The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman is a wild, inventive ride. It takes place in a seriously alternate version of our world in the late 1800s, where technology and mind-altering demons go hand in hand. Fortunately, this crazy land is peopled with deep, well-developed characters, a rare occurrence amidst so much intricate world-building.
The famous Philip K. Dick wrote some amazing books, but in his later years, penned a few stinkers. Fortunately, Ubik is one of the good ones. It starts out dystopian (the door to one’s apartment requires coins to open and close every single time) and quickly gets very weird, as characters become unsure of what time they’re in, or even how alive they are. It’s bizarre fun.
If you’re a child of the 80s, reading Ready Player One is like mainlining heroin-strength nostalgia. It’s so ridiculously fun that I frequently imagined author Ernest Cline giggling and saying to himself, “I can’t believe I’m getting away with this!”
Nominated for a Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in 1975, The Mote in God’s Eye has not aged particularly well. There are some clever twists and exciting sequences in this far-future first-contact tale, and the alien Motes are, in some ways, truly alien.
A ship, powered by a tame black hole, is on a multi-million year mission to place wormholes throughout the galaxy, allowing humans to travel interstellar distances. The people on this ship are awoken by an AI for a couple days every ten thousand years or so to create these wormholes.
The people on board the ship discover something’s not right. But how do you solve anything when you’re in cryosleep for thousands of years at a stretch?
Tom Barren in All Our Wrong Todays is from an ideal version of our present time. No war, no poverty, jet packs for all, and pretty much every starry-eyed prediction made in the 1950’s has come true. It’s awesome. But then Tom loses the love of his life and in his iffy mental state, does something stupid with a time machine. He screws everything up so badly that his amazing 2016 turns into a crap 2016: that is, our 2016. Now he’s got to fix it. Except that the love of his life is alive in our 2016…
I think author David Wong has invented “trailerpunk”—intelligent, funny, but low-income and low-achieving people save the world in all his books. In his latest, the near-future Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a young woman with a horrible cat is forced to fend off a deeply psychotic and wildly enhanced billionaire cyborg.