Chatter's blog

Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving is around the corner which means the holiday season is in full swing.  It's the season of giving, which started early in Northern California this year.  The Fire Relief Children's Book Drive initiated by Gibson Thomas of Edible Marin & Wine Country Magazine and embraced by DIESEL ended up with more than 10,000 books for children being donated and distributed in the Fire areas!  Thanks to Gibson and to the hundreds of individuals, families, organizations and publishers that donated books at this critical time.  The recovery from the Fire will take years but the communities strengthened and created by coming together have already begun.

Books make some of the most meaningful gifts -- we all know this.  We have some of the most beautiful, interesting and gift-worthy books in the English-speaking world in stock, on display, and on the mental fingertips of our professional crew of independent booksellers.  We wrap; we recommend; we are excellent at matching book to person, either you or someone dear to you.

So, come on into the stores and enjoy the books this season and make it possible for others to enjoy them too!

Have a happy Thanksgiving with friends, family and even a stranger or two!

And Happy Reading!

John & all DIESELfolk

Fire Relief: Children's Book Drive at DIESEL in Larkspur

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The fires raging throughout Northern California have left thousands homeless.  Many are staying in shelters awaiting news of their homes.  Children are afraid, and bored, in the shelters, away from their homes, their pets, and their books.  We are mounting a Children's Book Drive at our store at the Marin Country Mart, as part of Fire Relief efforts spreading throughout our communitites. 

Please help to provide books to the thousands of children who have lost their community and home libraries.  You can drop off books at our Larkspur store at the Marin Country Mart day and night.  Any books in good condition are welcome at this time.  Those of you with children may find that your children want to help those in need, and giving books that they've read and enjoyed would be a wonderful way for them to help.

We will deliver them to those in need.  Thanks, in advance, for your generosity, your compassion, and your books.  We will all have to rise to this occasion, and help those keenly facing this devastation.

--- John & All DIESELfolk

DIESEL Oakland Says Goodbye

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Dear Reader,


This is our last note to you from #1 DIESEL, in Oakland.  At midnight tonight DIESEL in Oakland becomes East Bay Booksellers, with Brad at the helm.  


It has been indescribably wonderful being your local booksellers for the last 28 years.  The community you’ve welcomed us into and that we’ve created and maintained together has been so important to us, and still is!  (We will continue to live in the neighborhood, so we will still see you around – but no longer behind the counter, or shelving books.)


Thanks so much for all of our conversations; for the events that we’ve shared; for the love of books and recommendations we’ve exchanged; and for keeping reading, and writing, and all of our imaginations alive in times that have challenged our humanity and our conviviality.


As we have often written: ‘Thank you for supporting the fragile ecology of free speech which independent bookstores help to sustain.’  Thank you, again, for this too.  


As many of you know, DIESEL can be found in Larkspur, and in Southern California, in Brentwood.  We look forward to seeing you there.  But for those of you who stay close to home and live in or near Rockridge – enjoy the new East Bay Booksellers, with the same wonderful booksellers who have been working for DIESEL the past few years.  They will carry on that most-wonderful of East Bay literary traditions: the fine art of independent bookselling.


We will be having a joint party on Saturday September 23rd!  Please come by to share stories and toast the past, present and future.  Hope to see you there.


With Gratitude,
Alison & John

 

                                                                                         

                              (John, Alison & Brad signing!)

Press Release

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For immediate release:
 
DIESEL, A Bookstore in Oakland Officially Becomes East Bay Booksellers on September 1, 2017

Oakland, CA — How often do you get to talk about a bookstore closing, and it actually is a good story? When we announced in November that the founders of DIESEL, A Bookstore wanted to sell their Oakland location to me, one of their longtime managers, I had no idea what the response would be. When I called a customer meeting at the store to explain what we had in mind and why we wanted to do it, my greatest fear was awkward silence. 

Our customers, however, were neither awkward nor silent. In two months, I raised half of what I needed to buy the inventory. A couple months after that, I had enough to do so. By mid-summer, I had sufficient capital to run a business. 

I've had some time now to reflect on why we met with such fundraising success. From the stories people told me, especially as we talked about their love of DIESEL and independent bookstores, it clearly wasn't because something had to change. As I repeated early and often, the changes we were pursuing were not necessary -- there was no financial doomsday behind it all. I think our customers recognized the positivity at the root of our plans. What better time is there to make a change than when it isn't being forced upon you? 


On Friday, September 1, 2017, the store will open its doors with relatively minimal fanfare as East Bay Booksellers. Customers will be forgiven if they don't immediately notice the new logo on the window. Or perhaps don't at the moment remark on the new bookmarks we slide into their books. We want the store to feel familiar, with touches of difference they can't quite put a finger on -- and not just when they come in for the first time after the change, but every time thereafter. Change doesn't have to happen, but thankfully it does anyway!

Of course, as the word spreads and the dust settles, we will schedule a party so everyone can celebrate their memories of DIESEL. In the meantime, moved by the devastating need of in Texas and beyond, East Bay Booksellers is honoring its history as a progressive cultural hub by donating 20% of its opening weekend sales to Hurricane Harvey relief.

Some things will never change. 

Brad Johnson
brad@ebbooksellers.com
5433 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618
Ph: (510) 653-9965

September 1 Approaches Quickly!

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It's taken a long time -- just shy of a year -- but the transition of our Oakland store into East Bay Booksellers is very nearly complete. Current store manager, Brad Johnson, has raised the money he needs to move ahead. All that's left now are the legal and practical niceties. September 1 is marked on our calendars. Maybe now it is on yours, too.

Brad answered some questions for LitHub about buying the store, and we expect you have some as well. So here's a stab at answering some of them:


What will change (besides the name)? -- Did you notice the yellow in that logo?! You'll definitely be seeing more of that on bookmarks, tote bags, and the like.

You know what we mean. Are you still going to have the same diverse array of books? -- Oh, definitely! In addition to managing the store for a few years now, Brad's been buying the books we put on the shelves. You're in very good hands.

What about the staff? -- As above, you're in very good hands. DIESEL was built in Oakland by its booksellers being some of the best of the land. Brad believes that so much he put "Booksellers" in the name of the new store. There are no staffing changes in the works. 

Are you still going to host events and book groups? You better believe it. Check out the Oakland events calendar, and you'll see things booked in September. Those will become East Bay Booksellers events after September 1. That means: Jesmyn Ward! Santiago Gamboa! Daniel Handler! And you can expect so very much even after that. 

That East Bay Booksellers website looks kind of bare? Will I still be able to buy books online? Patience! We're still doing business in the East Bay, online and in person, as DIESEL. (& will continue doing so in the North Bay and SoCal!) In other words, DIESEL isn't going away. It's only a little complicated. Short version: if you shop DIESEL in Oakland, soon, very soon, you will be able to buy books at East Bay Booksellers, read staff reviews, and whatever else tech wizardry can conjure. In the meantime, follow them on Twitter and Facebook

More throughout the month! 

Word of the Worlds April 2017

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The Women Writers of Science Fiction

The 2017 Hugo Awards finalists were just announced earlier this month. The nominees are up for one of scifi’s more prestigious awards, despite an unfortunate taint in recent years by misogynists and bigots seeking to manipulate the ballots. This year at least, the changes to the nomination procedure have had a dampening effect on those efforts. I’m not going to get into the (supposed) reasoning behind those group's misguided attempts, or how and why everything they stand for is wrong. Instead, I will point out the recurrence of one of the great trends that drives them crazy: the increasing recognition of women scifi/fantasy authors. This year, four of the six Hugo finalists for Best Novel are women: Charlie Jane Anders, Becky Chambers, N.K. Jemisin, and Ada Palmer. You’ll see the same kind of representation as you move down the ballots: four of six for Best Novella, five of six for Best Novelette. And the same thing is happening over in the Nebula Awards, whose finalists were announced in late February.     

It’s not just nominations either--women are winning the awards. Last year, N.K. Jemisin and Naomi Novik won Best Novel at the Hugo Awards and Nebula Awards respectively. Nnedi Okorafor took home Best Novella at both. And the Hugo for Best Short Story went to Naomi Kritzer while Alyssa Wong took the Nebula.

These victories are wonderful steps forward for women authors in the fields of scifi and fantasy. Last year, The Huffington Post claimed women were reaching new heights, and in 2015, The Guardian wrote that women writers were storming the citadels of male scifi, with waves of new authors raised on Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

Crucially though, both of the above-linked articles raised a separate but important point: it’s a historical misperception to think women writers are only now being acknowledged. Scifi and fantasy continue to be perceived as bastions of maleness, but they are citadels that have actually been under attack by writers who are not straight, white, science-minded men since the very beginning. After all, Mary Shelley’ Frankenstein (1818) is frequently considered a starting point for scifi as we know it, and even before that there were feminist utopia works like Margaret Cavendish’s The Blazing World (1666) and Sarah Scott’s A Description of Millenium Hall (1762). It does, however, have to be admitted that between 1818 and about the 1960s, men absolutely dominated the genres, and it wasn’t uncommon for women who were writing to use male pseudonyms like Andrew North, or at least gender-neutral names, like C.L. Moore and Leigh Brackett.

Then came the Golden Age of feminist scifi. During the 1970s, when Second Wave Feminism swept the country, women started winning and being nominated for many awards in scifi and fantasy: writers like Joanna Russ, Anne McCaffrey, Kate Wilhelm, and Joan D. Vinge. In this decade, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree Jr. (the pseudonym of Alice Bradley Sheldon), and Vonda McIntyre each won both a Nebula and a Hugo. And Pamela Sargent published her groundbreaking anthology series Women of Wonder.

But after any golden age are always dark years and these dark years lasted for the next three decades, as once again men largely dominated the lists. So it may come as a surprise that even during this time, women writers were being recognized within the field. Connie Willis, called “the Meryl Streep of science fiction” by WIRED Magazine for the sheer number of awards she has garnered, earned the bulk of them during the 80s and 90s. In 1984, after a lifetime of work, Andre Norton was named the first female Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (she was Andrew North). And Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid’s Tale, which is once again much in the limelight, was nominated for a Nebula in 1986.

So why does it seem like few people seem to remember these achievements? In NPR's Top 100 Scifi & Fantasy Books as voted on by the public, the first book on the list by a woman (Shelley's Frankenstein) comes in at number twenty, and there are only thirteen on the whole list.      

As Naomi Novik pointed out in the Huffington Post article above, it’s a particularly insidious type of prejudice that simply forgets about others, one that is rooted in unconscious biases. Society has long seen geek culture as predominantly male, and recent mainstream acceptance has led to reactionary, ugly urges to police that culture and judge the authenticity of others’ fandom. Much of this comes from deep-seated microaggressions that perpetually posit women as outsiders, and microaggressions by their nature are notoriously difficult to combat. But they can be, and one way is to realize that talented women in scifi are not new and strange things. Here I think is what lies at the heart of this sense of “discovery” of talented women writers. Suddenly publishers are discovering not that these writers exist, but that they sell. And that's actually important. Having them continue to sell, having them continue to be published and win awards, and ultimately, having a growing base of women and men who want to read stories that aren’t focused on one kind of individual, that’s going to make all the difference. 

So are women writers on the road to parity? I’m optimistic. But I’ll politely clear my throat whenever someone marvels at these women writers coming out of nowhere, and kindly point to our list of women in scifi, fantasy, and speculative fiction across the decades. By no means comprehensive, this is a brief survey of writers who should not be forgotten. After all, they’ve always been there, launching stones at the citadel.
 

A Partial Survey of Women in SciFi/Fantasy

A brief note: Nearly every author here has way too many books and/or stories to list, and many of them are still actively writing. Mostly, I’ve tried to select seminal or, in some cases, early works to achieve a balanced distribution across the decades. Some of these works are tragically no longer in print. I’ve linked to what we can still obtain for you, but I highly recommend using a favorite, local, second-hand bookshop to find others. Particularly during the 1950s and earlier, stories were more common than novels; in some cases I've linked to anthologies that I know to have collected at least one of their works. These anthologies are an excellent way to find the works of many of these writers gathered in one convenient place. I particularly recommend:

Women of Futures Past - Edited by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Sisters of Tomorrow - Edited by Lisa Yaszek & Patrick Sharp
Sisters of the Revolution - Edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer

The Big Book of Science Fiction - Edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer
 
 
2010s
Caitlin Kiernan - Agents of Dreamland (2017)

Naomi Novik - Uprooted (2015)

Nnedi Okurafor - Binti (2015)

Ann Leckie - Ancillary Justice (2013)

Marie Brennan - A Natural History of Dragons (2013)

2000s

Lauren Beukes - Moxyland (2008)

Kelly Link - Pretty Monsters (2008)

Leena Krohn - Datura (2001, English translation in 2013)

Nalo Hopkinson - Midnight Robber (2000)

1990s

Elizabeth Hand - Waking the Moon (1994)

Octavia Butler - Parable of the Sower (1993)

Connie Willis - Doomsday Book (1993)

Nancy Kress - Beggars in Spain (1991)

Pat Cadigan - Synners (1991)

1980s

Lois McMaster Bujold - Shards of Honor (1986)

Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale (1985)

Angela Carter - Nights at the Circus (1984)

Angelica Gorodischer - Kalpa Imperial (1983)

C.J. Cherryh - Downbelow Station (1981)

1970s

Doris Lessing - Shikasta (1979)

Eleanor Arnason - Swordsmith (1978)

James Tiptree Jr. - Up the Walls of the World (1978)

Marge Piercy - Woman on the Edge of Time (1976)

Joanna Russ - The Female Man (1975)

1960s

Ursula K. Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

Anne McCaffrey - Dragonflight (1968)

Andre Norton - Witch World (1963)

Kate Wilhelm - The Mile-Long Spaceship (1963)

Madeliene L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

1950s and Earlier

Carol Emshwiller - Pelt (1958)

Leigh Brackett - The Long Tomorrow (1955)

C.L. Moore - Shambleua (1933)

Leslie F. Stone - The Conquest of Gola (1931)

Clare Winger Harris - The Fate of the Poseidonia (1927)

 

Book Reviews


The Stars Are Legion
Kameron Hurley
The dedication page of Kameron Hurley's The Stars are Legion says simply: For All The Brutal Women. I've never read a more exciting dedication, and, as it turns out, one that so succinctly describes the novel. The Legion is a place of brutality where factions fight for dominance of the outer rim of an artificial sun, dreaming of total power and the divine blessings of the War God.

The alternating plot lines, the re-imagining of what the Hero's Journey can be, and the mystery at the heart of the story are wonderful nuggets, but the real power of The Stars are Legion come from Hurley's world building. The Legion is a solar system populated entirely by women, women who are so intimately linked to their worlds they birth what their planet needs, whether that is a humanoid being or gears for the deep machinery powering the core. Make no mistake, this is space-opera at it's finest, but unbound by tradition and wholly original in its audaciousness. Especially recommended for fans Ancillary Justice who don't mind (a lot of) gore. -- David C.


Winged Histories
Sofia Samatar
With Winged Histories, now in paperback, Sofia Samatar returns to her fantasy colonial empire in this companion to 2015's A Stranger in Olondria. But never fear if you didn't read Stranger. Winged Histories is where I actually recommend you start. This is an utterly gorgeous epic fantasy, one that subverts typical fantasy tropes. Yes, there's an aristocratic girl who runs away to become a swordmaiden. Yes, there's a nomadic desert people who prefer an oral tradition to written history. There's a socialite who wanted only for things to stay the same, and a legendary monster that suddenly proves to be very real. But somehow, it all feels fresh and exciting, in part because of how talented a writer Samatar is, weaving back and forth between present and past in the space of paragraphs, even sentences. What might be pure fantasy instead becomes a deft exploration, through the voices of four women, of marginalized vs. center, invisible histories, and the pressures of social convention not simply on day to day life but on how one's existence is even remembered. Complex, beautiful, and nuanced, Olondria is a place to sweep you away. -- Chris P.

 

Erstwhile
Brian Catling
Erstwhile is Brian Catling's second installment of the Vorrh trilogy. Catling continues to develop a world that revolves around  a massive, self conscious forest in the middle of Africa that has proven itself capable of expelling colonialist and awaking prophets that help defend its boundaries. As rumors of another world war spread, strange creatures are appearing throughout Germany and London.  Mistaken for shell shocked soldiers or the mentally ill, they wind up in institutions where a few have recognized their unnatural behavior. They are the Erstwhile, the angles that failed to protect the Tree of Knowledge and abandoned by God.
 
Brain Catling fuses traditional mythology, historical locations, people and events, with his own created world to develop a style that lands some where between fantasy and speculative fiction. There are intricacies to Catling's story telling that are hard to discuss without giving to much of the fun away.  I can say that Catling has produced the most creative and engrossing trilogy that I've read in a long while. -- Terry S.

 

 

Word of the Worlds March 2017

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March 2017

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Year for 2016 was "surreal." For 2017, my money is on "dystopia." Shortly after the inauguration, 1984, that classic high-school-assigned-reading story of dystopia, rocketed to the top of bestseller lists nationwide. And for good reason. It's a great book with a lot of unsettlingly prescient aspects: newspeak, Big Brother, doublethink, and more. President Trump’s prolific lies, his refusal to concede even when confronted by evidence, and the spin attempt to explain those lies away as “alternative facts” fit neatly into Orwell’s dire, dour tale. (On a tangent, Ursula K. LeGuin most excellently and definitively clarified the difference between “alternative facts” and the fabrications of science fiction in a letter to The Oregonian. This was in response to a boneheaded reader’s attempt to lump Spicer, Bannon, and Trump in with legendary scifi writers like Arthur C. Clarke and LeGuin herself.)

As many have pointed out, 1984 really only gets some of it right, and there are many other books whose vision of doom and gloom have proven just as--if not more--accurate. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World presents a more American version of the totalitarian state where dominion is achieved and maintained through entertainment, distraction, and consumerism. And recently Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale came roaring back into relevancy not because of a TV show in the works but because of, among other things, an Oklahoma lawmaker’s comments to the effect that women were “hosts” for their babies. 

As a genre, dystopic fiction has always been about the hypothetical. In fact, turning to Merriam-Webster again, dystopia is defined as “an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized, often fearful, lives.” Writers of dystopic fiction project what they see around them forward, speculating on the ramifications of a current course of events or way of thinking. The Handmaid’s Tale lashed out at anti-feminist movements during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and Octavia Butler’s Parable books written during the 90s were born of mounting concerns over environmental stewardship, corporate interests, and religious fundamentalism .

This is why classic dystopic fiction novels, for all their predictions, can feel outdated. Set in the future, they are nevertheless about the present. Orwell’s 1984 London was an extension of 1940s London, grimy and half-starved by war-time rationing. It’s worth revisiting these great books (and via the generosity of some of our customers, we’ve been literally giving away copies of 1984), and there are many, many, many lists right now, but here at DIESEL we want to encourage readers to take note of some of the current visions of dystopia being written. They’re coming from all over the world, and they’re voices in the wilderness calling attention to things happening around us right now. Just remember one thing: as Naomi Klein points out, while it’s easy to despair at all the clouds on the horizon, the important thing is to do something. Read more, get out there, and get active.

Check out our list of Dystopia Beyond 1984 after the Book Reviews section below.

And, if you're interested in receiving this newsletter in your email, please click here to sign up.

 

Book Reviews

Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome
Serge Brussolo

The Deep Sea Diver's Syndrome is exemplary scifi. It has a cinematic quality that somehow calls to mind both Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and 60s Parisian noirs like the great Le Samourai. As a story about entering dreams, Inception will be the inevitable comparison, but where Nolan's dream worlds were stale and rather unimaginative, the oneiric capers of David, the dream-diver, are absolute trips. His dream heists are slippery, indistinct but for the details immediately focused on, apt to change without warning, and influenced strongly and wildly by errant thoughts. Through this thrilling and gorgeously written tale of a desperate man against the ropes, Brussolo examines the value of art and the artist, the real vs. the ideal, the loneliness of existence, and happiness as an end to justify any means. -- Chris P.

Norse Mythology
Neil Gaiman
Norse mythology was primarily an oral tradition, only being compiled in prose and verse years after Christianity had driven the worship of the old gods out of northern Europe. If you find yourself bereft of viking friends but still want to get a feel for what it may have been like to hear those stories told beneath a blanket of stars, in an ancient forest, then Neil Gaiman's new book may be just for you. It is simple, straightforward, and as close to a verbal retelling as the written word can be. This book is perfect for those who want to get a view of the tales that have influenced so much of Gaiman's fiction. -- David C.

All Our Wrongs Today
Elan Mastai
I keep trying to tell myself I am through with male fantasies, but then I get sucker punched by a really good one.

Mastai must either be super woke or just have amazing instincts, because he dances right up to the edge of a number of problematic elements that usually drive me insane (including much of what enraged me about The Lives of Tao), and then he tweaks them, or subverts them just so. This is a very, very clever book; it's a finely crafted instrument that Mastai has strung with tons of tropes -- which he then twangs and plucks and makes dance in a unique, deeply satisfying way. I found it romantic and poignant and philosophically challenging.

Mastai approaches time travel in a manner I'd never encountered in any other story -- although weirdly, not long after I read it, I picked up The Man From Primrose Lane, which utilizes a similar concept, but completely defangs the idea. Similarly, the recent Dark Matter plays with alternate universes and identity much as Mastai does in All Our Wrong Todays, but again, I found Mastai's version toothier and more dynamic. That said, if you liked either of those books, I think you will love this one.

All Our Wrong Todays is a book by a man, about a man, in which the female characters are all secondary to the male protagonist's story and don't really have agency -- and yet, it's also such a rich, human story that I pretty much do not care. Would I prefer to read a version of this book with a woman at its core? Absolutely. But mostly I'm just so happy that this one exists. -- Anna K.

 

Dystopia Beyond 1984
(Contemporary voices, contemporary concerns)

First let me say, by all means, please read 1984, The Handmaid's Tale, Brave New World, It Can't Happen Here, We, The Children of Men, and all those classic works of dystopic fiction that maybe you last encountered as an assignment. Having said that, don't miss these recently published books that cast our current ills forward and speculate the way only fiction can:

 

There's a reason Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal's seventh novel made the longlist for all of France's prestigious awards and won the Grand Prix du Roman when it was published in 2015. Explicitly paying tribute to Orwell's classic, Sansal combines omnipresent surveillance with religious authoritarianism in this tale of a man in search of a city free of religion's yoke.


The Peripheral - William Gibson
Two timelines crash together in Gibson's latest book: a near-future that seems all-too near where pharmaceuticals are commonplace diversions and there are few jobs to be had, particularly in America's rural South; and a far-future were the world has been largely depopulated post-Singularity, and reality TV has been taken to an unsettling new level. Once again, Gibson hits us with a bold, speculative imagination that verges on prophetic.



Radiant Terminus - Antoine Volodine
Antoine Volodine (aka Lutz Bassmann, Manuela Draeger, and many others) is a bold, experimental writer like no other. For years, he has been creating a web of works that cross-reference each other, a fictional literary movement (post-exoticism) that his alter egos practice, and a vision of a surreal, apocalyptic, dystopic future. His latest book takes place after the fall of the Second Soviet Union, when radiation poisons the land, and in a small, remote commune, a petty despot tyrannizes family, friends, and foes alike.  


A Planet for Rent - Yoss
So thinly-veiled a critique on Cuba's "Special Period" in the 1990s that Yoss still can't get this book published in his home country, A Planet for Rent portrays a human population dominated by vastly superior aliens. But the real villains are the people of the Planetary Tourism Agency, a human puppet government that sells out its own people to the alien overlords.

 


The Queue - Basma Abdel Aziz
Opaque bureaucracy a la Kafka's The Trial meets Orwell's vision of government usage of doublespeak at full force. While The Queue doesn't really have any scifi to it--the unnamed Middle Eastern city strongly resembles Cairo post-Arab Spring--its grim portrayal of hope in the face of futility makes it resonate in a way at once disturbing and familiar.

Word of the Worlds February 2017

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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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Book Reviews
Click on the book cover to buy from our website!

This Census-Taker
China Mieville
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
Anthony O'Neill
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.

 

 

 

After James
Michael Helm
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.
Leviathan Wakes
Caliban's War
Abaddon's Gate
Cibola Burn
Nemesis Games
Babylon's Ashes


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 Magicians
The Magician King
The Magician's Land

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