Featured in the Book Blogger Spotlight today, I’m delighted to introduce you to Metal loving Ollie from Infinite Speculations, who also enjoys doing battle with tiny people.
First of all, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself.
Certainly! I recently graduated from an MA in publishing, and am currently looking for my first full-time role in the publishing industry (ideally in marketing or editorial), having worked as an intern last year. Outside of blogging, I enjoy painting miniatures for tabletop games that I rarely get to actually play, playing videogames that everyone else has long since abandoned, playing Magic: The Gathering and deafening myself with metal music.
What got you hooked into book blogging to begin with?
I’ve always loved reading reviews, so writing them was a natural next step for me. Originally, this just meant Amazon reviews, but during my MA there was a lot of talk about book blogs, so I looked into them and decided I’d set up my own platform. Originally, this was in the form of a weebly site that was updated fairly infrequently and had a somewhat broader range, but in the course of setting up a WordPress site to show a potential employer I knew how to use it, I decided to migrate there permanently. I also decided to focus exclusively on speculative fiction, as that’s a genre that I feel like I know a bit about.
What is it about speculative fiction, that makes this your go-to genre?
I was quite into philosophy when I was younger, and still dabble in that sort of thing now, so I tend to be very drawn to allegory and satire, which are two things that speculative fiction often does very well. I love it when authors tackle the really big questions through the medium of science fiction, for example. But I’m also fond of the pure escapism that goes along with the genre, where stories can be action packed and fun. It’s the best of all possible (and maybe even parallel) worlds!
What have you read recently, that’s outside your comfort zone?
Beach Read, by Emily Henry. It was a book club pick, and it’s a romance novel about two writers who challenge each other to write a book in each other’s genre. The main character usually writes romances, while the love interest usually writes literary fiction. I’m not averse to romance novels, but I don’t read a lot of them. This one wasn’t for me, as I found it a little predictable and quite slow, but I’m glad I gave it a go.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors, and why?
Cormac McCarthy: Hands down the finest prose I have ever read. His work is moving, beautiful and harrowing, often all at once. I first became aware of him through the film No Country for Old Men, which instantly became one of my all-time favourite films. I then read The Border Trilogy, which I loved (particularly The Crossing), before seeking out all of his other novels.
Paul Auster: I came to Paul Auster through a university module, during which we read The New York Trilogy. I didn’t mind it, and thought I would see what else he’d written. When I read The Brooklyn Follies, he became one of my favourite authors. This was only cemented by the likes of Leviathan and Invisible. He’s just a fantastic story teller who is unafraid of taking risks with form and structure.
Terry Pratchett: I can’t think of another author who manages to be both as prolific and as consistent as Sir Terry was over the course of the Discworld series. I would say that a lot of his later works, after his diagnosis, were still just as good as some of his best. He made me laugh a lot, but there was also a rich and teeming world there, with plenty of satire and some extremely serious points to make. I miss him often.
Becky Chambers: By far and away the author who I’ve read the fewest books by on this list. Even if I’d read all of her books, this would still be the case! However, going by what I have read, I can say confidently that she is one of my favourite authors. Reading The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet gave me the same satisfied feeling I got settling into an evening with Mass Effect – that feeling of being with characters you love and going on a journey of discovery with them.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden: Nobody can make you care about the villains like he does. He takes the biggest, nastiest enemies that the Warhammer 40,000 setting has to offer, then somehow manages to humanise them. Despite them being 10,000-year-old genetically enhanced super soldiers. His action scenes are also fantastically well written, and he provides really interesting perspectives in his novels.
What’s one of your Top 5 fantasy reads and why?
I’ll go with The Shadow Saint, by Gareth Hanrahan. I tend to read a lot more science fiction than fantasy, but this will always be near the top of my list no matter how much fantasy I go on to read. It’s the second book in his Black Iron Legacy series, and it’s even better than the first (The Gutter Prayer). It’s very much in the grimdark camp, and involves a war with insane gods, politicking and undead soldiers. I often find myself gravitating towards stories involving deities, possibly as a result of all the myths and legends books that I used to love as a kid. The city of Guerdon is also so well realised that it’s essentially a character in its own right. Finally, it’s a rare example of a series that I am completely up to date with (but then there are only the two books thus far!).
What’s one of your Top 5 SF reads and why?
Ooh, well this is much harder! I’ll say Count Zero, by William Gibson. I had read Neuromancer in university, and didn’t really know what to make of it at the time. Then I found a copy of Count Zero in the giftshop of a country park, of all places. I read the opening line and thought it sounded like the coolest thing ever, and the book was only £2.50, so I bought it. I reread Neuromancer to remind myself what had happened (although I don’t think it was actually necessary) and enjoyed it a lot more second time around. Then I read Count Zero and it just blew me away. It’s just so exciting and slick.
Audio books: Yes / No?
No, I don’t really do them. I’ve only ever been tempted for those titles that are audiobook exclusives, like the William Gibson version of Alien III or the Sandman audio drama. I might give them a go one day, but I’m not in a rush to.
What will make you DNF a book: bad characterisation, weak plot, lack of world building?
Bad characterisation, of the kind that has me literally yelling at the book “Why would you do that?! Who does that?!” is likely to mean a book gets abandoned. The one thing that’s most likely to make me stop reading above all others though is the quality of the prose itself. Lots of choppy little sentences that lead to a lack of musicality in the writing, clichéd similes and confusing syntax will all be needling me when I’m reading. I have also decided not to buy a book in the past because I didn’t like the size of the margins around the text block. Overuse of real-world brand names has been known to infuriate me too (just say cigarettes, I really don’t care if they’re Lucky Strikes). I, er, tend to notice the little things, apparently!
And finally, what aspect do you like most about book blogging?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know people in the blogging community. There are some wonderful people out there producing great content to swell our TBRs with! Tied with that, I would have to say interacting with authors. I really get a kick out of posting a review for a book I loved and hearing that it’s made the author’s day. Knowing that I might have encouraged someone to buy their book is hugely rewarding too.
Ollie blogs at www.infinitespeculation.wordpress.com and tweets as @Infinite_Ollie. He graduated from an MA Publishing course last year, and has an undergraduate degree in English and Creative Writing. He reviews all sorts of speculative fiction on his blog, publishing a new review every week, along with occasional features.
His favourite cake is carrot and he consumes so much coffee that a vampire would be unable to sleep for a week if it bit him. His favourite season is Autumn, yet he has somehow never consumed a pumpkin spice latte.