Jon Courtenay Grimwood

By the end of the week I plan to send a review and an interview with British writer Jon Courtenay Grimwood to Fanlit. I will link to it here, but obviously the content is theirs first, so I probably won’t share much here until it’s been posted there. Does that even make sense? It did when I started.

I will say this; Grimwood’s second book in his trilogy The Acts of the Assassini is coming out on March 26. It’s called The Outcast Blade and I recommend it. You should read it. Or no, wait — you should read Book One, The Fallen Blade, first. Or, no, wait… you could hit your local used bookstore and get copies of all three of Grimwood’s Arabesk series, read those, then read The Fallen Blade, and then you’d be all set for The Outcast Blade.

Is it obvious I’m a fan? I am, and it’s kind of a fluke, because I walked past his books for quite a while.

The first book of his I looked at was End of the World Blues. I think what got my attention was the glowing nautilus shell on the cover, proving once again that I am just as shallow as I think I am. I reviewed it here. It was my second blog posting and my first review. Re-reading the review, having read much more of Grimwood’s writing between then and now, I see that maybe I didn’t quite get it.

The thing is, when I read the backs of Grimwood’s books, or the blurb at Amazon, they don’t interest me. For example, Amazon pointed me at the Arabesk trilogy for years, but I read the description that included this paragraph…

“With few clues and no money, all Raf has is a surname hinting at noble heritage and an arranged marriage to a woman who hates him. But nothing Ashraf al Mansur learns about himself is as unexpected—or as terrifying—as the brutal murder he’s accused of committing. Now, as a hunted man with the welfare of a precocious young girl in his irresponsible hands, Raf must race after a killer through an unforgiving city as foreign to him as the truth he’ll uncover about himself.”

… and thought “Mmmm, neh. Not for me.”

Not for me? The search for identity? Unjustly accused? Precocious children? Strange cities? C’mon, that paragraph is a literary buffet of my favorite themes. All that’s missing is chocolate! I know that, now.

Grimwood writes characters and books that can’t be easily summed up in one paragraph on the back. I certainly can’t sum them up. In this market-share-and-target-demo-world, this has got to be some kind of a curse, but Grimwood soldiers on.

I can say that if you like Mieville and/or Gibson, you will probably like Grimwood. If you like Felix Gilman, you will probably like Grimwood. If you like Richard K Morgan, you may like Grimwood.  If you like Margaret Atwood, you may like Grimwood.

What I can’t say is, “If you like books with magic, set in Venice, with a vampire main character, you’ll like Grimwood,”  or, “If you like alternate history stories, with a cyberpunk or gene-punk twist, and you like low-life former criminal main characters, you’ll like Grimwood,” because those set you up to have expectations; expectations of pretty magic, noble vampires, cool tech, lots of computer hacking. . . and those expectations may not be met.

You will probably like Grimwood if you find the theme of the search for identity (literal, social, spiritual) intriguing, you can tolerate a lot of brutality and violence, you like reading about places that are foreign to you, and you enjoy a sardonic British delivery.

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