Review copy provided by the author.
Matthew is someone I know a bit from Farthing Party in Montreal; I’ve talked about books with him in that context. If you don’t know him but the name sounds familiar, it’s either from his essays on Black Gate or for the Puppy slate Hugo nomination he declined for same. Since he had nothing whatsoever to do with either subgroup of Puppies, I was not at all surprised to see him decline.
This is a collection of those essays, existing on the borderline of reviews and book analysis. At the same time as I was reading it, my husband Mark was reading Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great, and the similarities and differences were interesting. Reading Strange Matters has a much newer skew, whereas What Makes This Book So Great goes back much farther. The Surridge covers only short series, focusing mostly on stand-alone works; the Walton goes into depth on long series. But both focus primarily on books for which they have at least some good things to say. Both focus on books that are worth their time and yours, and why those books are worth a look.
After a few pieces, I found myself getting up to jot down titles–I have read most of the works covered, but not all, and I wasn’t trusting that I’d remember which ones exactly piqued my interest. Even with as much as I read, there were some titles that were new to me. While Surridge gives us thoughts about books that got wide mainstream coverage–Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus comes to mind, a favorite with book clubs all over the continent–but most of the titles could use more attention. He touches on several of my neglected favorites: Minister Faust, for example, gets lengthy attention. There is analysis not of a Nalo Hopkinson novel but of each of the short stories in a collection. Leah Bobet and Susan Palwick each get an essay. The nature of the collection means that if you do happen upon a rare piece of no interest whatsoever, it’s easy to flip pages to the next item.
A quick and broadening reading experience, if you’ve enjoyed Surridge’s thoughts in the past or wondered about them, this is your chance for more.
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