Tag Archives: SpeculativeFiction

Ivyland by Miles Klee

ivyIvyland by Miles Klee

OR Books, New York, 2012

From my TBR pile, given to me by a friend.  I think this one fits into the 2013 Sci-Fi experience, but it leans towards the Speculative Fiction end of things.  I also just discovered it is in The 2013 Tournament of Books, along with several books I have read and several on my TBR list!

Holy crap..what a strange ride this is.

Based in Ivyland, New Jersey, a town taken over by Endless, a Big-Bio-Pharma company and dotted with MexiLickin’SurfHog fastest food joints, this reads like a nightmare shared by Philip K Dick and Thomas Pynchon with some Kurt Vonnegut thrown in for good measure.  Ads run 24/7 on any surface available and through any sound system..The Van Vetchen procedure, a minimally invasive surgery that has saved untold millions of American lives, is now available through mobile immunization centers crisscrossing the country…  Sounds scary, doesn’t it?

Traffic that doesn’t move, pharmaceutically- enhanced beverages, cops hired by corporations, a possible American near-future or maybe it is the present?

The chapters jump between characters and time periods so you never quite know where you are,  an addictive adrenaline rush that made it hard to put down even though I wondered exactly what was I getting from this book.  Klee’s writing was the reward.

He broods on this alternative, steepling his index fingers as glittering eyes sink into the grass.  Anastasio shuffles his feet.  The narcotic drone of cicadas strings the night like a handful of beads….Henry and Grady have moved on.  They walk, weaving back and forth in the road to avoid roadkill and potholes, through another four intersections.  I watch.  Until they fade from sight, I let the flawed film unreel…Moonlight follows the same path, still touching them when I wipe my eyes and squint, wrapping their bodies like another skin when they finally meet the ink-blotted distance, Henri turning around, one arm still across Grady’s back, and examining the horizon to see if I’m there…

In the end this weird, unsettling novel is about friendship and about love.  A strange mix, parts totally out of hand and parts wonderfully lyrical.  I don’t know anything about Miles Klee, but think he is an author I need to watch.

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Filed under 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, Books, SciFi, SpeculativeFiction, Thoughts

A More Diverse Universe – Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

This amazing reading event has been organized by several bloggers, including Aarti and Natasha.  What started as a simple suggestion has turned into something that I hope will have wide impact across the book blogging community, introducing readers to speculative fiction written by people of color.

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Riverhead Books, New York, 2011

Borrowed from my public library.  This is the first novel I have read by Helen Oyeyemi.  Oyeyemi is  a young British author whose parents moved to London from Nigeria in the late 1980’s.    She won the Somerset Maugham Award for her third novel, White is for Witching.

Mr Fox is made up of short stories, letters, vignettes and folktales based around the relationships between St John Fox, his wife Daphne and his imaginary (or is she really/) muse, Mary Foxe.  The main theme come from fairy tales that feature women who have been ordered by men to follow certain rules and who, after breaking these restrictions, are murdered and dismembered.  Think of  Bluebeard, The Robber Bridegroom or Joseph Jacob’s Mr. Fox.

Mr Fox starts out lightly, with banter and teasing between St John Fox and his imaginary muse, but eventually Mary becomes angry at his need to kill off the women in his novels.  Does this distance him from truly engaging in his relationships, with his wife and with the world?

Eventually S.J. and Mary agree to write different kinds of stories, ones which delve deeper into what make up true connections.  We never know who writes what, but here is where  Oyeyemi’s abilities as a writer begin to shine.  Whether is is telling a story of Mary’s time as a nanny and the role her charge is forced to play as she grows up, or the tale of a Yoruba woman who falls in love with an Englishman and then grows bored with him, eventually rebuilding the relationship and finding herself renewed,  I was enthralled.  There is often violence woven in these stories, violence against women,  their struggle to be free of it, and their struggle to create.  And foxes, there are many foxes.

She’d thought she didn’t have any stories, but in fact she had too many.

She put down things she didn’t know she knew.  She wrote about a girl who babysat herself while both her parents worked and worked for not enough pay.  The girl didn’t answer the door or the telephone because no one was meant to know she babysat herself, and besides, it might be the Home Office, and then they’d all be deported.  So that she would not be scared, she pretended she was a spy and wrote secret spy notes on pink paper.  She posted the spy notes out of the living room window, she sent them spinning down onto the heads of passersby, who picked them up and didn’t understand them.  They’d look up, but the girl has disappeared from the window – no one was supposed to know she was there.  From pages 106/107

All the time Daphne Fox is floating around the edges of the novel, filmy and a bit bubble-headed.  It is when she begins to believe S.J. is having an affair with Mary that she becomes solid and real, and begins to think of a different life.  And Mary Foxe becomes real for her, Daphne gives her form and, in doing so, gives a new form to her own life.

Mr Fox is not an easy read.  It has no true shape, there are parts that drift, that don’t seem to connect to the whole, but by struggling through I found it all makes sense.  After a time I would like to read it again and I am definitely going to read more of Helen Oyeyemi’s work.  I am so grateful to the organizers of this event for bringing me to this author, and allowing me this opportunity to be part of an important blogging event.

For a brilliant discussions on diversity in fantasy and speculative fiction and please go here and here, and make sure to visit other blogs on this tour.  You can find a list here.

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Filed under Books, Diverse Universe, Fantasy, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts

Books for R.I.P. VII and A More Diverse Universe

I’m not one for making book lists (other than my 500+ to-be-read list) but I thought it would be fun to make a list  of possible books for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII and include some for A More Diverse Universe along with them:

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler

Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora Ed: Sheree R. Thomas

Feed by Mira Grant

Haunted Legends edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

Of Tales and Enigmas by Minsoo Kang

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

The Liminal People by Ayize Jama-Everett

Those Across The River by Christopher Buehlman

and I’d like to reread The Graveyard Book for the group read.  I also have an interesting looking non-fiction book, Monsters in America by W. Scott Poole.  I know I won’t get to all of these!

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Filed under Books, Events, R.I.P. VII

Player One: What Is To Become Of Us, A Novel In Five Parts by Douglas Coupland

Player One: What Is to Become of Us: A Novel…Player One: What Is To Become Of Us by Douglas Coupland

House of Anansi Press, Totonto, 2012

From my library.  My final book for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.

This book had an interesting beginning.  A novel written for the  CBC 2010 Massey Lecture Series, each chapter was presented in a different Canadian city.  I have read and enjoyed printed versions of these lectures before, including works by Margaret Atwood and Wade Davis.

I’ve never read Douglas Coupland and maybe this was not the book to start with, or maybe I’m over the “coolness factor” displayed by some authors.  The story starts and ends in a typical airport lounge where we meet five characters, one disembodied, all from different backgrounds, all going through some kind of life change.   Enter the apocalypse, in the form of drastically rising oil prices.  There is a self-help guru and a sniper involved, some people get shot, and at the end there is an interest glossary.

I get this.  How our reliance of a way of life could be disastrous in the face of sudden change.  How people lead driven and empty lives, and that we really ought to stop and think about this and make different choices.  I guess that’s Coupland’s point, but for someone who enjoys apocalyptic and dystopian fiction,  I found this brief novel too cold and empty.  I could not connect with the story or the characters.

If anyone has read Coupland can you suggest another novel that I might enjoy?

6 Comments

Filed under Canadian, CBC Massey Lectures, SpeculativeFiction

After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh

After the Apocalypse by Maureen McHugh

Small Beer Press, East Hampton, 2011

From my TBR pile.

Throughout high school, college and into my young adulthood I read science fiction.  Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clark, Anne McCaffery,  Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Harlen Ellison and many other authors held my attention for a decade or more.  I carried beat-up copies of Dune and A Canticle for Leibowitz as I hitch-hiked around New England.  I named my cats Ylla,  Gandalf and Genly (there was, of course, fantasy mixed in).

Then somehow I drifted away.  Once in a while I’d pick up a sci fi book, some I liked, most just didn’t grab me.  Was I growing away from the genre?  Did I feel too “grown-up” to read science fiction?  I don’t really know.

Luckily, in the late eighties, I discovered a bookstore in my neighborhood that was entirely devoted to science fiction and fantasy.  There I found William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Gene Wolfe, Jane Yolen, Emma Bull, Neal Stephenson and many others, including Maureen McHugh.  I have never looked back.

After the Apocalypse is a collection of short stories about, well, life after the apocalypse.   But these stories feel real, they ask what such a world would really feel like.  Disasters have happened somewhere else, a dirty bomb in Philly or a massacre at DisneyWorld.  A mad-cow like disease entering the food system through something as innocuous as chicken nuggets.    These stories are about how American people cope, or fail to cope.  Simple, spare and devastating, sometimes even funny, they are filled with the unexpected and completely mundane.  These things could really happen, maybe even have happened.

McHugh is smart, her stories are smart, and the possibilities they hold are utterly frightening.  If you’re paranoid, you might want to skip this one.

Because I don’t read science fiction magazines this is my first time with McHugh’s shorter works.  I love her novels and have now added her first story collection, Mothers & Other Monsters to my wish list.

9 Comments

Filed under 2012 Speculative Fiction Challenge, Science Book Challenge 2012, SciFi, SpeculativeFiction, Thoughts

Seed by Rob Ziegler

Seed by Rob Zielger

Night Shade Books, San Francisco, 2011

From my library TBR list.  With a recommendation from Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl, I wanted to read this one when I first saw it on the Night Shade Books website.

At the beginning of the 22nd century most of the United States has become a dust bowl, ravaged by violent waves of unpredictable weather.  Migrants, ragged and hungry, travel from place to place, on foot or in rigged-up vehicles,gathering Seed from government depots and hoping to find a place to grow and harvest a crop, enough food to last until the next harvest, never knowing when that will be.  They are swayed by prairie saints and harassed by La Chupacabra, a gang of violent thieves.

Seed is bio-engineered and precious, marked by a tiny barcode.   Made by Satori, a living,  growing animal of a city, controlled by the Designers, and genetically coded to be sterile,  it is the only source of food available, and the Government struggles to control  it.  Satori’s Designers, bio-engineered themselves, have minds of their own and have created modified humans as laborers and security forces.  And there is Tet, a deadly virus slowly spreading through the population.

Ziegler has written a dystopian western, filled with shoot-outs and clipped dialogue.  His use of imminent climate change and terminator technology turns this first novel towards speculative fiction.  It is messy, violent and I found it a quick, disturbing read.

2 Comments

Filed under 2012 Speculative Fiction Challenge, Review, Sci-Fi Experience, SciFi, SpeculativeFiction, TBR Double Dare

The 2012 Science Fiction Experience – Jan 1st to Feb 29th

I am so ready for this.  Thanks to Carl V. for organizing another great reading event.

In Carl’s own words:

And so I officially welcome you to The 2012 Science Fiction Experience, which runs from January 1st, 2012 through February 29th, 2012. That’s right, we get an extra day this year! Woo-hoo!

The “rules” of the experience are simple: there are none. Remember, this isn’t a challenge. If you would like to join us in reading and discussing any science fiction reading or television viewing or movie watching you do over that time period, please do.

If you chose to blog about your Sci-Fi experience there is a review site here.  I plan on running this event concurrent with the 2012 Speculative Fiction Challenge but you can do it any way you want!

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Filed under Challenges 2012, Events, Sci-Fi Experience, SciFi, SpeculativeFiction