April 25, 2012

There are no small presses

Only small readers.

Here are a couple of books I read recently (both from Night Shade Books):

The first is Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht. It's the story of Liam, a young Catholic who finds himself in the middle of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Only he's also half-fairy, and a shapeshifter. Oh, and that world is at war too, with demons. I picked this book up because the crankiest reader I know raved about it, and he was right. The novel is nothing like what I might have expected, eyes rolling, from a book about the fey. It's gritty and violent and pulls no punches. If Tinkerbell were to show up in this world, someone would be sure to beat her to death. Maybe a Catholic priest.



The second one is Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh. It's a story about a group of people trying to survive a slow, frighteningly plausible apocalypse. Jasper is one of the unfortunate people--like me--who followed their hearts in college. He finds himself among the 40% of people who are unemployed, homeless and wandering with a a"tribe" of similarly unlucky folk. We get to watch the world fall down around these people. Sometimes things get better--Jasper gets a job! And an apartment! And sometimes a girlfriend!--but overall things go steadily down the tubes. Throughout it all, Jasper looks for love. This focus in unusual in an apocalyptic work, but that's part of what makes this book different: the tribe doesn't know what we know--that the world they knew isn't coming back--and they struggle to remain themselves without knowing what the rules of their world are. The Soft Apocalypse has ways of changing a person, sometimes through violence, sometimes through viruses, and these characters care about keeping their humanity. This is one of the most real feeling books about the end of the world that I've read (and yeah, that's not a small sample). The characters could easily be us.

The outstanding thing about my reading Soft Apocalypse isn't that I loved it (although I did). The awesome thing is that I read the book on the recommendation insistence of Jeremy Lassen, publisher of Night Shade Books, having just met him, because he knew I'd love it. It's obvious that he knows and loves his books the way parents are supposed to love their children.

And in the conversation I stuck my foot in my mouth, saying, "That's why I love small presses."

Lassen set me straight right away. Night Shade Books isn't a small press; it's an independent publisher. But I think my comment still stands. I love publishing that cares. Regardless of size.

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