Unfortunately, traditional publishing is done too, so I need your help getting The Spy Who Loathed Me out into the world. Do you like to laugh? The Spy Who Loathed Me is as loaded with deluded misfits, absurd complications, and escalating madness as Echo Valley , and provides a fitting introduction to Tom Huttle, the hapless writer who is the hero of that novel.
Set in , The Spy Who Loathed Me plays on several of the themes that have fascinated and amused me for much of my life, particularly political fanatics, show business, and spies.
My dad, a fervent anti-communist, was Exhibit A. Given that I already had a broken leg, I took the threat seriously. Feel free to point out the irony. Growing up, I loved TV--especially comedy--and wanted to write for television for as long as I can remember. But I was a suburban kid with absolutely no connections, so what were the chances? I wrote a few comic bits with a theater group in college, and later on penned the occasional humorous essay when I was a reporter.
Inspired by my success, I moved to L. However, it co-starred this young actor… what was his name again… oh, I remember: I understand George has done well for himself. I grew up during the Cold War, when TV was awash with spy shows. Impossible and The Man From U. But being a devotee of comedy, Get Smart and I Spy were more my style.
In , while I was busy writing sitcom spec scripts and doing anything I could to break into show biz, I spotted an ad in Time Magazine. The CIA was recruiting. I wrote a sincere letter to the agency, explaining why I would be a good spy. Sometime later—and I swear this is true--an unmarked envelope arrived at my apartment. Inside was a letter inviting me in for an interview. And Terrence isn't exactly a prize. Since his divorce, he's ballooned in weight, thanks to a diet of Hostess fruit pies and Twinkies, and for that and other reasons, his boss hates him.
Luck seems to turn his way when he discovers a secret list of CIA operatives. Petra has other goals, though, and to reach them she draws Terrence into the ultimate showbiz fantasy. But when the bodies start piling up, Terrence realizes that his problems are only just beginning. There are lots of reasons to love this book. There are wild sex scenes. Plus, it has lots of information about Leonid Brezhnev and Soviet crop yields. As for Tom Huttle, the character who who got this whole thing started: He thinks he's working for the employee magazine of an insurance company, but he's tangled up in something much bigger and more dangerous than he imagines.
People do die in this book. In the end, everyone discovers that the world is a lot more complicated than it first appears. So, bringing this book to the world is the grand ambition, and I need your help to do it. Riobaldo, an old farmer living in the arid hinterlands of Brazil, tells the story of how he became the leader of a gang of bandits, revealing on the way that he may have sold his soul to the devil.
After a duel with a wicked marquis leaves his friend dead, the young man stirs up discontent against the upper classes and is forced to become a fugitive, joining a wandering theatre troupe as disguise. Those staples of historical adventures — honour, vengeance and dark family secrets — provide the kerosene; the political intrigue strikes the match. Dr Peter Syn is an Irish surgeon, peacefully plying his healing trade in the west country.
The sentence is commuted to transportation to the Barbadoes. Pirates of the Caribbean adventures ensue, before a happy-ever-after in Devon. Buckles never swashed more dashingly. Others have been deeply irritated by this story of a young American Jew who visits Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. What do they hate so much? After a series of bestselling Scottish novels, the Wizard of the North still anonymous to his contemporary readers turned to English history.
The story is set in the 12th century, at the time of the crusades. King Richard has been captured on his return from the Holy Land. Now less read than it deserves to be. The most famous animal story of the 19th century. The novelty of the work is that it is narrated by a horse apparently sexless , which is miraculously able to talk like a well-brought-up Victorian servant. Maus exploded not merely any preconceptions about appropriate subject matter for a comic strip, but also suggested that the unspeakable might best be rethought through unexpected means.
Adam Newey Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. A much loved, popular novel that almost transcended the cult label. He meets and mocks both his fellow English travellers on their Grand Tours and the French philosophes whom he visits in their Paris salons Sterne, as the celebrated author of Tristram Shandy, had recently cut a swathe through fashionable Parisian society. Oddly enough, these are usually attractive young women who are happy to have their pulses felt by a sympathetic gentleman. David Balfour, an orphan, comes to live with his villainous uncle, Ebenezer of Shaws.
Having failed to murder his ward himself, Ebenezer has his nephew kidnapped, as a white slave, on the brig Covenant. The vessel runs down a rowing boat containing a Jacobite rebel, Alan Breck. He and David conspire to escape their captors and, on land, the brutal English soldiery who are still ravaging Scotland. Alan takes refuge in France. Also on board their vessel, the Hispaniola, is the villainous, one-legged sea-cook, Long John Silver, who takes over the vessel. Without it, we would never have had Pirates of the Caribbean.
Then on his last voyage he meets the Houyhnhnms, virtuous and perfectly rational talking horses, and his pride collapses into misanthropy and self-loathing. He and we are just Yahoos, the malevolent, cunning, libidinous beasts with whom the Houyhnhnms are fated to share their land. Its dispassionate eye follows peasants, emperors, soldiers, and priests through decades, taking in life and death in all its forms. This is no heroic tale of good versus evil, of strategies and battle formations, but a vivid depiction of the banality, tedium and senselessness of war.
Its everyman hero, Pierre played unforgettably on TV by Anthony Hopkins , blunders along, struggling to find meaning in his life, and each of the dozen or so central characters battle their own demons, searching for truth and peace. Their struggles are timeless, as is the unforgettable love story at its heart.
Imogen Tilden Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Huck escapes, and drifts by raft down the Mississippi, with a runaway slave, Jim. After various adventures and reunion with Tom all comes well. At the end, the two young heroes intend to light out to the Indian territory — a sequel Twain never wrote. Master of the voyage imaginaire , Verne also revealed himself adept at mingling high adventure with Thomas Cook-style tourism. Fogg, having read of a new railway link in the Indian subcontinent, wagers his fellow Reform Club members that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
The itinerary is meticulously chronicled. Fogg arrives back to foggy London, as he thinks, a day late — but he has forgotten that he has crossed the date line. He makes it to the club with seconds to spare. A williwaw is a snow-laden hurricane, and 50 years before The Perfect Storm was a bestseller, Vidal showed us how it should be done. Our fresh-faced hero embarks on his picaresque journey across Europe and Latin America, which sees Enlightenment optimism sorely tested by — among other delights — rape, murder, syphilis, cannibalism, the wanton destructiveness of natural forces and the human cost of the western addiction to sugar.
He is, perhaps, mad. Or, as he believes, he has been given the power of clairvoyance and time travel by extraterrestrial Tralfamadorians, whose prisoner he is. The Tralfamadorians have destroyed the universe by their bombing error but can enjoy the good moments of their previous existences.
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The narrative recoils from graphic description of wartime atrocity to fanciful space opera. As Konnegut records, it was an immensely painful novel to write and, for all its incidental comedy and literary skill, remains painful to read. But necessary, none the less.
Basil Seal, posh and feckless, has been a leader writer on the Daily Beast, a champagne salesman, a tour guide, a secret policeman in Bolivia, and an adviser on modernisation to the emperor of Azania — all way relationship between a young southern writer, a Polish Auschwitz survivor and a Jewish New Yorker interweaves a host of complex themes survivor guilt, ancestral guilt, madness and betrayal. The movie was Oscar-nominated; the book was banned in libraries across the States. But this is not just about provocative comparisons.
Guy Crouchback is the last of an ancient English Catholic family — miserable, childless, divorced and forbidden by his religion to remarry. At 35, the outbreak of war seems to give meaning to his life: Under his Darwinian scalpel, animals are raised to quasi-humanity. Moreau is killed by a puma he is tormenting and rebellion breaks out. The animals revert to their natural animalism. After their school takes a hit during an air-raid, McGill and his friends make use of the free time to wage their own war against the enemy.
The Machine Gunners, which was adapted into a BBC television serial in , brilliantly evokes Tyneside in the second world war and the disruption to ordinary family life, while capturing the complicated relationships that exist between children and adults. James Smart Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Voss, a German explorer, sets out in to cross the uncharted Australian desert. Before leaving, he meets Laura Trevelyan, a young Englishwoman newly arrived in the colony, and they fall in love. All the future cliches are here, but new-minted: This book has all the freshness of a literary pioneer.
Jean Macquart, earthy and pragmatic, wins the respect of the intellectual and mercurial Maurice Levasseur. Andrew Pulver Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Set aboard a vast generation starship millennia after blast-off, the novel follows Roy Complain on a voyage of discovery from ignorance of his surroundings to some understanding of his small place in the universe. Complain is spiteful and small-minded but grows in humanity as his trek through the ship brings him into contact with giant humans, mutated rats and, ultimately, a wondrous view of space beyond the ship.
Eric Brown Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Hari Seldon invents the science of psychohistory with which to combat the fall into barbarianism of the Human Empire, and sets up the Foundation to foster art, science and technology. Wish-fulfilment of the highest order, the novels are a landmark in the history of science fiction. EB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. On planet Zycron, tyrannical Snilfards subjugate poor Ygnirods, providing intercoital entertainment for a radical socialist and his lover.
We assume she is Laura Chase, daughter of an Ontario industrialist, who records their sex and sci-fi stories in a novel, The Blind Assassin. Iris is 83 in the cantankerous present-day narrative, and ready to set the story straight about the suspicious deaths of her sister, husband and daughter. In this Booker prize-winning novel about novels, Atwood bends genre and traps time, toying brilliantly with the roles of writing and reading. Natalie Cate Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Anna Blume, 19, arrives in a city to look for her brother.
She finds a ruin, where buildings collapse on scavenging citizens. All production has stopped. Nobody can leave, except as a corpse collected for fuel. Anna buys a trolley and wanders the city, salvaging objects and information. She records horrific scenes, but also a deep capacity for love. This small hope flickers in a world where no apocalyptic event is specified.
Instead, Auster creates his dystopia by magnifying familiar flaws and recycling historical detail: NC Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Consider Phlebas introduced the first of many misguided or untrustworthy heroes — Horza, who can change his body just by thinking about it — and a typically Banksian collision involving two giant trains in an subterranean station. PD Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. A magic carpet is the last refuge of a people known as the Seerkind, who for centuries have been hunted by both humans and the Scourge, a mysterious being that seems determined to live up to its name.
Nicola Barker has been accused of obscurity, but this Booker-shortlisted comic epic has a new lightness of touch and an almost soapy compulsiveness. A jumble of voices and typefaces, mortal fear and sarky laughter, the novel is as true as it is truly odd, and beautifully written to boot. He sends him back to the far future in an attempt to save the Eloi woman Weena, only to find himself in a future timeline diverging from the one he left.
Bear combines intelligence, humour and the wonder of scientific discovery in a techno-thriller about a threat to the future of humanity. A retro-viral plague sweeps the world, infecting women via their sexual partners and aborting their embryos. Somehow surviving, he swiftly gets down to it. Those who stumble across it are inevitably surprised to find it was written half a century ago.
Along the way he joins up with a group of vampires, finds his true family and discovers what he really values, amid much blood, sex, drugs and drink. Keith Brooke Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Al Barker is a thrillseeking adventurer recruited to investigate an alien labyrinth on the moon. Barker is the first person to survive the trauma of witnessing their own death, returning again and again to explore.
Rogue Moon works as both thriller and character study, a classic novel mapping out a new and sophisticated SF, just as Barker maps the alien maze. KB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. When the Devil comes to s Moscow, his victims are pillars of the Soviet establishment: This is just a curtain-raiser for the main event, however: For his hostess, his satanic majesty chooses Margarita, a courageous young Russian whose lover is in a psychiatric hospital, traumatised by the banning of his novel.
No prizes for guessing whom Bulgakov identified with; although Stalin admired his early work, by the s he was personally banning it. In this pioneering work of British science fiction, the hero is a bumptious American mining engineer who stumbles on a subterranean civilisation. Also present are ray guns, aerial travel and ESP.
Ironically, the hero finds utopia too boring. He is rescued from death by the Princess Zee, who flies him to safety. One of a flurry of novels written by Burgess when he was under the mistaken belief that he had only a short time to live. Set in a dystopian socialist welfare state of the future, the novel fantasises a world without religion. JS Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. In one of the first split-screen narratives, Burgess juxtaposes three key 20th-century themes: JJ Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
John Carter, a Confederate veteran turned gold prospector, is hiding from Indians in an Arizona cave when he is mysteriously transported to Mars, known to the locals as Barsoom. Butler single-handedly brought to the SF genre the concerns of gender politics, racial conflict and slavery. Several of her novels are groundbreaking, but none is more compelling or shocking than Kindred. The hero Higgs finds himself in New Zealand as, for a while, did the chronic misfit Butler. Does it sound familiar? Higgs escapes by balloon, with the sweetheart he has found there.
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He ends up keeping his promise, witnessing the French revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath from the perspective of the Italian treetops. In this novel, the domineering old spinster Queenie dies — a relief to those around her. Her niece Alison inherits the house, but soon starts to suspect that the old woman is taking over her eight-year-old daughter Rowan. A paranoid, disturbing masterpiece.
Alice, while reading in a meadow, sees a white rabbit rush by, feverishly consulting a watch. She follows him down a hole Freudian analysis, as elsewhere in the story, is all too easy , where she grows and shrinks in size and encounters creatures mythological, extinct and invented. Morbid jokes and gleeful subversion abound. More donnish in tone, this fantasy follows Alice into a mirror world in which everything is reversed.
Her journey is based on chess moves, during the course of which she meets such figures as Humpty Dumpty and the riddling twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee. More challenging intellectually than the first instalment, it explores loneliness, language and the logic of dreams. The year is — and other times. Fevvers, aerialiste, circus performer and a virgin, claims she was not born, but hatched out of an egg. She has two large and wonderful wings. In fact, she is large and wonderful in every way, from her false eyelashes to her ebullient and astonishing adventures.
The journalist Jack Walser comes to interview her and stays to love and wonder, as will every reader of this entirely original extravaganza, which deftly and wittily questions every assumption we make about the lives of men and women on this planet. The golden age of the American comic book coincided with the outbreak of the second world war and was spearheaded by first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants who installed square-jawed supermen as bulwarks against the forces of evil.
It celebrates the transformative power of pop culture, and reveals the harsh truths behind the hyperreal fantasies. XB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. One of the first major works to present alien arrival as beneficent, it describes the slow process of social transformation when the Overlords come to Earth and guide us to the light.
At the centre of all is the terrifying Sunday, a superhuman force of mischief and pandemonium. Two rival magicians flex their new powers, pursuing military glory and power at court, striking a dangerous alliance with the Faerie King, and falling into passionate enmity over the use and meaning of the supernatural. The book is studded with footnotes both scholarly and comical, layered with literary pastiche, and invents a whole new strain of folklore: This classic by an unjustly neglected writer tells the story of Drove and Pallahaxi-Browneyes on a far-flung alien world which undergoes long periods of summer and gruelling winters lasting some 40 years.
This is just the kind of jargon-free, humane, character-driven novel to convert sceptical readers to science fiction. This is a story about the end of the world, and the general falling-off that precedes it, as year-old Karen loses first her virginity, then consciousness. When she reawakens more than a decade later, the young people she knew and loved have died, become junkies or or simply lost that new-teenager smell.
Wondering what the future holds? That said, the creepiness stays with you, especially the house that keeps stealthily remodelling itself: A curly tail, trotters and a snout are not far off. Joanna Biggs Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The setting is a post-apocalyptic future, long past the age of humans. The novel follows Lobey, who as Orpheus embarks on a quest to bring his lover back from the dead. With lush, poetic imagery and the innovative use of mythic archetypes, Delaney brilliantly delineates the human condition.
Here California is under-populated and most animals are extinct; citizens keep electric pets instead. In order to afford a real sheep and so affirm his empathy as a human being, Deckard hunts rogue androids, who lack empathy. As ever with Dick, pathos abounds and with it the inquiry into what is human and what is fake.
The Axis has won the second world war. Imperial Japan occupies the west coast of America; more tyrannically, Nazi Germany under Martin Bormann, Hitler having died of syphilis takes over the east coast. The Californian lifestyle adapts well to its oriental master. Germany, although on the brink of space travel and the possessor of vast tracts of Russia, is teetering on collapse.
The novel is multi-plotted, its random progression determined, Dick tells us, by consultation with the Chinese I Ching. And in the character of Isserley — her curiosity, resignation, wonderment and pain — he paints an immensely affecting portrait of how it feels to be irreparably damaged and immeasurably far from home.
Determined to extricate himself from an increasingly serious relationship, graduate Nicholas Urfe takes a job as an English teacher on a small Greek island. Walking alone one day, he runs into a wealthy eccentric, Maurice Conchis, who draws him into a succession of elaborate psychological games that involve two beautiful young sisters in reenactments of Greek myths and the Nazi occupation.
Appearing after The Collector, this was actually the first novel that Fowles wrote, and although it quickly became required reading for a generation, he continued to rework it for a decade after publication.
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Before long, he is embroiled in a battle between ancient and modern deities: The three narrative strands — young lovers in the s, the chaos of thebetweenalcoholics, English civil war and soldiers going native in a Vietnam-tinged Roman Britain — circle around Mow Cop in Cheshire and an ancient axehead found there. Dipping in and out of time, in blunt, raw dialogue, Garner creates a moving and singular novel.
A fast-paced thriller starring a washed-up hacker, a cybernetically enhanced mercenary and an almost omnipotent artificial intelligence, it inspired and informed a slew of films and novels, not least the Matrix trilogy. When the adults finally arrive, childish tears on the beach hint less at relief than fear for the future. When Haldeman returned from Vietnam, with a Purple Heart for the wounds he had suffered, he wrote a story about a pointless conflict that seems as if it will never end.
Known for his intricate short stories and critically acclaimed mountaineering novel Climbers, Harrison cut his teeth on SF. In typical fashion, he writes space opera better than many who write only in the genre. For all its star travel and alien artefacts, scuzzy 25th-century spaceports and drop-out space pilots, Light is actually about twisting three plotlines as near as possible to snapping point. This is as close as SF gets to literary fiction, and literary fiction gets to SF. Jon Courtenay Grimwood Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
Amateur stonemason, waterbed designer, reformed socialist, nudist, militarist and McCarthyite, Heinlein is one of the most interesting and irritating figures in American science fiction. This swinging 60s bestseller working title: The Heretic is typically provocative, with a central character, Mike Smith, who is raised by Martians after the death of his parents and questions every human assumption — about sex, politics, society and spirituality — on his arrival on Earth. Set on the desert world of Arrakis, this complex novel combines politics, religion, ecology and evolution in the rise to power of Paul Atreides, who becomes a revolutionary leader and a prophet with the ability to foresee and shape the future.
Epic in scope, Dune is primarily an adventure story, though Herbert was one of the first genre writers convincingly to tackle the subject of planetary ecology in his depiction of a drought-stricken world.
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After the Bomb — long, long after — humanity is still huddled in medieval-style stockades, cold, ignorant, superstitious and speaking in degraded English, the patois in which this book is written. Yet his story is still poignant. This is what happens to Robert Wringhim, who is brought up in the Calvinist belief in predestination. When he encounters a devilish figure known as Gil-Martin, Wringhim is easily tempted into undertaking a campaign to purge the world of the Reprobate — those not selected for salvation.
After a series of rapes and murders, and seemingly pursued by demons, Wringhim yields to the ultimate temptation of suicide. Sexist, racist, snob, Islamophobe … Houellebecq has been called many things, with varying degrees of accuracy. The charge of misanthropy is hard to deny, given his repeated portrayal of humankind as something that has lost its way, perhaps even its right to exist. Atomised — set in the world we know but introduced by a member of the superior species that will supplant us — provides two more examples of our inadequacy in half-brothers Michel and Bruno, an introverted biologist and a sex-addict teacher.
Conflict has been eradicated with the aid of sexual hedonism and the drug Soma; babies are factory-bred in bottles to produce a strict class hierarchy, from alpha to epsilon. It is the year AF After Ford Eventually he recalls that he is an eminent concert pianist, scheduled to perform. The man is shepherded through an expanding and contracting world, his own memories and moods changing like the weather.
Yet the dream-logic is rooted in real, poignant, human dilemmas. One for readers who have grown out of Philip K Dick. CO Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Hill House is haunted, but by what? The ghosts of the past or the people of the present? Here is a delicious, quietly unnerving essay in horror, an examination of what makes us jump. Jackson sets up an old dark house in the country, garnishes it with some creepy servants, and then adds a quartet of intrepid visitors. But her lead character — fragile, lonely Eleanor — is at once victim and villainess.
By the end, the person she is scaring most is herself. Are the ghosts that a new governess in a country house believes to be steadily corrupting her young charges apparitions, hallucinations or projections of her own dark urges? The book divides SF critics and puzzles fans of her crime novels, but remains one of the great British dystopias and a trenchant satire on our times and values.
JCG Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. In the centre of England, a vast crystalline lake has formed. A strong candidate for the most beautiful of all Victorian novels. Owing debts to Jimi Hendrix and offering a decidedly 60s summer festival vibe, Bold as Love is the first in a series of novels that mix politics with myth, counterculture and dark age sensibilities. It deservedly won Jones the Arthur C Clarke award.
On the morning of his 30th birthday, Josef K is arrested by two sinister men in dapper suits. PO Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The story has two central characters. Algernon is a mouse, whose intelligence is surgically enhanced to the level of rodent genius. The same technique is applied to Charlie Gordon, a mentally subnormal fast-food kitchen hand. The narrative, told by Charlie as his IQ soars, traces the discontents of genius. Alas, the effects of the surgery are shortlived, and the end of the story finds Charlie back in the kitchen — mentally challenged but, in his way, happy.
Being smart is not everything. The hotel is haunted by unexorcised demons from brutal murders committed there years ago. Torrance is possessed and turns, homicidally, on his wife and child. Jack is beyond salvation. The film was brilliantly filmed by Stanley Kubrick in A young married woman, Melanie, scours antiques shops to furnish her new home and comes back with an old chaise-longue, which is perfect apart from an unsightly reddish-brown stain. She falls asleep on it and wakes up in an unfamiliar house, an unfamiliar time — and an unfamiliar body.
At first she assumes she must be dreaming. But gradually she starts to piece together the story of Milly, the young Victorian woman in the last stages of consumption whom she has apparently become, and the nature of the disgrace she has brought on the household run by her fearsomely stern elder sister. Why does the sight of the doctor make her pulse beat faster? And can she find a way back to her own life? AN Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. This is frequently judged the best ghost story of the Victorian period.
On the sudden death of her father, Maud, an heiress, is left to the care of her Uncle Silas, until she comes of age. Sinister in appearance and villainous by nature, Silas first plans to marry Maud to his oafish son, Dudley who is, it emerges, already married. When this fails, father and son, together with the French governess Madame de la Rougierre, conspire to murder their ward with a spiked hammer.
Told by the ingenuous and largely unsuspecting Maud, the narrative builds an impending sense of doom. Set in a near-future in a disintegrating city, where lawlessness prevails and citizens scratch a living from the debris, this dystopia is the journal of an unnamed middle-class narrator who fosters street-kid Emily and observes the decaying world from her window. Despite the pessimistic premise and the description of civilisation on the brink of collapse, with horror lurking at every turn, the novel is an insightful and humane meditation on the survivability of the species.
The world has entered the Second Enlightenment after the Faith Wars. In the Republic of Scotland, Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson investigates the murders of religious leaders, suspecting atheists but uncovering a plot involving artificial intelligence. Before his current incarnation as a thriller writer specialising in conspiracy theories and psychopathic gore, Marshall Smith wrote forward-thinking sci-fi which combined high-octane angst with humour both noir and surreal.
His debut features a bizarre compartmentalised city with different postcodes for the insane, the overachievers, the debauched or simply those with unusual taste in interior design; as well as adventures in the realm of dreams, a deep love of cats and a killer twist. Robert Neville is the last man standing, the lone survivor in a world overrun by night-crawling vampires. But if history is written by the winners, what does that make Neville: Clearly this was too much for the recent Will Smith movie adaptation, which ran scared of the very element that makes the book unique.
Francie Brady is a rambunctious kid in s Ireland. McCabe leads us on a freewheeling tour of a scattered, shattered consciousness, as Francie grows from wayward child to dangerous adult — nursing his grievances and plotting his revenge. Chances are that old Mrs Nugent has a surprise in store. These two figures are pushing south towards the sea, but the sea is poisoned and provides no comfort. In the end, all they have and, by implication, all the rest of us have is each other.
During the Korean war and then the space programme, Yeremin closes down his emotions even as his horizons expand, from the Arctic skies to the moon itself. The second of his sprawling steampunk fantasies detailing the alternate universe of Bas-Lag follows Armada, a floating pirate city, in its search for a rip in reality. Miller breathes new life into the Gothic antihero with his beautifully written Impac-winning first novel. In an epilogue, a spaceship leaves Earth with a cargo of monks, children and the Leibowitzian relics. The Wandering Jew makes recurrent and enigmatic appearances. Then it hops all the way back down again, resolving each story in turn.
These include a camp Ealing-style misadventure, an American thriller and an interview with a clone, all connected by a mysterious comet-shaped tattoo. Moorcock spills out such varied books that he often feels impossible to nail down, which is probably the point. Mother London, his most literary — it was shortlisted for the Whitbread — shows him at the height of his powers.
The Spy Who Loathed Me : Part I: the Echo Valley Trilogy by Chris Westphal (2013, Paperback)
Having gone to sleep on the London underground, the narrator awakes to find himself in 20th-century Hammersmith. He bathes in the now crystalline Thames and spends a day in what used to be the British Museum, airily discussing life and politics. He then travels up the river to Runnymede, where Magna Carta was signed, going on from there to some idyllic haymaking in Oxford. Sweet Home is a deceptive name for the Kentucky plantation where horrific crimes have been committed, as Beloved is for this shocking and unforgettable account of the human consequences of slavery.
Sethe lives in Ohio in the s; she has escaped from slavery, but cannot escape the past, which quite literally haunts her. It sparks off a page adventure that sees him trapped at the bottom of a well, marked with a strange blue stain and taken on many otherworldly adventures, all in search of his missing wife. Murakami has the Japanese trick of writing about surreal events in a matter-of-fact way, making them all the more disturbing. Ada or Ardor is part sci-fi romance, part Proustian memoir. It plays out on a fantasy planet, a marriage of contemporary America and pre-revolutionary Russia, and details the love affair of precocious Van Veen and his sister Ada, chasing them from lustful puberty to decrepit old age.
It is a gorgeous display of narrative wizardry, at once opulent, erotic, playful and wise. A moving affirmation of the continuities of love against unusual odds. JH Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. But this novel, which won Hugo and Nebula awards, reminds us he was once one of the most exciting names in hard sci-fi. Part of the Known Space series, it follows a group of humans and aliens as they explore a mysterious ring-shaped environment spinning around a star like a giant hula-hoop. Set in Manchester in the near-future and in a phantasmagorical virtual reality, Vurt is the story of Scribble, his gang the Stash Riders and his attempt to find his sister Desdemona, who is lost in a drug-induced VR.
Set in a rural Ireland that is also a vision of hell, it features policemen turning into bicycles; that SF standby, the universal energy source; and any number of scientific and literary in-jokes. According to Yoruba tradition, a spirit child is one who has made a pact with his fellows in their other, more beautiful world, to rejoin them as soon as possible. Azaro breaks the pact, choosing to remain in this place of suffering and poverty, but the African shanty town where he lives with his parents teems with phantoms, spirits and dreams.
An angry, impassioned fantasy of how to take down corporate America, and an ingenious modern version of the myth of the double. Thwarted in love, the hero Scythrop reads The Sorrows of Werther and considers suicide, but settles for the comforts of madeira instead. Sinister and sensual, overwrought and overwritten, Titus Groan is a guilty pleasure — a dank, dripping Gothic cathedral of a novel. Titus himself is a minor character — literally: He inherits Gormenghast castle and its extraordinary household: But at its heart is a chilling glimpse of the nature of evil.
With this gargantuan novel, Powys set out to take a location he knew well from his boyhood and make it the real hero of the story. It tells the story of Glastonbury through a year of turmoil, setting mystic mayor John Geard against industrialist Philip Crow. Geard wants to turn the town into a centre for Grail worship, while Crow wants to exploit and develop the local tin mines.
Complex and rich, this is a landmark fantasy novel. The novel is as much a study of their obsession as a brilliant examination of magic and rationalism. A Benedictine monk who gave it up to study medicine, Rabelais wrote this satirical tale of the giant Pantagruel and his even more monstrous and grotesque father Gargantua on the cusp between eras. In his portrayal of Gargantua, a belching, farting scholar given to urinating over the masses below his ivory tower, he satirises medieval learning as well as the emerging Renaissance thirst for knowledge.
Remind you of anything more contemporary? NB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. This was the novel that brought the one-time astrophysicist to the attention of the SF mainstream. What follows is a history of our world with Islam and Buddhism as the dominant religions and the major scientific discoveries and art movements we take for granted happening elsewhere.
Necessarily schematic in places, but a stunning achievement all the same. Every now and then, a book comes along that is so influential you have to read it to be part of the modern world. It is also a truly global phenomenon, and a nice little earner for the tribe of British character actors who have had the good fortune to be cast in the films. Claire Armitstead Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The offensive core of the novel depicts, under thin disguise, the prophet Muhammad, and wittily if blasphemously questions the revealed truth of the Koran.
Stranded in the Sahara, a pilot meets a boy. He claims to have come from an asteroid, which he shared with a talking flower, and to have visited many other worlds — one inhabited only by a king, another by a businessman, a third by a drunkard … On Earth, he has chatted with a snake and tamed a fox. Blindness is black, says an onlooker to the man who has suddenly ceased to see while sitting in his car at the traffic lights; but this blindness is white, a milky sea in the eye.
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Soon everyone is affected and the city descends into chaos. His flowing, opaque style can be challenging, but this parable of wilful unseeing, which resists reductive interpretations, is full of insight and poetry. When Lily Bloom dies, she simply moves house: The classic Gothic tale of terror, Frankenstein is above all a novel of ideas. Victor Frankenstein is a young Swiss student who resolves to assemble a body from dead parts and galvanise it into life.
As well as an exploration of nature and nurture, the book can be read as a reaction to motherhood and a comment upon creativity. High SF at its best. The world is gone, destroyed in an accident that gave humanity farcasters, controlled singularities that enable instant travel across galactic distances. The internet is now a hive mind of advanced AIs that control the gates and keep a vast empire in existence.
But someone or something is playing with time, and all is not as it seems. Hyperion won the Hugo award for best novel. Not so much a novel as a treatise on the nature and evolution of intelligence in the universe, Star Maker takes an unnamed Englishman on a tour of space and time as he observes human and alien civilisations rise and fall over a period of one hundred billion years.
A short, dense book, it repays several readings. Fast, furious and containing more ideas in a single sentence than most writers manage in an entire book, Snow Crash has been credited with helping to inspire online worlds such as Second Life and established Stephenson as a cult figure. This classic novel of horrific possession is supposed to have come to the author in a nightmare. It takes the form of a posthumous confession by Dr Henry Jekyll, a successful London physician, who experiments privately with dual personality, devising a drug that releases his depraved other self, Edward Hyde.
The murderous Hyde increasingly dominates the appalled Jekyll, who finally kills himself to escape his double. Others have seen it as a depiction of ineradicable dualisms in the Scottish character. The solicitor Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania on property business with Count Dracula and is vampirised by his client an interesting reversal of the normal estate agent-purchaser relationship. The count sails to England and embarks on a reign of bloodsucking terror, before being chased back to his lair by the Dutch vampirologist Dr van Helsing, and decapitated. He would, of course, rise again.
This unusual writer excels at the creation of skewed, dreamlike parallel worlds. In his fourth novel, the rootless, emotionally frozen Martin Blom is blinded by a stray bullet: A new nocturnal existence and highly charged affair with a nightclub waitress follow, in a phantasmagorical meditation on repression and transgression, absence and invisibility. Hank Morgan, an engineer from 19th-century Connecticut, is knocked out in a crowbar fight and mysteriously transported to sixth-century England.
Vonnegut considered Sirens of Titan to be one of his best books , ranking it just below Slaughterhouse-Five. Featuring a dimension-swapping ultra-rich space explorer who can see the future, a robot messenger whose craft is powered by UVTW the Universal Will to Become and the newly established Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, Sirens of Titan manages to be classic 50s pulp, a literary sleight of hand, a cult novel of the 60s counterculture and unmistakably Vonnegut all at the same time.
Young Jakob von Gunten enrols in a sinister academy that touchstone of Germanic fiction in which students learn how to be good servants. Kafka and Hesse were big fans of the Swiss writer; film-making duo the Brothers Quay turned the novel into a mesmerising stock-frame feature in Waters followed the rollicking Tipping the Velvet with this sombre, beautifully achieved meditation on love and loneliness set in the milieu of Victorian spiritualism. Waters exploits the conventions of the ghost story to moving, open-ended effect, recreating a world of fascinating detail and beguiling mystery.
On his return he reports that he has travelled to the year , Mankind has evolved into hyper-decadent Eloi and hyper-proletarian Morlocks, who live underground. The Eloi fritter, elegantly, by day. The Morlocks prey on the Eloi cannibalistically by night. Before returning to his own time, the Time Traveller goes forward to witness the heat death of the Solar System. At the end of the narrative, he embarks on a time journey from which he does not return. The most read, imitated and admired invasion fantasy of the 19th century.
The Martians, a cold-bloodedly cerebral species, driven by the inhospitability of their dying planet and superior technology, invade Earth. Their first cylinders land at Horsell Common and are followed by an army of fighting machines equipped with death rays. Humanity and its civilisation crumple under the assault, which is witnessed by the narrator, a moral philosopher.
The novel can be read as an allegory of imperialism. As the narrator muses: The Sword in the Stone was initially published as a stand-alone work, but was subsequently rewritten to become the first part of a tetralogy, The Once and Future King. Only at the end of the book is it confirmed that the boy will grow up to be King Arthur. Kathryn Hughes Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Originally published in four volumes, this far-future story presents a powerfully evocative portrait of Earth as the sun dies.
Using the baroque language of fantasy to tell a story that is solidly science fiction, Wolfe follows Severian, a professional torturer exiled to wander the ruined planet and discover his fate as leader and then messiah for his people. Complex and challenging, this is perhaps one of the most significant publications in the last three decades of sci-fi. Triffids are possibly escapees from a Soviet laboratory; their takeover begins when a meteor shower blinds everyone who witnesses it.
Bill Masen owes his survival to the fact that he was in hospital with his eyes bandaged at the time. CA Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. It emerges, six months later, that every fertile woman in the village is pregnant. As they grow up with terrifying psychic powers, a perceptive Midwich citizen, Gordon Zellaby, contrives to blow them up and save humanity.
What did the Soviet censors find so offensive? Until, that is, the mathematician D falls in love. Bakha, 18, is strong and able-bodied. He is a latrine cleaner, a Dalit, an untouchable, and the novel traces a day in his life. Deep in thought and enjoying a sweet jalebi, Bakha brushes against a Brahmin. A novel written, some would say, before the genre was properly invented.
Set in Surinam, which the author may or may not have visited, its hero is a highly cultivated African prince who is brought to the West Indies as a slave. They marry but, unwilling to have his children raised in servitude, Oroonoko raises a slave rebellion. It is and while the Irish war of independence rages outside the gates of their County Cork home, Sir Richard Naylor and his Anglo-Irish family continue their privileged life of tea and tennis.
Afrikaner teacher Ben du Toit lives a comfortable life in s Johannesburg. Yet his family do not want to look and his search for the truth makes him dangerously vulnerable. Nonetheless, Shirley is an important social novel, set in Yorkshire during the Luddite riots at the end of the Napoleonic wars, which revolves around two questions: Paul Laity Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
Unable to reconcile his religion with his homosexuality, Kenneth Toomey wanders the world from the Paris of Joyce and Pound, via Nazi Germany and heyday Hollywood, to Malta where — mottled, sallow, emaciated — he awaits his death, sure of only one thing: Claire Armistead Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Middle-aged Jeeter Lester is an impoverished cotton farmer.
He married his wife, Ada, at the age of 11 and the couple have had 17 children. Incest rages in the Lester household. Tobacco Road created an image of poor white trash that is still with us. Not so much of an allegory, then, as a Kafkaesque parable Camus acknowledged the debt: Nicholas Lezard Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
His novel is set on Haiti, an island steeped in myth and voodoo. Ti Noel is a slave when a rebellion begins in Having lost his job he moves in with his daughter on her remote farmstead, but then is a helpless bystander when three black men arrive and rape her. His life is becoming a tuition in humiliation. Yet the bleakness of any paraphrase is belied by the beautiful exactness of the prose, which mimics the intelligence and coldness of the protagonist. But the Magistrate is also a servant of the empire and his intervention in the case of a barbarian girl teaches him lessons about himself as well as the workings of power.
Technology with a human face. Only luck rescues her, and makes her penitent. The tale is the more compelling because she is looking back ruefully on her misadventures in older age, examining her own motives with withering candour. This novel really does attempt an anatomy of post-war America. It also combines the trickery of post-modern narration — a reverse chronology, sudden shifts of narrative perspective, interpolated passages of documentary reconstruction — with a simple and alluring fable. For the spine of this huge book is the story of what happens to a famous object, the baseball hit into the stands to win the World Series for the New York Giants in , just as the Soviet Union is successfully testing an atomic bomb.
Attuned like no other novel to the perplexities that hum away at the margins of everyday experience, White Noise remains the most precise, and killingly funny, portrayal of the way we live now. Lindesay Irvine Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The titular cities are Paris and London. It is the best and worst of times: The doctor, whose wits are gone, is rescued by a lawyer, Lorry, and brought to England with his daughter, Lucie. A classic novel that helped to give lawyers their bad name.
Bleak House is a vigorous satire on the old court of Chancery and the self-serving, pocket-lining nonsenses of the profession practiced there. Richard Carstone and Ada Clare are wards of the court in the eternal case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce; thrown together, they secretly marry. Also central are their friend, Esther Summerson, who nearly marries out of respectful devotion but loves another, and Lady Dedlock, who has a deep secret uncovered by the ruthless barrister Tulkinghorn.
Written when the author was becoming more interested in narrative design and when the type of design he tended towards was palpably darker. The novel opens with the frigid Mr Dombey being presented with the son he hopes will one day take over the family business. Mrs Dombey promptly dies and young Paul in a death scene of tear-jerking pathos follows a few years later. Dombey — desperate for an heir — marries a cynical beauty, Edith Granger.
A ruined Dombey finally realises the worth of Florence, the daughter he has always neglected. Bubbles always burst; if only our financiers had learned from the story of Mr Merdle, in whose bank a deposit seems magically to accrue. Dickens targets greed in this novel, and pride, but he had two more specific targets — government bureaucracy the obstructive Circumlocution Office and the law of imprisonment for debt his own father had been in the Marshalsea.
The hero is Arthur Clennam, with whom Amy is in love and whose hateful mother has long-ago wronged the Dorrit family. Riches arrive and disappear, the pretensions and hypocrisies of society are uncovered, and the inevitable union of Amy and Arthur is long prolonged.
Dickens, as always, bashes us over the head, but he does it brilliantly — a battering for our times. A woman arrives, exhausted, at the Mudfog workhouse. She gives birth and dies. The orphan is named Oliver Twist. Oliver discovers that he is gently born and the victim of a criminal conspiracy. Fagin is hanged, Sikes — pursued by an angry mob — hangs himself. The novel was brilliantly illustrated by George Cruikshank, who later claimed that he, not Dickens, had had the principal idea for the story.
A short, desolate, wonderful tale of Californian hedonism that centres on the decline of a failed actor, Maria Wyeth, who recounts her life while in recovery from a breakdown. Her parents are dead, her marriage is over, her young daughter is in hospital. Drugs and sex make her life no less empty.
The only place in which she is happy is behind the wheel of her car, driving endlessly on the freeway. Long before he became prime minister, Disraeli was a member of Young England, a group that looked to paternalism to solve the problems of the industrial age. A sense of the oppression that inspired Chartism is channelled into a high romantic storyline. After his release from prison in s Berlin, transport-worker-turned-hardman Franz Biberkopf tries and fails to stay on the straight and narrow: A novel spun from the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the pair of small-time communists who, accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets, were executed by the US authorities in Originally three individual volumes — more than 1, pages in the Penguin complete edition — U.
Large parts of it abandon straightforward narrative in favour of newspaper headlines and stream-of-consciousness collage. In between wander a dozen or so vagrant and only intermittently connected characters — tycoons, power-brokers, hoboes, aspiring movie actors, drunks — deviously at large in the pullulating anthill of earlyth-century transatlantic life.
Dreiser deftly records the steely realities of modern urban living. Castle Rackrent can claim many English literary firsts, but was most influential as the first regional novel. Set in Ireland before the arrival of short-lived independence in , this is a satirical saga of incompetent Anglo-Irish landlords, narrated in the vernacular by their disingenuous steward, Thady Quirk.
The one Victorian novel whose greatness no one contradicts. Dorothea marries the parson-scholar Edward Casaubon, only to discover his mind is unworthy of her. Amidst swirlingly connected plots, Dorothea now widowed eventually finds fulilment. Marner is a linen weaver in the village of Raveloe, who once belonged to a religious sect from which he was unjustly expelled: His store of gold is stolen by the son of the local squire; at the same time, a golden-haired foundling, later named Eppie, is left in his house.
She humanises the miser and when her rich father reveals himself, Eppie refuses to leave her adoptive parent. A pioneering novel about being black in America, by a pioneer black American author. It is framed as a journal by an un-named African-American, following his post-college career. Can youthful idealism withstand the disillusions of age?
Flaubert asks what is ultimately of most value to us: In his sequel to The Sportswriter , Ford picks up the story of Frank Bascombe, now a New Jersey estate agent, as he navigates the fraught emotional territory of a holiday weekend. An ex-wife, a disturbed son and a dangerous universe: An ambitious, almost encyclopedic novel about modern America, structured around the seemingly hackneyed idea of a dysfunctional family getting together for Christmas.
The parents, Enid and Alfred, confront old age, illness and frustrated ambitions. The elusive central character is Wyatt Gwyon, intended by his family for the ministry but instead a forger of those objects of religious devotion: The novel renders the passion with which he creates truly original fakes, credited to Flemish masters. The other leading characters are also counterfeiters, like Otto, the playwright, who plagiarises authors he has never read, or the conman Frank Sinisterra.