Arcadia – Iain Pears

Arcadia - Iain PearsThis is a wonderfully imaginative novel that represents a superb example of speculative fiction, with both time travel and travel to a parallel universe. The parallel universe is created from a writer’s imagination so there are allusions to CS Lewis, Tolkien and Shakespeare (a central character is a young woman called Rosalind who disguises herself as a boy while living in a forest!). All the characters are memorable and the story telling is complex because of multiple time periods – a very enjoyable read.


The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian - Elizabeth KostovaThis fascinating book has a Dan Brown-like plot (but with much better writing). Academics search for clues to find missing persons and to research Vlad Dracula’s life (is he still living?). This research is conducted in medieval libraries (yay!) with much travel: Oxford, Istanbul, Budapest and Bulgaria. Actions happen in three times: the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s, often with parallel stories so the complex plot with much historical detail requires the full attention of readers. This is a really enjoyable read; thanks Steph, for this recommendation.

Lilith’s Brood – Octavia E. Butler

Lilith_s Brood - Octavia E. ButlerThis is a trilogy, comprised of Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. Earth has had an apocalyptic world war, and the few remaining humans have been “rescued” by aliens and kept in stasis for hundreds of years. What follows is a brilliant description of the human instinct for violence, and the complexity of feelings when humans encounter the aliens for the first time. Lilith is utilized to choose humans to be re-animated, and so there is the strong psychology of humans learning about aliens and distrusting Lilith’s role. The aliens have breath-taking powers or healing, aka resurrection, but have their own agenda. The human-alien relationships are an imaginative form of symbiosis with genetic sharing in offspring. Thus there is yet another interesting new relationships, that of parents and offspring. Butler wrote these books almost 30 years ago, so she anticipated and described genetic engineering very accurately. She also wrote the great Kindred which is in the archives of this blog. Thanks Amy, for sharing this imaginative and compelling book.

Making History – Stephen Fry

Making History - Stephen FryWhat if you had access to a “Temporal Imaging Machine” and could send a male contraceptive back in time to a village in Austria in June 1888, to prevent the birth of Adolf Hitler? This would be a good outcome, right? What could go wrong? This inventive novel shows that the Law of Unintended Consequences is diabolically operative and so history should not be tampered with. Thanks Amy for this recommendation. Although sometimes Fry’s writing is too cute, this is a very entertaining book.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury

something-wicked-this-way-comes-ray-bradburyNot sure how I missed reading this classic science-fantasy book from 1962, but thanks to Amy, this serious omission has been rectified. This is a classic morality tale of good versus evil with two 13 year-old boys, a library as sanctuary, and a soul-destroying circus. How about this description of the circus carousel: “Its horses, antelopes, zebras, speared through their spines with brass javelins, having contorted as in death rictus, asking mercy with their fright—coloured eyes, seeking revenge with their panic-contorted teeth”. A dark fantastic masterpiece.

NOS4A2 – Joe Hill

NOS4A2 Joe HillSometimes a fantasy book written in the horror genre is just so appealing and Hill (Stephen King’s son) is a go-to author (previous recommendation for Heart Shaped Box). In this book, the title is from the license plate on a vintage 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith car, and of course stands for Nosferatu (German for vampire). This is an imaginative story with portals between the physical world and the mind, with child abductions and serial killings: the story is violent with many vivid descriptions of pain and quite a few deaths, so be warned. If you like (occasional) horror books, this is a cracking good read.

The Girl With All The Gifts – MR Carey

Girl with all the GiftsA variation on zombies: a fungus has created the “hungries”. Twenty years after the outbreak, there are very few survivors but this includes some children who have the infection but retain brain function, especially the ability to learn. Not surprisingly, these children are the subject of intensive scientific investigations in a secret army location. The best aspect of this book is the treatment of the sociology of an infection. A major part of the book details a journey with a disparate group of distrustful people who have to cooperate. Overall, a very interesting story.