Here’s the beginning of Chad’s review:
The author of more than twenty works of science fiction—both story collections and novels—Angélica Gorodischer was first introduced to English readers in 2003 with Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was, a patchwork novel that uses a variety of writing styles—fairy tales, oral histories, and political commentaries, among others—to depict the rise and fall of a nameless empire. Although Trafalgar works in the opposite direction—this book is a collection of intertwined stories wherein Trafalgar, merchant to all parts of the universe, tells stories about a cornucopia of strange worlds that he visits in his travels—the same literary touchstones are there: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K. Dick. And although Trafalgar fails to surpass the best works of its literary forebearers, it is a really charming book that highlights Gorodischer’s incredible world-building abilities.
Each chapter takes the form of someone (usually the narrator) listening to one of Trafalgar’s wild tales about some unique world or other while he pounds gallons of coffee and digresses all over the place. Like something dreamt up by Kilgore Trout, these worlds often have strange societal arrangements—like in “By the Light of the Chaste Electronic Moon,” which describes a civilization ruled by 1,000 women who retain their power in part by having sex only once a year, via a virtual reality creating machine—that illuminate something interesting about human nature.
For the rest of the review, go here.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .