarn of a YA steampunk/Darwinist WWI adventure.

Oct 10th: finished Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham. Powerful classic of carny life, the real deal.

ImageI read three circus books this year, and this 1946 classic was a good one. Definitely an influence on Carnivale. I must see the 1947 film.

Oct 12th: finished The Double-Edged Sword by Sarah Silverwood. Fresh, unpredictable YA fantasy. Must read on!

ImageThat makes it the second time I’ve done that to Sarah Pinborough aka Silverwood this year. Her books are so readable and exciting, whether gritty adult supernatural crime or lively YA fantasy. I have bought the sequels to both A Matter of Blood and The Double-Edged Sword, but haven’t yet got around to either. On my TBR list for 2012, which I’ll probably post up on New Year’s Day.

Oct 15th: finished The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe. How things have changed, and yet still stay the same.

This 1958 classic covering the exploits of a few young working women in New York made me wince – at the awful sexism documented and the female sappiness sometimes demonstrated, and also at seeing my own foolish teenage behaviour reflected. Interesting contemporary female perspective on the world of Mad Men.

Oct 17th: finished The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by @Kermodemovie. Valuable points, entertainingly put.

If only they could make Kermode ‘Cinema Tzar’, he’d crack down on talkers, phone users, bad projectors, etc.

Oct 19th: finished The Magician King by Lev Grossman. Lots of Julia, more magic & some growing up.

Quentin continued being an emo arse, but my Brakebills obsession increased unabated.

Oct 23rd: finished The Leopard by Jo Nesbo. Exciting, improbable, but still satisfying like comfort food.

Nov 6th: finished Reamde: A Novel by Neal Stephenson. A very enjoyable thriller, no more & no less.

ImageThis was a whopper, but the biggest, most delicious hamburger ever. I’m still suspicious about the excessive Camelbak references, though.

Nov 6th: finished Best New Horror 18 by Stephen Jones, standouts by Nicholas Royle & @lyndaerucker.

Nicholas Royle’s story Continuity Error was one of the highlights of London:A City of Disappearances, so it was lovely to re-read it in this anthology. Lynda Rucker’s The Last Reel is absolutely terrifying.

Nov 8th: finished Crackpot by John Waters. Another great rampage through his loves & hates.

Nov 12th: finished 11.22.63 by Stephen King. Ouch, my eyes hurt from crying. Wonderful, heartbreaking.

ImageAnother one for the top 10 of the year.

Nov 14th: finished The Mill by @MarkEWest. Bold mix of real and supernatural horror, often difficult to pull off, but well-handled in this case.

Nov 17th: finished A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. Shallowness masquerading as insight. Okay.

I’ve seen this on a lot of best of year lists, and I had a bit of a moan about it at the time, which I won’t reprint… Emperor’s New Clothes for me.

Nov 19th: finished Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones. Magical in every sense. Truly charming.

I cried when I read Neil Gaiman’s news on twitter that Diana Wynne Jones had died on 26th March. She was one of the first children’s fantasy authors that I felt I’d discovered by myself, who hadn’t been recommended to me by adults. Charmed Life was the first of her books that I read, and my sister and I then read everything of hers we could find. Time of the Ghost is my favourite, she really understood girls and their family relationships, and you could tell she was writing from experience. I’m amazed she hasn’t been adapted more. This relatively recent book was a joy. Diana Wynne Jones RIP.

ImageNov 23rd: finished A Dark Matter by Peter Straub. Vivid imagery but disappointingly muddled & meandering.

Nov 27th: finished The Ritual by Adam Nevill. Harsh, brutal & terrifying. Also believable. I recommend. Would love to see it filmed.

ImageDefinite year’s top 10.

Nov 27th: finished Peter Bagge’s Apocalypse Nerd – foul & funny.

Nov 28th: finished Jenny Finn: Doom Messiah. Interesting story, lovely art from Troy Nixey, though he was missed in the last part & story went awry.

ImageDec 6th: finished House of Fear ed Jonathan Oliver. Solid collection, highly recommended.

Dec 7th: finished The Limits of Enchantment by @Grafire. Beautiful book by one of my favourite writers, can’t recommend him highly enough.

ImageAnother instant classic from Graham Joyce. Old magic and folklore meets the 60s.

Dec 8th: finished Smoking Poppy by @Grafire, I liked it. That makes 3 climactic drug experiences (Tooth Fairy & LoE), what’s he trying to tell us 😛

Dec 20th: finished Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine. Worthwhile & rewarding.

ImageThe third circus book I read this year, this was a beautiful tale of a circus of modified performers and their struggle with ‘The Government Man’ in some unspecified, possibly Eastern European post-apocalyptic land.

Dec 31st: Finished Sandman Slim: A Novel by Richard Kadrey. A hell of a read to finish the year on.

So, there you go. 92 since March 20th. Will I beat that next year? Certainly.

Please let me know what you thought… Did you agree or disagree? I’d love recommendations for my 2012 pile.

A penitent returns

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2010 by Esther Sherman

Oh dear, I’ve been neglectful for the summer.

The culprit? Me and my slackness, mainly, but also:

Tattoo: big octopus on hip, 6.5 hours of, so far, 1.5ish to go. Chris at Into You tattoo has done a great job, it’s sinuous, suckered and sensational.  Tasteful (ie non-nude, yo!) photos to follow in November, once it’s finished.

FrightFest: 20 horror films over 4.5 days at the Empire in  London at the end of August.  Nothing totally blew me away but my highlights were Amer, Primal, The Dead, Monsters, Dream Home and Bedevilled. I had so much fun I’m doing it again on Halloween at the FrightFest allnighter, 7 films between 6pm and 8am!

British Fantasy Society FantasyCon: the first time I have attended this annual celebration of horror, scifi and fantasy literature. An exhausting, but thoroughly enjoyable event, I can away laden down with many free books, a lengthy reading list, many lovely new friends and a long-coveted Ame-Comi Wonder Woman figure.



I was also thrilled the find out that one of my favourite books, Richard Calder’s Dead Girls is being transformed into graphic format within the magazine Murky Depths.  Also, watch this space, as FantasyCon 2011 will be in Brighton and there’s no chance I’ll let the opportunity pass to stage a genre-themed burlesque night… The Barbarian Queen will ride again!

The usual suspects: work (promotion and two new staff), TV (The Hills may have finished, but Jersey Shore and The City continue, alas), games (Phoenix Wright, Miles Edgeworth and Picross 3D) and last but not least, books (recently, more of The Hunger Games, exploits of Locke Lamora and tales from Bas-Lag), continue to steal my time.

So.  Three promises to myself – to write more here, to get back to my short stories (I have four on the backburner to put some more heat under – changeling as foreign exchange student, how Damien’s nanny came to that point, a Guardian-reading village’s ‘healing dance therapist’ meddling with evil forces and the old power behind a modern financial services company) and to start skating again. A few of my friends have taken up roller derby and I can’t resist getting back on my wheels.  A bit like this…

And, as it’s now autumn, and so we must be ‘snug in leather trenchcoats, braving braver skies’, here’s the late Billy MacKenzie with my favourite Associates song:





FrightFest and Tattoos

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by Esther Sherman

Oops, I’ve been a bit lax.  To be more precise, I’ve been ridiculously busy with work, as I’ve been reorganising my department and recruiting two new staff members, and in the evenings I’ve been so knackered that the most I can do is lie on the couch and watch Farscape marathons.

I did manage to find time to book my next tattoo for the end of July.  It will be my first proper tattoo for about four years (the stars on my feet from last year don’t really count) and I’m getting pretty excited. I decided to go to Into You as I’ve heard good things about them (also, Woody, who did my first few tattoos now works for them, although he’s booked up until forever) so I’ve got Chris Higgins booked, he seemed interested to work up a design for me.  I’m planning to get an octopus, stretching from my left buttock up my left side and ribs, and I’ve been assured it will be pretty painful.  The longest sitting I’ve had before was two and a half hours for the archaeopteryx on my back, and at four hours for the first session (should be about ten hours in total) it’ll be a challenge, but I like the endurance aspect of it.

Fascinating octopus webcam here

I also managed to book weekend passes for FrightFest at the end of August, which was no mean feat given the stupidity of the Empire Cinema booking system – you can select seats, but they aren’t reserved while you enter your payment details, meaning that if someone books them while you are doing so, you have to go back, choose other seats and input payment details all over again.

The line-up looks interesting, though there are a few too many torture or home invasion and not enough scary supernatural pics for my liking, and I’ve been trying to decide what I’m going to see.  I’ll be staying up in London for the weekend and I’m really looking forward to four and a half days of horror films. I’ll try and see as many as I can, but I’m torn between several on the main screen and the second screen.  I’m hoping some friends might come up and join us for a film or two and lunch or dinner at one of our many fave restaurants around the area…

So far my top ten awaited, in no particular order, are:

Finale – homage to 60s and 70s Italian horror, with a ‘demonic soul collector’ as the baddie, I can’t resist it!

Amer – Giallo homage which as a fan of gialli, I am keen to see.

The Dead – Zombie film set in Africa.

Monsters – Intriguing-sounding post-apocalyptic road movie.

Red Hill – ‘Horror western’ which has been compared to Assault on Precinct 13 and No Country for Old Men.

Kaboom – Greg Araki does a ‘mix of Buffy, Twin Peaks and Donnie Darko’. If it’s halfway as good as that sounds I’ll be happy.

The Last Exorcism – Docu-style account of an exorcism.  I might wet myself if this is as scary as the poster looks.

We Are What We Are –  Mexican ‘Let The Right One In’ for cannibals.

Christopher Roth – Switchblade Romance and Crazies cinematographer directs.

Dream Home –  Gore-soaked Hong Kong satirical slasher.

The most controversial film of the festival is certain to be ‘A Serbian Film’, reputed to be the most horrible film ever (can’t wait till the Daily Mail finds out about it, they really will have heart attacks), so I’ll decide closer to the time if I’ve the stomach or the inclination to see it. ‘Red White and Blue’ has had good reviews so I might give that a go, though the subject matter (emotionally damaged promiscuity in Austin, Texas) isn’t really grabbing me. Andy Nyman’s film quiz should be lots of fun.  One film I will almost certainly be skipping is ‘Dead Cert’, a Danny Dyer/Craig Fairbrass/Dexter Fletcher-starring ‘Brit gangsters vs Vampires’ geezer flick, which sounds like everything rubbish under the sun…

So, I’m off to Scotland for a long weekend and wedding in a castle, I’ve got Picross 3D for the DS to keep me busy, but I’ll take some books and try to get some writing done as well.

Hellbound Hearts, White-haired Stunt Riders and Giant Eyes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2010 by Esther Sherman

Well, that was a long break from the blog.  I’ve been very busy with work, as we’re taking on two trainee underwriters for my department, so it’s been quite a steep learning curve for me, as I’ve never been involved in recruitment before, except as a recruitee.  I have to say it’s much easier on the other side of the table, and I’ve rather enjoyed it so far.  It has really made me think about the qualities a good underwriter should possess, and I’m interested to see whether the the test I’ve cooked up for the second stage reveals these.

Aside from all this work-related distraction, I’ve been watching Farscape again and have just finished season one.  It has been nice to start again from the beginning, and it surprised me how much of the first season I missed the first time around.  The puppetry and makeup fx still stands up very well, and has dated a lot less than CGI used in similar programmes from the same time, and after the seriousness of BSG, it’s fun to watch sci fi which incorporates so much humour.  Also, Scorpius is one of the all-time best sci fi villains ever.

I’ve been reading as well, instead of writing, and made my way through ‘Looking for Jake and Other Stories’, China Mieville’s collection, which had a few absolute gems and only a couple of duds.  I’m now about halfway through ‘Hellbound Hearts’, a collection of stories inspired by Clive Barker’s Hellraiser ‘mythos’, which we’ve had sitting on the shelves for a while.  The BFS Awards nomination for Sarah Pinborough’s ‘The Confessor’s Tale’, included in that volume, was what prompted me to start it, and so far it has been a lot of fun, particularly SP’s, Tim Lebbon’s and Kelley Armstrong’s entries, thankfully not too Pinhead-centric, although a couple have followed the predictable ‘person does bad things, gets taken by The Box’ plotline. While not wishing to single anyone out for criticism, Mick Garris’s ‘Hellbound Hollywood’ was, um, interesting in a ‘Bad Sex Awards’ way, and possibly could have used more rigorous editing (I’m not sure that the past tense of ‘bode’  as in ‘bode well’ is ‘bade’). We’ll see what the second half brings, but so far, greatly recommended.

Finally, a plea for help! I’m trying to track down a horror comic which I read in the early 80s, which imprinted myself in my mind as the first story I read with Lovecraftian themes, although I don’t believe it stated its influences explicitly.  It was most likely a DC title, could have been The Witching Hour or Unexpected.  The story concerned a white-haired stunt motorcyclist, who ‘knew no fear’ and performed in a carnival in ‘wall of death’-type shows. A female stunt rider is attracted to him, and when they marry, he takes her back to his ancestral home to explain the cause of his white hair and fearlessness.  He explains, as they go down to the basement, that he inherited this house, and on exploring the basement, discovered part of some vast amorphous being down there, with ONE GIANT EYE!  His hair went white from the shock, as does hers on seeing this also, and thereafter they perform together in his act. I think that possibly the eye was closed, and there was the terror that one day it would awaken, open the eye and try to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!  Anyway, if anyone else has read this or knows more about it I’d love to know more…

New project, financial services and strange buildings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 28, 2010 by Esther Sherman

Now that ‘The Sea Cure’ has been sent out to dance, I am moving on, to distract myself from wondering if my poor zombie hooker will manage to pick someone (something?) up.

I started a new short story today, provisionally titled ‘The Under Writing’, just over 1000 words so far, skeleton done, which is the hardest part for me and is the reason why I haven’t written very many stories so far. I like to have the whole thing mapped out before I start it properly, as I’ve got a very short attention span when writing, and like to be able to skip to a more interesting bit when I get bored.  Writing stories longhand when I was a teenager was always a chore, as I’d start, get bored, leave a few blank pages, then start a more exciting bit, then go back later and try to join them up, which resulted in annoyingly uneven plots. I’m far too lazy to rewrite longhand as copying out huge chunks is frustrating.  If it wasn’t for computers, I’d never get anything finished.

Despite the title, it’s not about my job. Really.

An ex-colleague of mine once helped to clear out some old offices at the company we both worked at, and found loads of ancient personnel files from the 70s. These included old passport photos, and these were so interesting that he decided to keep them and stuck them on a board.  He showed these to me and they were fascinating – not just for the typically hilarious 70s hairstyles, glasses frames and shirt collars but because every single one of them looked like either a serial killer, child molester or cult member.  They were actually travelling salesmen (there was one woman, and she looked like Rose West) of financial products, mainly mortgages and endowments, so not far off.  This, combined with the enormous tomes of old rules and guidelines for legacy products opened up decades before, got me thinking about how any really old company, even one with a fresh modern name and rebrand can have archaic mechanics working behind the scenes and skeletons in its closets.  When a current colleague asked me if we could ‘make a customer iller’ as we were trying to win the business, that was the final piece of the puzzle.

My answer, by the way, was ‘If you like, we could send him an envelope of anthrax, but I don’t think it would be legal.’

Lawyers get a bad rap (remember Wolfram & Hart and The Devil’s Advocate), but financial services?  I remember one tv advert for an insurance company where they’d made the interesting choice of portraying a patient having blood drawn, then the syringe morphed into a pen, which a person then used to sign their name.  I wonder if I was the only one who thought that this wasn’t perhaps the best idea to plant in customers’ heads.

At my current company, we have a series of recent print ads hanging in our offices in which several pensioners threaten violence towards their IFAs unless our company is considered for a quote.

Brighton’s Unusual Buildings

© Copyright Simon Carey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Because I need to stop talking about financial services, before I spoil my story completely, this is a picture of a derelict building near to my house.  I don’t know what it was before it was vacated (before I moved to Brighton so at least ten years ago), and the pictures you can see on the windows are really quite creepy.  There were travellers staying on the surrounding wastegrounds, but they were evicted a couple of years ago and a big fence erected, and workmen started clearing the building.  After a while though, the workmen disappeared, and caravans arrived again, though the big fence is still there and the gate looks like it is securely locked, so it’s a mystery how the travellers got them in.

If anyone knows about unusual buildings in Brighton, I’d be interested to find out about 18 Marlborough Street. You can find it on google streetview at postcode BN1 3EE.  It has four tinted, stained glass windows with card suits on them, two stained glass doors onto a central balcony with a cocktail glass on one and a pentagram on the other and ornate embossed wooden main and garage doors.  From google earth it looks like it has a glass roof over the centre of the building.  I’d like to think it’s the headquarters of some cult or a location for filming satanic porn films.  Maybe Caroline Lucas MP would know, apparently she lives in the same street.

Stories Which Scare Me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2010 by Esther Sherman

‘The Sea Cure’ is pretty much finished, though I’m waiting for some more feedback before I send it off anywhere.

Stories Which Scare Me: Part One

I thought it might be an interesting exercise to look back over stories which have scared me throughout my life, and have a think about why.  I’ll try to keep these free of major spoilers, though where pivotal plot points were the main scare, these may be unavoidable.

So, my first story is ‘Nule’, by Jan Mark, which I read in the puffin books collection ‘Nothing to Be Afraid Of’.

The story is a very short, simple one, concerning a family who move into an old house, which among several antique features, has a newel post at the bottom of the stairs – a tall ornate post which supports the banisters, with a large ball on top.  Libby, the daughter, puts a medieval hat on the post and jokes that it’s a person, like a ‘Lady Nule Post’.  Somehow, it amasses other accoutrements, such as a dress and shoes, and members of the family start mistaking it for a real person in the dark of the hallway. Martin, the younger son, finds it disturbing, and then one night he wakes to hear creaks on the stairs and gets up to find out what’s going on…

Not much really happens in the story, there’s no gore or confrontation, but the suggestion of what is happening at night, of an inanimate object given life by imaginings – of that horrible, round smooth face! – gave me terrible nightmares.  As a short-sighted child for whom the world was a bit of a blur, I was always seeing something scary in ordinary things – a dressing-gown on the back of the door as a vampire, etc – and the idea that they could come to life and come after you was terrifying.  There is one illustration – of Nule herself, and it’s very creepy, reminiscent of the faceless man in Sapphire & Steel.

It also harks back to E. Nesbit’s ‘Man-size in Marble’, a classic chiller which I was recently pleased to see referenced in the programme for Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s ‘Ghost Stories’, which you can read here.

I hadn’t read ‘Nule’ since I was a child, so managed to work out what it was called, and got a copy of the book for £2.75 from amazon, and it’s just as creepy.  The other stories are also very good, but none of them stuck in my mind quite like ‘Nule’.