I recently finished Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, and found myself not blown away, but quite satisfied with what a good read it was. Although I am very much a mainline Sci-Fi nerd, I have found myself more and more attracted to some of the post-apocalyptic stuff hitting the shelves these days. Journal of the Plague Year and the related Hooded Man and School’s Out Forever are all collections of apocalyptic fiction published by Abaddon Books — all really good stuff. It certainly makes you think, like most good Sci-Fi does, about how things could be. And things could be pretty, completely, fucked up. Turn off the electricity, the internet, the water. In the words of Merle Haggard, we’ll be rolling down a hill like a snowball headed for hell — and pretty quickly at that. Needless to say, these books entertained me and made me think. Mission accomplished.
So on to the next great thing I have discovered, although it was hiding in plain sight: Greg Egan. This Aussie braniac from the Southwest Coast of the great Down Under has really captured my attention. Why he is not a household name I have no idea (okay he’s not a name in my household). And how did I come upon this literary wonder? Taking a lap around my local Barnes and Noble, I happened upon a couple of paperbacks in the New Science Fiction section. It was the covers that caught my eye — I am a real sucker for a great cover — they almost had a graduate-level physics textbook sensibility. But quite beautiful at the same time. And I’m thinking “What the fuck is this?” The re-issue of Egan’s novel Distress and its fractal-globe-starscape cover from Nightshade Books is what the fuck it was. Nightshade is re-issuing a lot of Egan’s stuff: Permutation City, Diaspora, Schild’s Ladder, and more. This is really hard science fiction. I had to re-read some of the passages since it was like reading a description of some sort of thesis on quantum mechanics; but yeah, it is worth it. Distress is all about the nature of relationships in a future where people are more than male or female, the Theory of Everything, and the past, present and future of the universe.
It’s not like Egan is unknown. He has been writing for quite a while and has been published broadly — he has won the Hugo among other awards. Thanks to Nightshade Books for re-issuing this fabulous author’s work.
Take a look at his website — this is a nerd’s website, filled with his own computer animations and all sorts of shit you probably come up with when you live a million miles from nowhere. Or just maybe, Perth is the real center of the universe and I’m the one who lives a million miles from nowhere. Sometimes it feels like it.
Okay, a few more goodies. I haven’t read them yet, but in my stack are China Mieville’s Iron Council; Carbide Tipped Pens – a hard science collection edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi; Area X – The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer, and a fantasy trilogy called Riddle-Master the Complete Trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip (I’m not sure about this last one, it was recommended by a dear friend who is much more into fantasy than I am — but our mutual love of the LOTR movies convinced me to take a chance on it). Plus a bunch of Greg Egan’s re-issues. Actually all of them.
You’re welcome, Amazon.