Word of the Worlds February 2017
Welcome to DIESEL's brand new experiment: Word of the Worlds: A Science Fiction Newsletter. Long have we touted the merits of this genre rich in imagination and wonder, unique in its ability to obliquely hold up a damning mirror to society. Under a pervading sense of moving into our own dark, dystopic times, we thought it would be a good idea to do what booksellers do and talk about the books we love. We promise not to be too political, but neither will we retreat into pure escapism.
There are many opinions about what should be categorized as science fiction, and you'll find our definition to be fairly broad. We'll sometimes include not just fantasy, but horror, the supernatural, and the magical in here. Some of the titles we choose to talk about may be only peripherally related to conventional science fiction by the thinnest of threads. We reserve the right to be excited about some off-the-wall stuff!
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Technically a novella, This Census-Taker, (originally published in February 2016 and now available in paperback), is a brilliant story from acclaimed science fiction author China Mieville. Mieville is perhaps best known for inventive and strange ideas which his plots and characters revolve around, worlds or concepts at once alien and disconcertingly familiar. In This Census-Taker, he only hints at the strangeness, instead relying on his narrator's unique voice and perspective to disquiet us. Imagine a dream viewed out the corner of one's eye, edges blurry, events unclear, and you'll start to get an idea of what reading this book is like. At its conclusion I couldn't say for certain what just happened but I haven't stopped thinking about it either. -- David C.
The Dark Side
Classic sci-fi combined with a hardboiled detective story creates an intense novel of Lunar noir. Featuring a megalomaniac billionaire named Brass, his ruthlessly ambitious daughter, and a murderous, amnesiac android who rampages across the dark side of the moon, this is an action-packed thriller and a strange, perhaps unintended, metaphor for the Trump phenomenon. -- Rod F.
So, while not technically science fiction, the use of genre in After James allows it to straddle a line between literary fiction and sci-fi/horror. However you feel about such blurred lines, I’m too excited about this book to not talk about it. If pressed, I’d call it post-modern genre fiction, but this is a book not easily defined by any glib categorization. After James is composed of interlocking parts that each take on a particular genre form: first the rural Gothic horror story, then the literary detective story, and finally what I like to call the “encounter with the Other”. With these three linked stories, each with new characters and new locations, Helm weaves a complex, subtle exploration of the ways that reality has begun to shift, not only with what we perceive as real, but what we are willing or able to accept as real. Technology--as expected and as it must--plays a large role in this, but not a central one. Instead Helm focuses on those fragile structures formed by our minds out of sensory percepts, accumulated knowledge, creative impulse, imagination and paranoia. As you progress through the separate narratives, new details seem to both illumine and simultaneously muddle complete understanding of the larger picture. The effect tantalizing and disquieting, like feeling that something immense and perhaps sinister lies just under the surface of muddy waters. -- Chris P.
Sci-Fi Books on the Screen
(and I'm not talking about e-reading)
In recent years, sci-fi, fantasy, and comics have erupted into mainstream entertainment as beloved books become massively successful films and shows. Now, everyone is eagerly awaiting the seventh season of HBO's Game of Thrones, slated for sometime in the Summer of 2017. The wait for book six however, that ever-elusive Winds of Winter, drags on with no end in sight, much like the preternaturally long seasons of Westeros itself. Instead of twiddling thumbs, why not check out a few other great sci-fi books, classic and contemporary, that are the basis for current shows or films? You can always find these titles on our shelves or click on the title to buy from our website.
Stories of Your Life and Others - Ted Chiang
It's so awesome to see Ted Chiang at last getting some much-deserved recognition. For too long he was the secret writer other writers spoke of with awe and reverence, his powerful short stories critically acclaimed and yet criminally unknown. That has all changed with the film The Arrival starring Amy Adams which was nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture. The Arrival is based on Chiang's beautiful, eponymous short story, Story of Your Life. The whole collection is magic, and already three others have been optioned for films.
The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
Unsettling in its timeliness, Philip K. Dick's masterpiece of alternate history imagines an America under the grip of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Under such conditions, what is the role of the artist? The show adaptation has veered away from source material with its new season, and DIESEL bookseller Aaron has a fantastic piece over at The New Yorker on their misguided efforts to humanize evil.
The Expanse Series - James S. A. Corey
In a future where humans have spread through the solar system, the absolutely massive Expanse series charts an epic war between Mars, Earth, and Belters, the marginalized inhabitants of the Asteroid Belt. As so frequently happens with sci-fi, the series feels very timely in that one of the larger overriding issues is how information should be handled with the public: kept secret for the people's own good, or shared with all and damn the consequences. Book six, Babylon's Ashes, just released in January, and the show adaptation's second season aired February 1st on SyFY.
The Magicians Trilogy - Lev Grossman
What if Hogwarts was a university filled with hormone-addled, thrill-seeking students, besotted with their own power? What if Narnia was trying to destroy our world? George R.R. Martin calls The Magicians a "shot of Irish whiskey" compared to Harry Potter's "glass of weak tea." Season two just premiered January 25th on SyFy.
The Magician King
The Magician's Land