Novellas: Small Commitment, Big Payoff

What is a novella, exactly?   If you start poking around for definitions you will find a wide range of conflicting criteria (mostly surrounding word count) but what it really comes down to is that a novella is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.  They are found in every genre and are a great choice for readers who want a satisfying read but are either pressed for time or not quite ready to commit to a 700-page doorstopper.

What I like best about novellas is the precision of the writing. Authors who write novellas, and do it well, can build an entire world in pages, sometimes just paragraphs, setting the tone and the foundation for stories that are as economical as they are affecting.  Here are some outstanding novellas, all of which clock it at fewer than 200 pages:

In All Systems Red, a security droid hacks its own governing module, watches interstellar soap operas, and reluctantly does just enough work to avoid detection by the Company and the humans it is hired to protect.  While generally disdainful of humanity, it remains troubled by evidence in its memory bank suggesting it played a part in a massacre in which many lives were lost.  Winner of multiple awards, this is the first in the humorous, thoughtful and compulsively readable Murderbot Diaries series. Continue reading “Novellas: Small Commitment, Big Payoff”

Publisher Crush: Hesperus Press

hesperus-press-logoPerhaps it is a side effect of being around books all day, but about as often as I find myself falling for a particular author’s style or voice, I become fascinated with a particular publisher or imprint. I’m especially fond of re-print houses that specialize in bringing back into print those lost treasures and hidden gems that we librarians strive to preserve and protect for readers.

Hesperus Press is a great example of what I mean. Publishing attractive paperback editions of lesser known classic shorter works—stories, essays, poetry and novellas by a wide range of authors, with enticing introductions by contemporary writers. For example, Wilkie Collins’ A Rogue’s Life is a delightful little picaresque relating the jaunty cover-of-rogues-lifemisadventures of charming ne’er-do-well Frank Softly, an artist who careens from job to job in pursuit of his fortunes, and of the beautiful Alicia Dulcifer. Collins wrote this during a fun vacation in Paris with his friend and associate Charles Dickens, who also employed Collins’ in several special Christmas issues of his magazine Household Words, where the duo, together with other writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell, would write collections of themed stories united by some clever conceit, such as the tenant’s stories collected under the titles Mrs. Lirriper and A House to Let, or the travelers’ tales collected Continue reading “Publisher Crush: Hesperus Press”