October 14, 2008
A medieval village is transported to a technologically-advanced planet, where 12th century weaponry and terrestrial cunning miraculously defeat hoards of laser-toting aliens. This book proves that Earth is the USA of the galaxy – EARTH! EARTH! EARTH! – because we kick ass and take names. And that ain’t easy, because alien names are hard to spell, and our limited knowledge of xenobiology often makes finding their asses difficult. Recommended.
On a scale of medieval weapons ranging from the misericorde to the scramaseax, this book is: the zweihander.
October 2, 2008
Having gotten over humans crucifying Jesus, God decides to send another messiah to Earth. But this time, it’s a woman. Not only that, but Morrow infers that God Herself is a She. A female God? Sounds crazy but he might be right; God is demanding, prone to frightening emotional outbursts and no man can make Her happy! Rim shot. I guess the Eleventh Commandment would be ‘Thou shalt not leave the toilet seat up’! Double rim shot. Vagina! Goodnight everybody. Highly recommended.
On a scale of miracles Jesus performed ranging from turning water into wine to driving demons from a pig, this book is: that time He made the Statue Of Liberty disappear.
September 28, 2008
Before H.G. Wells became morbidly obese and started doing wine commercials, he wrote this book, in which two 19th century Londoners journey to our nearest celestial neighbor. A celestial neighbor, by the way, is good to have when you leave Earth on vacation and need someone to water your plants. Anywho, they discover a highly complex society living beneath the barren lunar surface, like we all kinda knew they would. With its blend of spirited adventure and heady social commentary, The First Men In The Moon is a story everyone can enjoy. Well, almost everyone; conspiracy theorists believe this entire book was a hoax staged by the Nixon administration to draw attention away from the war in Vietnam. Recommended.
On a scale of people mentioned in the Neil Diamond song ‘Done Too Soon’ ranging from Genghis Khan to Ho Chi Minh, this book is: H.G. Wells.
September 22, 2008
A mind-blowing future history of humanity, beginning in the present day and ending in the year 200,000,000. You think cramming for a test on the War Of 1812 is hard? Try writing 200,000,000 years of cheat notes on your arm. This book is an unsung literary sci-fi gem, but not for long, because I wrote a song about it: Gimmie a bouncy C! Hello? Where’s that guy I hired to play the piano? What do you mean he doesn’t work on Sundays? Fuckin’ pianists union. Dense, long-winded, but recommended.
On a scale of Toronto mayors ranging from Rob Ford to David Miller, this book is: Mel Lastman.
September 11, 2008
Every human who ever lived is resurrected along the banks of a mysterious river where they are fed, clothed and made impervious to death by an outside force beyond comprehension. That’s on page three. From there, the authour pits a reanimated Sir Richard Burton against a revived Hermann Goring as the two of them compete for supremacy and understanding of a paradise that may be anything but. If scifi is a what if? genre, then Farmer is a why not? writer, bound by no convention whatsoever. Recommended, if only for the sheer bravado of subject matter and storytelling.
On a scale of things that come back to life ranging from the African lungfish to Jesus, this book is: zombie John Dillinger.
September 7, 2008
James Tiptree writes like a girl, because he was one. Alice Bradley Sheldon assumed a male nom de plume to avoid the discrimination faced by female writers in the early days of scifi (it was not uncommon, for example, to see a leering Isaac Asimov chasing a busty, short-skirted Ursula K. Leguin repeatedly around a desk while imploring her to ‘prove you’re not a robot, sugar pie’). But as this excellent anthology shows, any fear Tiptree had about not being taken seriously was unfounded; her scifi hammer hangs lower than most male writers’. Highly recommended.
On a scale of famous men who were really women ranging from Pope Joan to Billy Tipton, this book is: Samus Aran.
1991: The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories In Honor Of Ray Bradbury edited by William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg
September 5, 2008
Reading Bradbury’s short story catalogue is like taking a highly-addictive, euphoria-inducing drug. It’s a glorious, almost spiritual experience while it lasts. But there’s a limited supply, and eventually you run out. In desperation, you buy some Asimov from a guy you don’t really know and read it by yourself in the bathroom at the bus station. Soon you’re watching Will Smith in I Robot through half-closed eyes and telling yourself you can stop any time you want. The Bradbury Chronicles is like methadone for everyone jonesin’ for more of the master’s works; a series of stories that aren’t the real thing, but will tide you over until you can get some help. Recommended.
On a scale of Bradbury-related withdrawl symptoms ranging from Dandelion Wine D.T.’s to S Is For The Shakes, this book is: A fever of Fahrenheit 451.
August 23, 2008
The book is a doozy; 450 pages of arcane high-fantasy prose denser than Oprah’s pubic hair and just as daunting. But if you’ve got the time and patience to push through, it’s worth it. Eddison describes everything from the story’s characters to what they wear to how they fight to what they eat in highly intricate but engrossing detail, and the plot is intricate as hell. By the end it’s like you’re really drunk at an awesome party: you don’t remember where you are, who anyone is or what’s going on, but you don’t care, because you’re having such a great time and no one suspects it was you who pooped in the upstairs bathtub. Recommended for hardcore fantasy buffs.
On a scale of breakdance moves ranging from the Coffee Grinder to the Worm, this book is: the One Arm Elbow Air Flare.
August 17, 2008
Funny story: I read a lot of Vonnegut in high school, and in the back of one of his books was an authour bio that described him as ‘America’s foremost black humourist’. But when I saw a picture of him looking decidedly Caucasian, I was totally confused, and thought for awhile that there must be two famous authours named Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., one black and one white. It wasn’t until I submitted an essay about Player Piano in which I claimed that ‘Vonnegut’s pessimism about the place of humanity in the new industrial age is told in a distinctly African American voice.’ that I discovered my error. Anyway, this book is pretty good. Recommended.
August 14, 2008
Bradbury pulls the ol’ good cop/bad cop routine with this book. First, he scares you. Then he makes you feel like everything’s going to be okay. Then he scares you again. Then he offers you a cigarette. Then he slaps it out of your hand and talks about the horrible things that happen to readers like you in the joint. But the only thing I’ll confess to is loving this classic tale of small-town horror as seen through the eyes of children. Recommended.
On a scale of coming wickedness ranging from summer gas gouging to Ragnarok, this book is: New Memories Of TuscanyTM Soylent Green (With 33% More Italians!)
August 11, 2008
This ‘speculative’ tale of an environmentally ravaged world is so chilling in its accuracy you’ll pray for accelerated global warming. Seventy-five percent of the environmental disasters Brunner foretold in The Sheep Look Up have already come to pesticide-riddled fruition. The rest are bearing down on us like a leaking, lead-lined tanker of crude. Read it, then T-bone a Hummer with your Prius. Recommended.
On a scale of environmental disasters ranging from vanishing bees to radioactive pandas, this book is: using whale meat as dolphin bait.
August 5, 2008
The year is 2021, and an epidemic of global infertility (don’t worry, it happens to lots of guys) means no babies have been born for 26 years. Anne Geddes is destitute and no one eats for free at HoJo. Amid this bleak background the novel’s protagonist becomes entwined with a group of revolutionaries who may have a way to save the world. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I’m too excited to keep it a secret: THEY’RE GOING TO HAVE A BABY! A sad a poignant examination of the purpose and importance of children in our lives, Kids Of Dudes is a winner. Recommended.
On a scale of reasons to have a baby ranging from boredom to tax deductions, this book is: propagation of the species.
June 17, 2008
The last man on earth is holed up in his house trying to survive against his former friends and neighbors, who are now vampires. The worst thing about having neighbors who are vampires is that, after they bite you, they borrow your lawnmower and never return it. Plus, their vampire kids invite their vampire friends over and have a big vampire party where they blare Vampire Weekend all weekend. Back to the book: read it and see why I Am Legend is I-am-legendary. Recommended.
On a scale of things that suck ranging from leeches to the Dyson vacuum cleaner, this book is: the film adaptation of this book.
June 5, 2008
This book follows the seamy exploits of a private detective in a futuristic Frisco where drugs are legal, animals can talk and criminals are cryogenically frozen and turned into sex slaves. ‘Great,’ you’re thinking, ‘ another one of those novels.’ Still, it’s pretty good. Letham effortlessly blends Philip K. Dick and Chandler (Phoebe, Ross and Rachel, however, fail to make an appearance) for a one-of-a-kind work of cyber-noir. BTW, ‘noir’ is just fancy talk for ‘black’. And, BTW, ‘BTW’ is just fancy talk for ‘by the way’. Recommended.
On a scale of ways to prepare eggs ranging from scrambled to poached, this book is: hard boiled.
May 25, 2008
A prisoner in San Quentin escapes the monotony of solitary confinement and the physical agony of weeks in a straightjacket by putting himself into a trance and revisiting himself in past lives. Like they say: ‘Don’t do the crime if you can’t transcend reality and travel back in time’. Ever the realist, London conducted interviews with actual convicts before writing this book to ensure the prison experiences he depicted were accurate. Hence The Star Rover’s initial title, Cornholed By The Aryans. Highly recommended.
On a scale of Jack London book titles that could double as prison nicknames ranging from White Fang to Lost Face, this book is: The Game.
May 21, 2008
What would’ve happened if, instead of standing against Germany and Italy in WWII, America had elected a brutal dictatorship of its own? Give up? Read this pile o’ pages and find out. This novel is a comic commentary on fascism (think Hitler, but with a Groucho Marx moustache) and the fragility of democracy, and is an oft-cited work of alternate history. That’s right – ‘oft’. So you know it’s good. Recommended.
On a scale of characters in Stephen King’s It ranging from Eddie Kaspbrak to Mike Hanlon, this book is: It.
May 14, 2008
In the far distant future the drug of choice isn’t cocaine or marijuana. It isn’t smack or crank, either. Or acid. Or hash, meth, uppers, downers, reds, blues, scream juice, zqxkj or Ugandan whiz-bang. It’s the Spice, and it’s the central subject of this classic, mind-bending tale of family and political intrigue set on the planet of Arrakis. If you enjoyed Dallas but thought it could use more sandworms, Dune will blow your mind like a double scream juice on the rocks. Recommended.
On a scale of Spice Girls that were kicked out of the group ranging from Ugly Spice to Crusty Spice, this book is: Weepy Lesion Spice.
May 11, 2008
If only there was a book in which a young Merlin is instructed in ‘magic’ by a race of aliens who seek to unite a balkanized post-Roman Britain and use humankind as weapons in a millennium-long war against their own enemies. Wait a minute…there is! Merlin’s Mirror is a seamless combo of Chariots Of The Gods and The Sword In The Stone that both entertains and gives pause for (dare I say it?) reflection. This book is one of the reasons Andre Norton was nicknamed ‘The Giant’ by her opponents. Recommended.
On a scale of famous magicians ranging from David Blaine to Circe, this book is: the Silver Age Dr. Strange.
May 7, 2008
This book is about an 18th century perfumer who brutally murders young virgins and steals their scents. Which, coincidently, is the same method used by Liz Taylor to make White Diamonds. Not only is this book very interesting and well-written, but the dark subject matter is offset by Patrick Süskind’s use of an umlaut in his name, which makes anything unpleasant seem alluring: löose, rünny stöol. See? Recommended.
On a scale of poorly-selling perfumes ranging from ‘Burnt Toast’ to ‘Hospital Hallway’, this book is: Iggy Pop’s ‘T’aint’.
Of all the hideous creations in Lovecraft’s pantheon, the visually-impaired, mentally-challenged deity is my personal favourite, so The Azathoth Cycle was like music to my ears. Music comprised of the beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes, but music nonetheless. This book, however, should in no way be confused with Azathoth-ciclesTM, the frozen treat kids go horribly, irreversibly mad for. Recommended.
On a scale of fictional New England towns ranging from Derry, Maine to Arkham, Massachusetts, this book is: Madeupville, Rhode Island.
April 21, 2008
When intelligent newts (I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but this is scifi) are discovered on the ocean floor, humankind enlists them to mine pearls. The newts then use the very pearl-mining tools we gave them to wage war. Sound familiar? It’s the same thing that happened when Reagan armed Afghani newts to fight the Russians in the 1980’s. This book is a brilliant satire that proves that, if war is hell, war with newts is a different, newt-ier kind of hell. Recommended.
On a scale of dark, moist things ranging from peat moss to the inside of a wrestling shoe, this book is: black forest cake.
April 17, 2008
Jolly Old England is completely de-jollified when a food shortage causes the Brits to descend rapidly into crazed barbarism. And who can blame them? Without kippers, kidney pies and toads-in-holes, I’d go off my chump, too, old boy. This book is basically like The Road, except with no happy ending to reaffirm your faith in humankind (yuck!). Like a British weather forecast, it’s dreary, miserable and grey, and shows no sign of letting up. Highly recommended.
On a scale of grasses ranging from Bermuda to Fountain, this book is: Creeping Red Fescue.
If you don’t think the real WWII was bad enough, this book is for you; eleven stories portraying a victorious Nazi menace looming like a dark cloud over the world. The forecast? Stormy, with a chance of heil. If you’re a Hitler buff, you’ll definitely want to read this book. Also, if you’re a Hitler buff, you probably shouldn’t go around describing yourself as a ‘Hitler buff’. Very highly recommended.
On a scale of rooms in Hitler’s house ranging from the schlafzimmer to the küche, this book is: the lebensraum.
April 5, 2008
In the year 2060, a distant planet is visited by a group of Jesuit missionaries (NOTE: absolutely no ‘missionary position’ jokes will be made about this book.) Once there, they experience the greater glory of God in the form of death, torture, modest inconvenience, and sexual brutality at the hands of the native population. I guess the missionary position isn’t as fun as it sounds (NOTE: I couldn’t resist. Sorry.) Highly recommended.
On a scale of martyrs ranging from Miguel Pro to Roque González de Santa Cruz, this book is: the guy who gave that baseball back to Mark McGwire.
March 21, 2008
Although this novel postulates a world in which the Nazis won WWII, it was written two years before the war started, when Hitler was an apple-cheeked Führer building Luftwaffe models in his bedroom and doodling Auschwitz blueprints in his binder during math class. In it, the Nazis have imprisoned women, deigning contact only for reproduction, and have rewritten history to make Hitler seem like a blond-haired God. I think we can all be thankful that Burdekin’s predictions didn’t come to pass, and that the privilege of rewriting history went to the victorious Allies. By the way, did you know Kaiser Wilhelm failed his driving test and had a third nipple? Recommended.
On a scale of predictions that didn’t come true ranging from Oral Roberts being called home to Y2K, this book is: my lotto numbers coming up.
March 17, 2008
Australia. In the wake of a nuclear war, a small group of survivours struggle through the challenges of daily life, grimly secure in the inevitability of their imminent deaths. Together, they form a sad, poignant and inspiring tableau of life at the end of the nuclear age. I’m speaking, of course, about The Road Warrior. I love that movie. I think that’s where Nevil Shute got the idea for this book. A good case for banning the bomb.
On a scale of radiation sickness ranging from mild nausea to immediate death, this book is: sterility and some bleeding.
March 14, 2008
Of all of SF’s sub-genres, time travel is one of my favourites. Hawksbill Station (both the book and the station) delivers a steaming helping of chilling time travel in a world where political dissidents are sent to a penal colony a billion years in the past. But with good behavior, they could get out in 500,000,000. Silverberg tempers well-crafted characters with friggin’ cool descriptions of what the Earth looked like long before anything set foot, paw or claw on it. Highly recommended.
On a scale of predatory birds ranging from osprey to raptors, this book is: a wedge-tailed eagle.
February 28, 2008
Dunsany is like Eminem. He writes with a simplicity and style that makes you think, ‘I can do that.’ But when you sit down and try, you realize how tight, mad and crazy his science, flow and skills are, respectively. And you hate him for his talent, but you don’t want to dis him because you’re afraid he might write a skit about you fellating Insane Clown Posse. So you squash the beef and read this collection of stories, most of which are about how much he hates his ex-wife. Highly recommended.
On a scale of D12 members ranging from Bizarre to Kuniva, this book is: Kon Artis.
February 21, 2008
Merlin the magician (as opposed to, say, Merlin the plumber) tutours a young Arthur in the skills needed be the King Of England: posing for stamps, inbreeding and waving to crowds. Rule Britannia! Most people are familiar with the Disney adaptation of this book, but the book is better. It has no musical numbers, and its sales don’t go to fund the construction of Israeli earthquake machines. Highly recommended.
On a scale of kings ranging from Burger King to Martin Luther King, Jr., this book is: Abe Froman, Sausage King Of Chicago.
February 14, 2008
In high school I took acid and watched this movie, but I don’t recommend doing the same thing with the book. The sound of the pages turning is like your enemies whispering (‘Fear….’ they seem to say, ‘Feeeeeaaar….’) and you think the chair across the room will move unless you stare at it without blinking. Also, can you even get acid anymore? Kids today are too busy ‘dropping’ the ‘X’ and inhaling computer dusting spray to care about a few tabs of Green Lantern, and they’ll beat you with the metal casing from a tampon dispenser for even wandering into their turf to ask. Highly recommended.
On a scale of intelligent computers ranging from Speak N’ Spell to Deep Blue, this book is: that Japanese stair-climbing robot.
February 7, 2008
A society of sentient cucarachas living in a man’s kitchen worship Him as their god. But when the Man gets drunk and shoots himself, they begin to question the wisdom and power of their hitherto beloved deity. Basically, it’s Watership Down with roaches. Or maybe Watership Down is this book with rabbits. Either way, it’s a good read. And when you’re done, you can use it to swat real cockroaches. Cut your Raid bill in half. Save some cash. Times are tough out there. Recommended.
On a scale of famous cockroaches ranging from Freddie Roach to Gregor Samsa, this book is: Carl Anthony Payne II.
February 5, 2008
Cartoonist Gahan Wilson proves he’s a man of many talents (okay, two) with this offbeat anthology of stories. What I like about this book is that every story is told in a different voice. In ‘The Sea Was Wet As Wet Could Be’, Wilson does a Robin Williams ‘black guy’ voice. In ‘Them Bleaks’ he does a Richard Pryor ‘white guy’ voice. And in ‘The Marble Boy’ he does a ‘what if John Madden and Cher had a baby? I think it would sound a little like this’ voice. Sometimes whimsical, sometimes humourous, sometimes whimsi-rous, The Cleft will delight your literary palate. Recommended.
On a scale of things cut in half featured on thingsihavecutinhalf.blogspot.com ranging from a teabag to a pocket comb, this book is: an alarm clock.
January 28, 2008
A meteor made of gold and worth billions careens towards Earth, sending everyone into a panic. Alas, they are helpless to prevent it, and can only stare, open-mouthed, at the magnificent golden shower about to rain down on them. This novel uses the anarchic profanity ‘zounds’ more than 23 times, making it the Scarface of its day, which explains why it is the most quoted Jules Verne book in hip-hop. Recommended.
On a scale of things Goldfinger does ranging from beckoning you to enter his web of sin to pouring golden words in your ear, this book is: telling you lies that can’t disguise what you fear.
January 17, 2008
A nuke war causes modern society to revert to bleak monasticism, which, over thousands of years evolves into a modern society, which once again launches a nuke war, which starts the whole silly cycle over again. Or as Cypress Hill said, ‘What go around come around, kid.’ This book is a brilliant commentary on organized religion’s pros (provides strength during difficult times) and cons (priest may diddle you in church kitchen; if kitchen in use, supply cupboard) and answers the age-old question as to which of the faiths pleases God the most (Sorry, Jews). Highly recommended.
On a scale of fallen civilizations ranging from the Incan to the Aztec, this book is: the Norte-Chico.
January 14, 2008
A potter is summoned to a distant planet to help an ancient alien being raise a sunken cathedral. There, he battles the alien’s entropic double, which takes the form of a giant, shadowy bird. This book is like you took acid, hallucinated, and your hallucination took acid, and is of a style scifi aficionados have come to call ‘Dickian’. This is, of course, much different than ‘Dickensian’, which is important to know if you’ve ever found yourself reading A Tale Of Two Cities and wondering when the androids are going to show up. Highly recommended.
On a scale of things androids dream of ranging from electric sheep to sonic hedgehogs, this book is: a clockwork orangutan.
January 11, 2008
Larry Niven is such a good writer that he could, if he wanted to, act like a total jerk and get away with it. He could yell at waiters, molest people’s sick pets, ash a cigarette into the hair of the girl blowing him, and you’d still say, ‘Convergent Series is an awesome collection of stories from one of scifi’s masters; I’m gonna look the other way on the pet-molesting.’ Of course, Larry Niven would never do those things, because he’s too classy. Also, it’s hard to molest pets; they bite you unless they’re wearing one of those cones around their necks. Recommended.
On a scale of jerks ranging from Charlie Sheen to Russell Crowe, this book is: Christian Bale (dude; your sum contribution to Batman was a raspy voice; where do you get off yelling at people?)
January 4, 2008
A book is always more exciting when exclamation points are added to the title: The Old Man And The Sea! To Kill A Mockingbird! Absalom, Absalom!!!!!!! This book is no exception. It’s a series of stories set in S.M. Stirling’s Domination timeline, where British South Africans who call themselves ‘the Draka’ have enslaved humankind (you don’t have to have your body and spirit broken under the yoke of servitude to work there, but it helps). While interesting, the premise itself is far-fetched: only in science fiction could South Africa be an intolerant dystopia where an elite few withhold basic human rights from the masses. Recommended for fans of the Domination series.
On a scale of spin-offs ranging from The Golden Palace to Archie Bunker’s Place, this book is: Frasier.