Railsea, China Mieville
Borrowed from a friend. I wasn't quite sure about the blurb, which suggested a land-based fantasy version of Moby Dick (we've already seen one of those, thank you very much), but I needn't have worried. This is in fact another cracking novel from Mieville. Influenced by, but not a retread of Melville's famous sedative. The protagonists live in a world in which soil, not water, stretches out between patches of habitable land, and gigantic burrowing animals frolic in its depths. Traders drive their various types of train over a network of rails whose origin is a mystery, and whose maintenance is carried out by fearsome mechanical "angels". The hero is a young apprentice on a whaler-equivalent train whose captain is obsessed with a vast pale-furred mole called Mocker-Jack. He and his crewmates get caught up in somebody else's quest to find a line that leads out of the railsea and off the edge of the charted world. Great stuff.
Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve
Spotted in the high street at a bargain price. First in a series of four young adult books set in a future world of scarce resources. In the name of Municipal Darwinism, the cities of Europe have been mounted on gigantic wheeled platforms and now go charging about the dried-up continent hunting villages, towns and each other to absorb their population and melt down their precious materials. A boy is thrown out of London by the head of his guild because he's seen something he shouldn't; he and a girl who wants to assassinate his guild master must trudge across Europe in the hope of catching up with London before it does something terrible. Variable in tone - is it written for young adults, or children? - but fun.
Shadowfell, Juliet Marillier
Recommended by a friend, on the grounds that it's eligible for next year's SJV awards. Decidedly average off-the-shelf fantasy product. Mechanically, the prose is good, in that it's engaging and moves along at a fair clip. Stylistically, however, highly cliched, and the same could be said of the story itself. It appears to be the set-up for a hoary old coming-of-age magical faerie quest series - I'm told it's to be a trilogy, although this feels like the opener to a more leisurely series than that, given the size of the to-do list the heroine has been presented with. The repeated use of cod Scots accents for arche-speech and faerie characters also got right on my tits. Admittedly I'm not part of the likely target readership (young teenage girls, at a guess), but even so.
The Hydrogen Sonata, Iain M Banks
SFFANZ review book. That's two Banksies in a row they've stumped up for me. Thanks, SFFANZ! Verdict: positive.