Definitive Top Ten All-Time Desert Island Works of Speculative Fiction: the Novels

Whoooo, boy.  Kate sucked me into this thing yesterday (as Kate quite frequently does) wherein Matt Wallace decided to have us all make lists of our #DTTATDIWSF.  I haven’t read Kate’s list because I’m contrary and don’t want her to influence my decision.

Specfic is difficult to nail down, and so I’m just going with my gut on this one, guys.  In no particular order, these are the books I’d take with me were I stranded with only 10 novels.

  1. The Long Walk – Richard BachmanThe Long WalkI know, I know – you’re probably all shocked that THIS is the Stephen King work I chose.  It was really hard (twss!), but I finally decided on this one because it’s self-contained and the list specifies novels, which I think would mean I can’t take 6 books (cos why would I want WaG with me on a desert island?  I WOULDN’T) in one spot.  Since there is no (yet) single volume containing the whole series, I choose this one.
  2. Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron – Jasper FfordeShades of Grey
    Taking the “what if?” part of speculative seriously, my FfordeFfangirling comes into effect here.  Shades of Grey takes place at an uncertain time in the future, wherein a caste system has evolved based on what section of the spectrum you’re able to see.  The greys are (obviously) lowest on the totem pole.  This is supposed to be part of a series, but as Fforde has several other series going at the moment, I already feel as if I’m on a desert island waiting for him to write more.
  3. Job: A Comedy of Justice – Robert HeinleinJob
    I read this for the first time probably before I was old enough to really GET it.  The “What if…?” here is something you can probably guess from the title, but it’s a lot funnier and more irreverent than the biblical tale of Job.  Same overall premise, though.  Funny and thought provoking, and still my favourite Heinlein.
  4. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adamsh2g2Fuck you, I’m not picking just one.  I want them all and I can HAVE THEM ALL.  So there.  I’ve written enough about these books that I don’t need to tell you again why I love them.  If you haven’t read them, I feel really sad for you.
  5. The Man in the High Castle OR A Scanner Darkly OR The Penultimate Truth – Philip K Dick
    Shit, shit, shit.  This is one where I can’t decide.  If I HAD TO…I would probably pick A Scanner Darkly.  HAD TO.  But if I REALLY had my druthers, I’d take this:
    pkd 5 novelsBecause the Library of America kicks ass and knows exactly what I want.  SO.  I take this.  FIVE NOVELS.  Suck it, monkeys.
  6. The Lights in the Sky are Stars – Fredric BrownLitSaS
    WHY HAVEN’T YOU READ THIS YET?!  This book captures all of my feels about the space program, why I’ll be a “Starduster” for life, and gave me a character I have empathized with like no other.  Go.  Go read this.  Now.  NOW, I SAID.
  7. The Windup Girl – Paolo BacigalupiWindup GirlA lot, a lot, A LOT of people gave up on this book after a certain scene at the very beginning.  Too bad for those people, I say.  Because while it’s pretty horrific to read (especially if you’re like me and your imagination plays everything as a movie in your head), it definitely sets things up in a way that lets you know you’re not in for a pretty story.  It’s not pretty.  It’s pretty horrible, actually, but that’s definitely why this book works.  This is one of those books that I finished and didn’t know whether to start it over again or just give up on reading for a while.  Yeah.  Like that.
  8. The Flame Alphabet – Ben Marcusflame alphabetI’m just going to go ahead and say it.  This book has a low rating overall (not even 3 stars on goodreads) because people didn’t fucking get it.  The blurb makes it read like some sort of psychological thriller, which is NOT WHAT IT IS AT ALL.  This book is beautiful and haunting and I am so glad I read it with Heather because we had some of the liveliest text conversations about it.  Don’t read it by yourself.  Read it with someone you enjoy discussing books with (even if you’ll hate the thought of talking once you get into it), because reading it alone is such a waste.
  9. City of Dreaming Books – Walter MoersCoDBI have already professed my love for this book in all the words I can manage here.  I’m sad it took me as long as it did to find it, and it’s a treasured favourite already.  I would move to Zamonia if I could, were I not worried about being the only human in a land full of…other creatures.  If you haven’t yet picked up this one based on my recommendation, I just can’t do anything for you.  Sorry.  If you don’t love it within the first 10 pages, chances are you won’t love it at all and that means (to me) that you’re just dead inside.
  10. Saga – Brian K VaughanSaga1I know.  I KNOW.  I know it says NOVELS and I am fully aware that this is a COMIC.  But I’m not going to even try to compile a list of Desert Island SpecFic comics and I want to take this with me, damnit.  Look at that cover.  Yes.  That is a woman breastfeeding (the child she is giving birth to on the first page).  Listen.  I <3 Fiona Staples with all of my little fangirl heart and as long as this whole desert island situation can hold off until BKV and Ms Staples have finished this series, I will TAKE THE WHOLE DAMN RUN WITH ME.

There.  My Definitive Top-Ten All Time Desert Island Works of Speculative Fiction (for now).

I know I missed a bunch, but I kind of don’t care.  I’m pretty happy with this list.  What books are on yours?

Steampunk Cinderella, underground book-mazes, and esoteric zombies: sj recommends, I read.

Well, hello, Snobberians! I am MOST PLEASED to be invited to play in sj’s house. I will try very hard to be a good guest. That means I have to keep my elbows tucked in at all times, or else I will knock over grape-juice cups and you KNOW how that stains the carpeting.

Some of you probably need an intro into the world of Amy, right? Happy to do so. Hello! I am Amy! I blog here normally, but very seldom about books. I also blog here, and that IS about books. However, at Insatiable Booksluts, I usually blog about indie literary fiction, and a naughty secret is that I read a lot more books than just classy ones. I like young adult books. I like fantasy. Science fiction. Graphic novels. And I really like writing reviews for the books I read, no matter what they’re about. I think they’re helpful on a lot of levels. They help me remember what I thought when I read the book (I have a terrible memory) and they help others decide whether or not the book might be for them. So I’ve been putting brief reviews up on Goodreads of my non-Insatiable-Booksluts books, but when sj extended the invite to write over here…well, let’s just say that shouting yes yes! was kind of my response.

And speaking of reviews, and how you find the books that you read…

Well, one of my biggest sources for book recommendations is the inimitable sj. Because she a., reads the type of books I would also enjoy, b., writes the best lemming-creating reviews, and c., knows when she’s reading a book if it’s something I would also enjoy. So my to-read list gets longer and longer and I’d say probably half of it is sj-books.

So let’s see what I thought of books compared to what sj thought of books!

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

sj briefly reviewed this one here. I ALSO dig retold fairy tales; more than I probably should. It’s led to me reading some TERRIBLE books. So I read her review, which wasn’t really glowing, but middle-of-the-road, and immediately said, yep, I need to read this one. Because, retold fairy tale! And also, steampunk! These are things I like.

I ended up thinking the same exact thing sj did.

Not a bad book; interesting premise, well-written, kept my interest throughout. But the foreshadowing was SO HEAVY that you kind of groaned when you got to that part. Then you spent the rest of the book kind of yelling at the characters “HOW HAVE YOU NOT FIGURED THIS OUT YET?”

I don’t know if I’m enough into this to continue on with the series. I have so many books to read and I’m not going to live forever. OR AM I? *evil laugh*

The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers

Last year, I went through a very bad patch. Unemployment plus total malaise plus then my part-time job gave me a ton of hours so that I could pay my bills and my rent and such. This led to no time to read. At all. Months passed without being able to read a single book. I don’t know if my mood was worse because of the work situation or because of the lack of beautiful words being regularly siphoned into my eyeholes.

Once things let up a little, I decided I had to make time for books, because otherwise, they were not going to ever come back to me, and I needed them again. So I looked at my sadly-ignored and overflowing library books shelf (what, you don’t have one of these?) and saw this book waiting for me. And I said, yes. After sj’s review, this is the book that will start me back down the reading rainbow.

It was wonderful. She was right. It was full of whimsy and adventure; it was beautifully written; it had so many literary references it kind of made your head spin (in the best possible way.) It made me laugh in places and it made me a little weepy in places. It was a very intelligent book. It was the perfect book to break a dry spell. (And it totally broke my dry spell. I’ve had a book on the go ever since. I haven’t read as many books this year as I have in the past – living on the internet and writing this much and having three jobs kind of eats away at your writing time – but I’m pleased with my progress for the year. It’s much better than the zero books I had read when I started. And my mood? MUCH improved.)

Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess

Now, just so you don’t think EVERYTHING sj recommends is all rainbows and kittens for me…

sj was sure I would love this book. And yes! It sounded just like something I would like. Zombies! Horror! Apocalypse! A cult classic!

I had to force myself to finish this book. And the whole time I was SURE there was something wrong with me. I’m still not quite sure there isn’t. Everyone loves this book. EVERYONE. (Fine, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. There seem to be some people on Goodreads that didn’t like it. A few.)

Here’s the problem with this book for me. I am a fan of a linear storyline. Or at least a somewhat-linear storyline. Or at least a storyline that makes SOME SORT OF SENSE. I had no idea what was ever happening in this book. The characters kept disappearing; the settings would change without notice; things would happen that I wasn’t sure if they were REALLY happening or if I was just supposed to see them as a METAPHOR or what exactly the author was expecting me to think was going on…

…and it made me feel very, very stupid. It made me feel like when I was in college, and there would be this group of English majors deconstructing, say, Finnegan’s Wake, and they’d have these affected chesty chortles, and they’d say something like “Amy! What did you think of the sentence ‘This is the bog lipoleum mordering the lipoleum beg’? Your interpretation?” and I would have no answer because I HATE THINGS LIKE THAT and they would look at each other very knowingly and nod and in that nod was “ah. Yes. Amy is a troglodyte who can’t understand the deeper meaning of TRUE LIT-RA-CHURE.”

I don’t like a book that makes me feel like an idiot. I like a book that makes me think; I like a book that challenges me. But if a book is written in a way that seems JUST to be confusing, JUST to be esoteric, I don’t enjoy that. Not even a little bit.

Poor sj. She felt like she failed in recommending this to me. However, I let her know that it is not a failure to recommend a book to someone and have them not like it. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. If EVERY ONE of them were winners, where’s the fun in that? We’d never have any discussions! We’d always be all “good good yes loved it great lovely!”

A true friendship means you can dislike the other person’s most favorite books (or television shows, or movies) and yet STILL LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Yes! It is true! I know, it’s totally shocking.

Back another day with more bookish goodness, everyone! Thanks for not noticing the place I spilled pasta sauce all over the tablecloth. That’s very polite of you. Just avert your eyes. No one’s the wiser.

The Snobbery’s Naughty and Nice List 2012 Edition (Part V)

So I saw a comment in my twitter feed last Wednesday (the day the previous installment was posted), where someone was wishing that people would stop posting Best Of lists.  The bitchy contrary part of me immediately said (yes, out loud) “MAKE TEN MORE LISTS!!!!”  Now (and partially because Em is totally a bad influence) I’m trying to come up with increasingly ridiculous lists.  You might see some.  OR YOU MIGHT NOT.  You might also get a round of posts full of foul language after my dad makes me go see The Hobbit next weekend.  I DON’T KNOW YET.  You’ll have to wait and see.

ANYWAY, this post is going to cover things I read this year that I loved that didn’t make it onto the last list.

~o~

Mrs Claus with the Naughty List

~o~

sj’s TIP TOP FAVOURITE Books Read in 2012

moers

ALL THE WALTER MOERS!

Susie DMed me in August, telling me she’d suggested my name to Tara as someone who might be interested in a blog tour she (Tara) was setting up for the upcoming Labyrinth of Dreaming Books.  “Have you/would you be interested in reading Walter Moers?” she asked.

At that point, I’d never even heard of him, but City of Dreaming Books sounded like something that was right up my alley, so I said I would be THE MOST INTERESTED, SEND ME ALL THE BOOKS! (um, paraphrasing)

I fell in love with CoDB within the first few pages.  Like, hard.  And then I got angry.  Because I couldn’t believe that NO ONE HAD BOTHERED TO TELL ME ABOUT THESE BOOKS BEFORE NOW!  There are very few authors who can write something that feels like it was written expressly for me.  The further I got into that book (and then subsequent books), the more I realized I was reading the exact sort of thing I’d ask someone to write for me – y’know, if that sort of thing were okay.

Walter Moers has been added to my list of “ZOMG, CAN’T WAIT MUST READ NAO!” authors.  There aren’t many on that list, so I hope he realizes what an honour it is to be there.  Hee.  Also, there are two other books already translated into English that I haven’t read yet, but I’ll be buying those for myself right after the holidays, when it’s okay to spend money on myself again.

Unless someone wants to buy me presents, then you can get me The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear and Rumo & His Miraculous Adventures.  Just sayin’.

~o~

My New Favourite Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde

I’ll admit that I’m a little bit of an asshole about this.  Not EVERY BOOK can be my favourite, but every time I finish one of these I say “Nope.  That one’s my favourite.  Forget the rest, this one is the best.”  I REALLY MEAN IT THIS TIME!  Which kind of surprised me, because on paper, this book should have been one of my least favourites in the series.

It didn’t have ANY of the stuff I loved about the last few books, and it was set entirely in Swindon, which should have been the kiss of death…but somehow it wasn’t terrible.  No, in fact, it totally rocked.

I cried, I laughed, I wanted to punch things.  Isn’t that what we all hope we’ll get from our books?  That kind of emotional response, something that just makes you glad you know how to read?

By the time I got to the last page, I had a huge smile on my face and knew there was no way I’d be able to review it impartially.  Do me a favour, if you hate these books, please don’t tell me.  I get wildly irrational, and wouldn’t be able to pretend to be nice to you anymore.

He spent his life immersed in books to the cost of everything else, even personal relationships. “Friends,” he’d once said, “are probably great, but I have forty thousand friends of my own already, and each of them needs my attention.”

~o~

balrog

Obviously this summer wasn’t my first, tenth, or even twentieth time reading through Tolkien.  It was, however, the first time I’d attempted to read it with a group.  It was also the first time I’d actually tried to commit my thoughts on these books to writing.  Everyone that participated gives me warm fuzzies.  Thank you, so much for joining, for reading, for drinking along with the movies, for writing your own posts, and just for showing up to keep me from talking to myself.

Truly.  Thank you.  <3

(If you didn’t participate in the group read/watch, but are still interested in reading the posts and comments, click on the Puttin’ the Blog in Balrog menu right below the header.)

~o~

friends rule

So, this is a bit of promotion for some friends I love dearly and am incredibly proud of.  Volcanoes is Nicole‘s third book in her Grace Murphy series, and it’s her best yet.  I can’t review it because I’m FAR TOO CLOSE to it, but I can tell you that I love Grace (even when she’s an idiot) and I’m incredibly happy just knowing these books exist.

…AND THEN!  The lovely Amy had a book of poetry published this year!  AND IT’S SO GOOD!  I don’t usually read poetry but Amy made me want to read more.  No, seriously.

Go buy both of these books.  Or not.  But I think you should.

~o~

That’s all for today!  These are the books I loved the very very most in 2012, I hope you all had just as many new reading loves this year, too.  Thanks for reading.

Dreaming Books Blog Tour – A Letter to Lindworm Castle

Dearest Optimus,

(Do you prefer Optimus to Hildegunst? I’ve always wondered why your name was changed in translation, but no matter.)

I haven’t written a fan letter in a number of years, but having recently been given the opportunity to read your newest book (English translation drops November 8) before it is actually released, I felt moved to say something.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the Orm, no, I’m not that lucky – but I do count myself lucky to have read your Orm-filled words.

Each time I pick up one of your books about Zamonia  (whether it’s a tale of your own adventures or not), I find myself with a huge grin on my face the moment I start reading.

I’m sure it’s not difficult maintaining quality control on your work when first Mr Moers translates it from Zamonian into German, and then it’s handed off AGAIN to Mr Brownjohn for the English translation, but I feel the need to commend all of  you for your work.

I’d love to learn Zamonian so I could read your words as you intend them, but I can assure you that (on my end, anyway) your writing is just as charming having been translated twice.  I feel like my brain would explode (or that I’d never read anything else) were the full impact of your work to hit me.

Bookholm truly has come alive in the mind of this reader.  In the movie that plays in my mind (complete with smell-o-vision, I’ll have you know), I can see and hear each thing you describe so clearly.  I’m assuming this is due to your relationship with the Orm, but whatever it is – it’s amazing.

Thank you so much for everything you’ve allowed to be translated into English.  I understand you’ve written another book that so far has only been translated from Zamonian into German (I know it as Ensel und Krete, but I’m sure your title is delightful) and I eagerly await the day that book makes its way into English.  There are other books I’ve heard tell of that were written in the middle of your non-Ormfull period, and I can’t say that I’m sorry I’ve missed Sandwich Making for Fun and Profit, or your mock criticisms of the plays of Aliesha Wimpersleake (which, I regret to tell you sounds quite dreadful) –  but if your most recent book is any indication, you are well on your way to providing us with many more delightful stories for years to come.

I realize you’re not likely to do anything with this letter, other than to either burn it with the rest or drip sandwich crumbs on it, but thank you so much for everything you’ve written and will continue to write.

I eagerly await the day your next novel arrives.

With much love and respect,

sj

ps.  Attached you will find a photo of myself the day I received your latest work in my mailbox.

(For those of you that haven’t figured it out, this is a letter to the narrator of Walter Moers’ Dreaming Books series.  Please see my post about City of Dreaming Books for further information, and follow along on the blog tour as we count down the days to its release.  Check in tomorrow with Anastasia at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog for a review of Labyrinth of Dreaming Books.  Thanks to Tara at Book Sexy Review for hosting this tour, and thanks to the folks at Overlook Press for the ARC that has had me grinning like a loon since I received it.)

I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, either.

I don’t get audiobooks.

I mean, I understand the concept of audiobooks, I just don’t think they make a whole lot of sense for me.

I bring this up today because when attempting to find the other Zamonia books this weekend, I discovered that the first two are not available as ebooks, but they ARE available as audiobooks – read by none other than Bronson Pinchot (if B-Man is reading this, he probably just squealed a little).

You know how you can listen to your audiobooks at 3x without the pitch rising? This is what I imagine going on inside my iPod when I speed it up.

I feel the need to add here, that my primary reason for not wanting to purchase tree books at the moment is not because I’ve become a digital only snob, but because I have issues with my hands currently that make holding a book and turning actual pages difficult, if not sometimes impossible.  My eReader is what allows me to continue to read, even when my hands are so bad I can’t hold a book.

So…why not audio?  Well, I’ve tried them before (after the urging of a friend to try listening to The Guide as read by DNA) and I always think it’s exceptionally clever and might even be fun…for about two minutes.

Which is the point that my mind starts to wander because I don’t have the tether of the words on the page.

People have said “Oh, but I can ‘read’ while I’m doing all these other things!  I can read on my commute!  I can read while I’m doing my chores!” and so on.

  • Audiobooks while driving – I would get myself killed or would have to go back and read the entire book over again.  I know my limitations, and would prefer to keep my attention on the road when I’m behind the wheel of something that could potentially cause harm to myself or others.  That’s not to say that many people aren’t able to do this, but I know that this is not a viable option for me.  Yes, I’m one of those people that turns the radio down to look for an address.  Shut up.
  • Audiobooks while doing chores – I can’t even listen to music while I’m doing chores, unless I do so with one earbud hanging next to me so I can listen for kids crying.  Sadly, kids crying is frequent occurrence in my house.
  • Audiobooks while knitting/crafting/whatever other hobby you have – Um…reading is my hobby.  I can’t really listen to an audiobook while I’m reading (how meta!), and I can’t blog or tweet or do anything else that doesn’t allow me to devote my entire attention to the book I’m listening to while I’m listening.  I don’t want to have to go back and RELISTEN to everything again.
  • Audiobooks help people read faster – Not me.  For example, The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear (which is what started me on this whole subject) is 16 hours long.  SIXTEEN HOURS!  ZOMG, if I had 16 hours to devote to just straight reading, I’d finish this book and probably 2 others!  This is not a timesaver for me.  This is slowing me down.  I never have much time to just sit and read.  I have 4 kids and I homeschool 3 of them.  My reading is confined to 5 or 10 minutes at a time.  What I call reading sprints.  I read while I’m stirring the pasta, I read while I’m standing outside the bathroom, waiting for one of the kids to finish so I can make sure their hands are clean, I read while I’m waiting for the toaster to pop up the waffles.  What I don’t EVER get to do is just sit and read (or listen!) to anything for 16 hours at a stretch.
  • Audiobooks for the vision impaired – This is the one that makes the most sense to me.  Before I got my new glasses earlier this year, I had to constantly adjust the font size of every book I read on my reader.  With my old glasses, I needed to read at at least the medium sized font but WITHOUT my glasses, I need the largest size.  No joke, the largest font size only fits 5-10 words on the screen.

…and now this has turned into a bit of a lengthy rant, when really I was originally just sad that these books aren’t available digitally.

Is anyone willing to listen to them and transcribe them for me?

Do audiobooks work for you?  If so, when do you listen to them?  How do you manage to tune out other distractions?  If you listen while driving, how do you find that balance of keeping your eyes on the road while still paying attention to the story?