Thursday, 31 May 2012

Meme, Myself and I | All About the Books

Timely as ever, I picked up this age-old meme from the Strange Chemistry blog, where Amanda has been having the new imprint's authors answer a couple bookish questions to give her readers a better sense of her writers.

From whence it came originally... I haven't the foggiest. Sorry!


1) One Book That Changed My Life

As tempted as I am to say The Scar by China Mieville, because it was the book that finally sold me on speculative fiction, or latterly Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay, because it, in turn, was the on that I had to start a blog to talk about... no. These are the answers you'd expect if you've been reading The Speculative Scotsman for any length of time; they would expose nothing new about who I am or what made me me, and if memes like this have a saving grace, it's that.

So I'm going to go back a bit further. 

I'm going to go all the way back, in fact, to a book that my Mum read aloud to me, chapter by chapter, for a period of some months when I was very, very young. When she'd finished it, I went right back to the start on my lonesome. The Neverending Story by Michael Ende didn't strictly speaking teach me how to read, but I don't doubt that it helped; it was the first book I read that I didn't think was for kids. Whether in retrospect it was or was not, at the time my kiddie mind assumed length meant maturity, and The Neverending Story was certainly long.

I have had occasion to wonder how different my taste in fiction as an adult might have been had I only read something else as an innocent...

2) One Book I’ve Had to Read More Than Once

I very rarely do this. Really, very rarely. Does that make me an odd duck?

But there have been a few books I've returned to. Always after some serious time has passed since I read them last. There's The Gunslinger by Stephen King, AKA book one of The Dark Tower, and still the best in the series, for my money. There's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. There's the first volume of The Long Price by Daniel Abraham, A Shadow in Summer, which I had to read a second time - rather recently, at that - because upon starting A Betrayal in Winter I realised I'd forgotten the detail that I'd loved about the book before it. There's The Terror by Dan Simmons. Silk by Caitlin R. Kiernan.

I'm sure there have been others, but truth be told, they're few and far between. There's always so much that I haven't yet read to read, you know?

Anyway, you only asked for one book, so count yourself lucky, master of memes.

3) One Book I’d Want on a Desert Island

I'd want something very long, obviously. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson comes to mind, or The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Perhaps The Stand? Classic King; now that I'd read again in a heartbeat, if I only had a month to myself with no other obligations.

4) One Book That Made me Laugh 


Let me think about this one and get back to you in a bit.

5) One Book That Made me Cry

An easy one, this: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay. When the identity of The Fool was revealed in the last chapter, in case you were wondering.

Nothing since has moved me to tears, but before Tigana - which is to say when I was an easier reader to manipulate emotionally - there were a fair few. Truly great stories have spoiled me in that sense.

6) One Book I Wish I’d Written

All the books? 

Range of Ghosts by Elizabeth Bear most lately. Anything exceptionally pretty prose-wise makes my creative instincts envious.

7) One Book I Am Currently Reading

At this very second I'm in the middle of Last Days by Adam Nevill, in whose acknowledgements (which for some reason I always read) I was over the moon to see The Speculative Scotsman. Yay! It's been really creepy, incidentally. Maybe a bit bloated, but still more gripping, I think, than anything Nevill's written before. Stay tuned for the full review... soon.

Next up on my reading agenda: one of the Strange Chemistry proofs that came in the mail last week, I should think. Least I can do for stealing the meme Amanda brought back from the great graveyard in the ether. :)

8) One Book I Am Looking Forward To

What, just the one?

I'm sorry, but no. I can't. Just in the next couple of months, there's Sharps by K. J. Parker, and The Prince of Heaven - the sequel to The Shadow of the Wind, by the sounds of it - by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. And oh! It wouldn't do to forget Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey.

Beyond that, the list gets a lot longer.

4) One Book That Made me Laugh

Right. Now that I've had a think about this one, I have an answer. But on reflection, I don't think I read a great many authors who go out of their way to split sides, as it were. That sort of description puts me right off, in fact. Thus: I don't read Terry Pratchett, or Tom Holt, or Robert Rankin. The closest I can remember coming to that sort of thing are the Ben Aaronovitch books.

But one novel above all others in recent memory has made me laugh. That'd be Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. There's one line in particular, about a typo which led to generations of children being given a smack before bed instead of a snack that cracks me up just thinking about it. Even besides its sense of humour, Shades of Grey is a truly brilliant book from start to finish - give me Painting By Numbers now, please! - and any excuse to recommend it is a good one by me.


By the dead, it's been ages since I did something along these lines. A meme. I forget why I stopped. Oversaturation? Boredom? Whatever the reason, it's been fun, this one... this once.

You tell me, dear readers. Going forward, would you want more of this sort of thing on The Speculative Scotsman, or even less?


  1. SHARPS is amazing, Niall. Just saying.

  2. Hmmm, never heard of Tigana, but just added it to my wishlist - sounds interesting!

  3. @Josh - You've never heard of Tigana? Ever?

    Oh my lord. Well, wish it up your wishlist quickly: it's only one of the finest fantasy novels ever written. How I envy you the experience of reading it for the first time!

    And speaking of envy...

  4. @Justin - You, sir, are a monster. I'm reliably informed that my copy's winging its way, and in the meantime I have Caliban's War, so there's that. But damn it all. Sharps can't come soon enough.

    Looking forward to your review, in any event!

  5. Outstanding choices Sir! We share Mums with excellent taste btw :) Neverending Story was huge for me as a kid too.