East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Quarantine reads: Cherryh and Hodgell, and Block


I decided I will devote some time in this quarantine period to read three series that have been on my radar for ages, now, and I have always kept for later – one of them, indeed, comes from one of my emergency boxes, the stashes of paperbacks I sometimes buy (especially when I find a good special offer) and save for the hard times.
Well, the hard times are here, so here we go.

I normally don’t like series anymore – as I grow old, I found out I prefer standalone novels, novellas, or series of short stories. But these cases are different. These are three series of which I have already read the first volume, and they are the work of three authors I greatly admire – so, no risk there, right?

Science fiction by C.J. Cherryh

The Foreigner series is a series of trilogies, that’s currently twenty volumes and counting – and yet it remains accessible enough, thanks to this unusual structure, a series of series.

Focusing on the uneasy co-existence of a colony of human castaways and the indigenous species inhabiting an alien world, the series is full of intrigue, politics and mystery, and features – as it is usual in Cherryh’s books – a highly detailed, complex and truly alien civilization.

I read the first volume, Foreigner, a few months back, and I have the two follow-up volumes, Invader and Inheritor, forming the first trilogy.

C.J. Cherryh is one of my top five favorite authors, and this is going to be a lot of fun. And talking about fun…

Fantasy by P.G. Hodgell

Hodgell’s 1985 debut novel God Stalk was one of the best books I read in 2015, and as in the case of Cherry’s Foreigner, is a series I came to late, but really caught my fancy.

Walking an unusual path between high fantasy and sword & sorcery, I always found a certain aura of Leiber’s Lankhmar stories in God Stalk, but also something of C.A. Smith’s wild, apparently undisciplined imagination.

After reading the first novel, I got myself two fat paperbacks from Baen, The God Stalker Chronicles (collecting God Stalk and Dark of the Moon) and Seeker’s Bane (containing Seeker’s Mask and To Ride a Rathorn). These have been sleeping in one of my emergency boxes these five years, but now it’s time to go. The remaining five or six books are easily available in ebook, but I’d love to have the complete series in paperback one day.

I consider P.G. Hodgell one of the most interesting and underrated fantasy writers out there, and I am really eager to getinto the series properly.

Mystery by Lawrence Block

Block is the author of some of the best writing books I ever read, and of some of the more entertaining mysteries. I read the first Bernie Rhodenbarr novel, Burglars can’t be choosers, a lifetime ago, and followed up with The Burglar who thought he was Bogart.

As it can be guessed by the titles, Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar, that seems to have a habit of getting involved in other people’s crimes. The novels are fun, with a great sense of humor but also with solid plots and set-ups.

A few weeks back I got me the first Bernie Rhodenbarr omnibus, featuring the first five novels in the series, with an idea of saving it for the summer. I like reading mysteries in the summer. But circumstances being what they are, it looks like Bernie will have to get to work earlier than expected.

As I said, I like Block’s work, and I easily rate him up there with John D. MacDonald as a writer of hard boiled, “American” thrillers. Reading him is always a great pleasure, and an opportunity to learn something new about the craft.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Quarantine reads: Cherryh and Hodgell, and Block

  1. I’ve been reading more, too. I’m in the midst of a horror novel called Will Haunt You by Brian Kirk about a cursed book.


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