Category Archives: Stand-alone

Review: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Super Sad True Love Story is an engaging, literary love story that takes place in a near-future dystopian society where things like books and reading are so unfashionable as to be considered gross. But its characters, for all their flaws (or maybe because of them) feel very real, and are caught in a situation out of their control.

Lenny, the son of Russian immigrants, is a man on the cusp of middle age in a society pathologically obsessed with youth. He falls in love with a younger Korean woman who puts him through the emotional wringer on a daily basis. They’re both doing their best to be together, despite their wildly different worldviews.

And what a world: everyone’s lives are completely driven by social media and embarrassingly public rankings of appearance. It’s a future society so shallow and stupid that you can’t help but feel it’s more realistic that you want it to be.

Recommendation: Read it. If you’re in the mood for a satirical take on the direction society is going and how one mismatched couple tries to navigate it, definitely check this one out.

Review: The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier

The Brief History of the Dead is a fascinating, odd (in the best sense of the word), and deeply inventive book. Some parts are heartbreaking, some hilarious, some disturbing as hell. I loved every part of it.

The City is populated by people who have died but are still remembered by the living. People stay in this Earthlike afterlife until they are completely forgotten. The City usually grows to accommodate its increasing population, but some strange things are happening.

In the living world, a young woman is stuck in an Antarctic research station and cannot get help from the outside world.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s excellent. The part with the young woman takes place in the near future, but that’s as science fiction-y as it gets. No spaceships.

Review: The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi

The Kaiju Preservation Society is ridiculously fun. It’s easy to imagine author John Scalzi grinning like a maniac as he was writing this. It’s short, breezy, interesting, and hilarious.

A miserable young man is stuck schlepping around New York City, working for food delivery apps, so when he’s given the opportunity to work for an “animal rights organization” he jumps at the chance, despite the number of strange hoops he must jump through.

There are kaiju (godzilla-sized monsters), and of course, things end up going very wrong.

Recommendation: Read it! Read it now! There’s a lot of heavy stuff out there, and it’s nice to have a relaxing palate cleanser like this book.

Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

I’m a fan of Stephen King, and 11/22/63 is one of his best. There’s more humor than horror, and a fantastic, convoluted run-up to one of the most infamous moments in American history.

An English teacher is shown a hole in time that leads to a bright, sunny day in 1958. The teacher decides the best thing to do is travel back in time and prevent the Kennedy assassination, five years hence.

However, spending five years in the past isn’t easy, and there are complications he never could have predicted.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s a massive tome (850 pages), but King knows how to spin a story, and he’s in top form here.

Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Connie Willis is one of the few authors capable of humor, humanity, and what must be an ungodly amount of research, and she brings all these skills together in the masterful Doomsday Book.

In near-future Oxford, where time travel for purposes of historical research is relatively common, an eager young historian travels to medieval times. Unfortunately, things immediately go very wrong for her. Then a devastating pandemic hits the present day, and no one is able to help her, or even know she’s in trouble.

Recommendation: Read it. The characters range from deeply human to hilariously Dickensian, and the descriptions of the horrors of daily life in medieval times are some of the best I’ve ever read. Oh, and it’s a great story that won both the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Review: Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade is a fun, fast-paced near-future adventure by Blake Crouch, whose past two books I really enjoyed. In Upgrade, a man gets a highly experimental and unasked-for upgrade to his genetic code, giving him near-superhero intelligence and strength. Immediately, the government and some shadow organization are intensely interested in him, and he must escape all manner of grasping clutches to protect himself and his family.

This is a highly entertaining read, one that kept me up much later than I intended at night. However, its premise isn’t wildly original, and I didn’t think he took it far enough. Given the abilities of some of the characters, I expected to be more blown away by their exploits.

Recommendation: Read it if you’re in the mood for some light, entertaining fare.

Review: The Sky is Yours by Chandler Klang Smith

The Sky is Yours is a genre-bending book that takes place in a wild, post-apocalyptic world with both dragons and sci-fi elements. Its fun, imaginative, and completely horrifying settings seethe with colorful, well-developed, and deeply flawed characters. It’s hard to believe a tour de force like this is from a debut author.

On a dystopian island (not dissimilar to a surreal Manhattan), the lives of three very different young people (a rich, spoiled brat, star of his own reality show; his sheltered but whip-smart fiancée who hasn’t met him yet; and a feral beauty raised on an island of garbage), collide as they learn about the truths and lies of the burning world around them.

Recommendation: Read it. It’s strange, but fantastic.

Review: Battle of the Linguist Mages by Scotto Moore

This frenzied page-turner takes some delightfully unhinged ideas (invasion by alien punctuation, rave-themed VR dungeons, and a plane of existence where all ideas physically exist), creates a believable spell-casting system, and inserts a bad-ass heroine as odd as her world.

It’s a fast-paced, genre-bending, bonkers ride, and I loved every bit of it.

Recommendation: Read it. Absolutely.

Review: Rabbits by Terry Miles

Rabbits is a wild, surreal story that combines the bizarre conspiracies of X-Files and geeky fun of Ready Player One. It’s ridiculously entertaining.

Rabbits is the name of a game where you, in the real world, could find strange coincidences like this:

It’s an average work day. You’ve been wrapped up in a task, and you check the clock when you come up for air—4:44 p.m. You check your email, and 44 unread messages have built up. With a shock, you realize the date is April 4—4/4. And when you get in your car to drive home, your odometer reads 44,444.

While this could just be an unlikely number of meaningless coincidences, in the world of Rabbits, it means you’ve seen the edge of the game. Following these clues to the game’s end could result in immortality, vast riches, or even bigger prizes. Of course, the game can also be deadly. People have reportedly won the game, but many more have died.

Rabbits follows K, who’s been trying to get into the game for years. But when a reclusive billionaire tells K that there’s something wrong with the game and that K needs to fx it before the game starts, K is pulled into a game even larger that what he’d imagined.

Recommendation: Read it, absolutely.