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Powell’s Q&A: Richard Kadrey

Describe your latest book.
The Getaway God is the sixth book in the Sandman Slim series. In it, the very unholy nephilim, James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has made a few enemies. None, though, are as fearsome as the vindictive Angra Om Ya — the insatiable, destructive old gods. But their imminent invasion is just one of Stark's problems, as L.A. descends into chaos and a new evil — a knife-wielding Christmastime serial killer the media dubs St. Nick — stalks the city.

No ordinary killer, St. Nick takes Stark deep into a conspiracy that stretches from Earth to Heaven and Hell. He's also the only person alive who may know how to keep the world from going extinct. He's also Stark's worst enemy — the only man in existence Stark would enjoy killing twice — and one with a direct line to the voracious ancient gods.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands, and why did you read it?
The book was The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan L. Howard. One of the perks of being a writer is that people ...


Empathic Curiosity

Today, we wonder anxiously if digital media is changing our brains. But if there's any time in history when our mental operations changed fundamentally, it was 18th century Europe, and Britain in particular. During this period, a cognitive revolution took place, powered by an extraordinary new technology: the printing press. Gutenberg's contraption was a curiosity machine. It facilitated the rapid spread and exchange of ideas, corroding old certainties and igniting powerful new ideas. Sir Francis Bacon called the printing press one of three inventions, along with firearms and the compass, that "changed the whole face and state of the world."

Until this point in history, intellectual curiosity — what psychologists call "epistemic curiosity"— had been regarded with deep suspicion by the authorities. The Catholic Church declared it a sin, a dangerous diversion from the contemplation of God's greatness. But now, as the Reformation loosened the grip of Catholic dogma and literacy rates rose, the British embarked on a mass intellectual adventure. According to historian Roy Porter, between 1660 and 1800 more than 300,000 separate book and pamphlet titles were published in England, amounting to something like 200 million copies. ...


Fitz and the Fool

After 10 long years, Robin Hobb revisits two of her most beloved characters, Fitz and the Fool, with Fool's Assassin. If the ending of Fool's Fate made you want to fling the book across the room, you'll be happy to hear that Fitz and the Fool do meet up again.

The opening of Fool's Assassin finds Fitz living in relative peace at Withywoods with his beloved wife, Molly, but naturally that doesn't last long. Fitz is still making his characteristic bad decisions and is completely unable to understand that he is well loved. Fool's Assassin is the first volume of a trilogy, so there's a fair amount of setup before things really get going. We meet a few new characters and some old friends reappear. As usual, things go awry, and the book ends with a good, solid cliffhanger.

Hobb is particularly skilled at building multidimensional characters. By the time you finish reading even one of her books, you feel as if you've known the characters half your life. She is a fabulous storyteller and does a bang-up job of world building, but it is her ability ...


The Powell’s Playlist: Water Music by Peter Mendelsund

The Powell's PlaylistWe "see" when we read, and we "see" when we listen. There are many ways in which music can create the cross-sensory experience of this seeing... through sonic imitation, through poetic evocation, through dynamic mapping, through programmatic association, through the literal use of physical materials...

1. "La Mer" by Claude Debussy
The big kahuna of classical "water musics." So painterly in its orchestrational detail. The big move here by Debussy is paralleling the idea of a swelling of physical volume (a cresting wave) with a swelling of aural volume (a crescendo). In this mapping, louder=fuller.

2. "Sea Interludes" by Benjamin Britten

3. "Ondine" from Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel
The piano is particularly suited, in its instrumental color, to evoking water; specifically the sound of the tinkling, chiming of water drops. Here we have one of Ravel's programmatic water pieces, based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand:

Listen! — Listen! — It is I, it is Ondine who brushes drops of water on the resonant panes of your windows lit by the gloomy rays of the moon; and here in gown of watered silk,

...


The Powell’s Playlist: Graham Joyce

The Powell's PlaylistThe Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is set on the English coast in the hot summer of 1976, so the music in this playlist is pretty much all from the '70s. The songs follow David's journey of innocence to experience, and on the way he solves a terrifying personal mystery.

1. "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry
This first song is a signature summertime sound of the period. It's easygoing, upbeat, and sort of naive almost to the point of being naff; but that's how David is when he starts out in this story.

2. "Low Rider" by War
David arrives at the holiday centre to find himself sharing a room with a doper. He lands a cool job as a Greencoat. You get to walk around looking pretty. What could be easier than being a Low Rider like that?

3. "Is She Really Going Out with Him?" by Joe Jackson
David meets the beautiful Terri. He can't believe that she's married to the scary gorilla Colin. Oh-oh, better stay well clear of that train wreck.

4. "The Man with the Child in ...


Full Frontal Feminism Revisited

It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in the way feminism is thought of along with the same old nonsense.

Decades after feminists fought for access to birth control, against sexual assault and rape culture, to have equal pay, and to be free from discrimination, we're still largely battling these same issues. But despite the political déjà vu, feminists do seem to be winning the culture wars: politicians that deride birth control use are widely mocked, the mainstream media that used to ignore or declare feminism dead is now on board, and the most culturally relevant artist in the world — Beyoncé — calls herself a feminist.

Perhaps best of all, since FFF was released, tens of thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of young women and men have started blogs, Tumblrs, Facebook pages, and organizations all dedicated to gender, racial, and class justice.

But let's not be fooled. At the same time that we're seeing this incredible progress, we continue to live ...


The Florist-Assassins

The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had woken some sort of angry territorial lizard in my head. Something about the pattern of their approach, the vectors and the way they would all reach me at exactly the same time, was predatory on the most primal level.

I am fundamentally a gentle sort of person, so I was a bit surprised to find that a part of my brain was working out which of them needed to die first and how to make that happen. Lists of "dangerous parts" I learned long ago were highlighted up and down their bodies as they drew closer, each target point carrying a sense of difficulty versus efficacy. Everyone thinks a blow to the groin is the fastest way to end a fight, but it's unreliable. The target is small, mobile, and well-guarded, and you have to be close in to hit the mark. Worse yet, a minority of men respond to that particular agony with a great surge of ...


New Cookbooks for July: All-Things Veggie

July. The deep summer month that brings a belated spring cleaning, picnics, and the beloved abundance of backyard bumper crops (or an abundance of farm-fresh produce from the weekly CSA delivery box). There is a joy in opening a community-supported agriculture box, followed a few days later with, What the heck do I do with all these veggies? July's new and recent releases help us in that department.

Coauthor of Veganomicon Terry Hope Romero presents a salad book that stands up and fights back: Salad Samurai. I can do no better to sum up her book than to quote from it: "Stop making salads that suck." These are kick-ass main meals. True story: a coworker trotted off with my copy of Salad Samurai after one look at the Pesto Cauliflower Potato salad. A favorite recipe of mine is the Pepperoni Tempeh Pizza Salad. (No offense to tempeh, which I like okay, but I'm an omnivore and used meaty pepperoni. Also, I tossed in a little shredded cheese.) I'm currently enamored with the Middle Eastern herbal spice mix za-atar, and I was pleased to find this included in ...


Sassy Men with Swords

It all began with a long plane flight. For years my coworker had been enthusiastically recommending Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora, the first book of the Gentleman Bastard series, and I had nodded my head and moved on. Dashing off to the airport, I finally grabbed my copy off a teetering pile of unread books and headed out the door. I was delighted to discover that most of the major characters were sassy as all get out and they could wield their swords just as adeptly as their words. The book did exactly what I wanted it to do: create a world I could step into and be thoroughly entertained.

There are currently three titles in Lynch's series, and the latest one, The Republic of Thieves, comes out in mass market later this month. The book finds Locke and Jean tinkering in politics, while alternating chapters tell the story of a summer long ago when the two wound up starring in a play.

Lynch's writing just keeps getting better and better. He writes some of the most bawdy and hilarious dialogue I've ever read. ...


And So It Goes: Revisiting Iraq

Reading the newspaper these days feels a little like time traveling. After eight years of war in Iraq and (let's be honest) at least three years of societal amnesia, it's startling to wake up to headlines about sectarian violence and the president's requests for resources to fight ISIS, the radical Islamic organization conquering vast swathes of western Iraq, with devastating humanitarian consequences. Haven't we been here before? Didn't we win? And didn't we leave?

The reports remind me of a college class I taught on war literature a few years ago. One of the things that intrigued me was my students' disinterest in learning about Iraq. For them the war was their growing up, just part of the din of the adult world that has no meaning in childhood, like mortgage payments or tax reform. Sure, they had political opinions about the country — what American doesn't? — but no real knowledge of Iraq or the second Gulf War. And, in trying to refute their apathy, I realized to my embarrassment that I didn't either.

Many excellent books have been written on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan ...


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