Kiss, Marry or Kill: 14
Which author who won the triple crown (of reading)? Plus tips for subscription hell, the earworm eraser, the dating show we all deserve, and wedding season is out of hand but I'VE GOT YOU
This is my weekly series for subscribers only, where I’ll share things that caught my eye this week in a fun and flirty way (kiss), a sustainable way (marry), or a not-so-good way (kill). And yes, this trendy game is technically “f***, marry, or kill” but we run a family-friendly-ish show around here.
Kiss (things I like right now)
Any book by Charles Soule.
I have often had the disappointing experience of loving a book, then seeking out another book by that author and not enjoying it anywhere near as much. (I won’t name drop here, but a few left me heartbroken.) But Charles Soule is not that, and it’s made even more exciting by the fact that no one in my circle or my BookTok was talking about him. I LOVE BEING FIRST.
I started with The Endless Vessel (on my Kindle—hence the photoshopped image above). I found it by following the algorithm way further than usual, and it only had 78 Amazon reviews (it’s pretty new), so I thought, “let’s give it a go.” Three days later I emerged from a reading frenzy, so unwilling to put the book down at night that I would fall asleep still holding it. It’s futuristic, but in the sneaky way of Handmaid’s Tale, where you think, “Oh, this could definitely happen.” It’s wildly inventive—what kind of gorgeous brain imagines worlds like this? It’s got that love-stories-through-the-ages feel, but is also sharply modern. The characters were effortlessly whole and full, their relationships perfectly messy and beautiful, and I immediately bought the next book, The Oracle Year, upon finishing. (This one is apparently much better known, and has been out since 2018.)
The Oracle Year: Wildly inventive, check. Same gorgeous brain-words, check. Page-turning, delightfully twisty, makes you want more Soule? Check, check, check. While I didn’t like this one quite as much as The Endless Vessel (we’re talking 4-1/2 stars compared to 5-stars), I liked it enough to immediately buy his third book.
Anyone: And now we come to my tied-for-favorite, because don’t make me choose between this one and Endless Vessel. It had me hooked in the first ten pages. Soule manages to weave the same themes that drew me to the first book—a wariness-slash-awe of technology; the moral conundrum that rides hand-in-hand with power; the complexity of humans to be good and bad at exactly the same time—into completely different stories. It’s like your favorite chef cooks for you three nights in a row, and you know it’s your favorite chef because it’s just that good, but no two meals contain the same ingredients, theme, or feel.
Anyone puts the concept of “face value” on literal trial in a way that punches you in the throat and doesn’t let up. If you want to think deep about the personal, societal, and structural implications of the technology he’s imagining, you can. (I have, at length.) If you just want to be taken on a hell of a mind-bending breakneck ride, you can do that too. If you liked Blake Crouch’s Recursion, or Madeline Miller’s Circe, or Erin Morgenstern’s The Starless Sea (weird flexes here, but they fit), you will like Charles Soule—start with whichever you like.