Recent sci-fi?
August 31, 2006 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I recently took a college course in Sci-fi and Fantasy (awesome course) and it really opened up a desire to read some of the recent speculative fiction that I've been missing. (more inside)

So I would love some recommendations that are very similar in style/setting/characters to the following: I should also mention that we read Wicked and GUT Symmetries and I HATED them both. Oryx and Crake and Anansi Boys were my absolute favorites.

What has come out recently that would capture my imagination the way that these books have?
posted by Slimemonster to Writing & Language (28 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't love Cloud Atlas like many did, but I bet it's right up your alley.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:13 PM on August 31, 2006

Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. Okay, it's not as recent as some of his other books, but I found it a hell of a lot more accessible than Iron Council, which I think is his latest.
posted by posadnitsa at 8:34 PM on August 31, 2006

I haven't read or heard of any of your suggestions but I, above and beyond, second Perdido Street Sta. as it is one of my most favorite novels... ever!

Wraeththu, which I surprisingly couldn't find in a search on Mefi, was also quite a ride.
posted by savagecorp at 8:51 PM on August 31, 2006

I really enjoyed Vellum: The Book of All Days (though it's a two-parter and the second part's not out yet). Of course you should read American Gods, it's better than Anansi Boys IMHO, or at least longer and richer. Also, if you like that, do check out Douglas Adams's The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, which has a couple things in common with American Gods. (It is easily my favorite Adams book.) And please, please, do not go to your grave without tracking down a copy of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull -- oh goody, looks like it's still in print. You are in for a treat. (Her other books are great too, particularly Bone Dance, but more SF-ish.)
posted by kindall at 8:53 PM on August 31, 2006

Oh, hell. Tim Powers! You're going to love Last Call, Expiration Date, and Earthquake Weather.
posted by kindall at 8:56 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh, hell. Tim Powers! You're going to love Last Call, Expiration Date, and Earthquake Weather.

Tim Powers is great. I think Declare is actually better than any of these, though I would not think you were insane if you wanted to argue that Last Call was better. But Declare is just awesome, especially if you have any fondness for John LeCarre and his works.

Cloud Atlas is more crisply in the Literary science-fiction mode of the cited examples, though -- especially Oryx and Crake -- I have to confess. And I did like it very much, as well.
posted by redfoxtail at 9:03 PM on August 31, 2006 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was specifically going for more of a "fantasy elements in the modern-day world" thing like Anansi Boys, so recommended the "Last Call" books. Of those I think I actually prefer Expiration Date. What's not to love about the ghost of Thomas Edison?

But I agree that Declare is simply amazing. For those who are not familiar with Declare, Power takes real Cold War-era historical events and invents a completely convincing fantastical explanation for them. Notorious British traitor (a high-ranking intelligence official who spied for the Soviets) Kim Philby is involved. If this sounds appealing, and it should, read it immediately.
posted by kindall at 9:51 PM on August 31, 2006

Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and Children of Men by PD James both have that literary distopian thing you seem to be after withteh Atwood and the Ishiguro. Also check out Atwood's Handmaid's Tale.
posted by thecjm at 10:14 PM on August 31, 2006

Well it came out in 1993 but I think you might enjoy Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.

"The last surviving victim of an experiment that implanted the subjects' heads with electrodes that decipher coded messages is the unnamed narrator of this excellent book by Murakami, one of Japan's best-selling novelists and winner of the prestigious Tanizaki prize. Half the chapters are set in Tokyo, where the narrator negotiates underground worlds populated by INKlings, dodges opponents of both sides of a raging high-tech infowar, and engages in an affair with a beautiful librarian with a gargantuan appetite. In alternating chapters he tries to reunite with his mind and his shadow, from which he has been severed by the grim, dark "replacement" consciousness implanted in him by a dotty neurophysiologist. Both worlds share the unearthly theme of unicorn skulls that moan and glow. Murakami's fast-paced style, full of hip internationalism, slangy allegory, and intrigue, has been adroitly translated."
posted by RoseovSharon at 10:41 PM on August 31, 2006

Yep, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is amazing. If you haven't read it, read it.
posted by bshort at 10:52 PM on August 31, 2006

My favorite SF novel of the last decade or so is Misison Child, by Maureen McHugh. I can't recommend it highly enough. You should also check out Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, Eileen Gunn, and Carol Emshwiller. Paul LaFarge's Artist of the Missing is a real treat too.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:35 PM on August 31, 2006

Check out the Nebula and Hugo award winners.
posted by sophist at 1:25 AM on September 1, 2006

The "it" authors recently in SF/F:

China Mieville - His New Crobuzon stuff is great. It falls into the 'New Weird' subgenre (as if that really matters). Absolutely wonderful prose, weird steampunk characters and machines, wacky ideas. He's a crazy communist (for real) and his books have a slight political bent, but great. Perdido Street Station, The Scar (the best of the three), Iron Council.

Jeff Ford - just quietly writing some of the best genre stuff out there. Lots of great short fiction: The Empire of Ice Cream is his most recent collection. Always very tight writing in his longer works too. The Girl in the Glass is his most recent, and it is a great short read. I prefer The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque which is easily one of the best books (fiction) of the past 10 years or so.

Neil Gaiman - you already mentioned Anansi Boys, so if you liked that you'll love American Gods even more. It was better.

Tim Powers - I have to second what everyone said above. Read everything by him. Now. I just finished his new one Three Days To Never which is outstanding.

Jeff Vandermeer - Also very 'New Weird'. City of Saints and Madmen

Kelly Link - If you like short fiction at all, you have to read her. Magic For Beginners and Stranger Things Happen.

Other stuff:

Jon Courtenay Grimwood - If you live in the UK he is widely published there. In the states, we are only just getting his stuff. His Arabesk trilogy (Pashazade, Felaheen, Effendi) is nothing short of amazing.

James P. Blaylock - Very similar to Tim Powers. Also very good. Start with The Last Coin.

George R.R. Martin - Heroic Fantasy might not be your cup of tea, but this is the best being published right now. It's a great read. A Game of Thrones is the first book.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 3:50 AM on September 1, 2006 [4 favorites]

Jonathan Lethem's earlier stuff, before he shucked the genre-label of being a SciFi author, is really good. Gun, with Occasional Music; Amnesia Moon; and As She Climbed Across the Table are all faves.

N+1 anything about Tim Powers. Hell, N+2.

Christopher Moore is to Tim Powers what Terry Pratchett is to JRR Tolkien. Consider him! Lamb; Bloodsucking Fiends; and Practical Demonkeeping are my faves.

Be sure to read Christopher Priest's The Prestige (Victorian magic, featuring Tesla!) before the big-name movie comes out soon.

Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. Seriously. So. Good.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:47 AM on September 1, 2006

Jeff Noon.
posted by Drexen at 5:26 AM on September 1, 2006

The place to check is Gnod. You enter three authors you like and a tag cloud of other names appears, based on other people's earlier entries. Quite cool. Have you tried Gibson's Neuromancer or Stephenson's Snow Angel?
posted by RussHy at 6:48 AM on September 1, 2006

Looking at what you liked, Octavia Butler's books immediately came to mind.

You would probably also like Rupert Thomson's Divided Kingdom.

And I'll join the Cloud Atlas chorus.
posted by gnomeloaf at 6:48 AM on September 1, 2006

Oops, wrong link. Try the Gnod Literature Map to see the exploding tag cloud of authors.
posted by RussHy at 6:51 AM on September 1, 2006

I second (deep breath) Haruki Murakami, Kelly Link, China Mieville (although I preferred The Scar to Perdido Street Station), Neil Gaiman and Jon Courtenay Grimwood (9Tail Fox was really good). Also Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others is one of my favourite short story collections ever.
You might want to try Geoff Ryman's Air and Mary Gentle's Ash. Also, I can't recommend Margo Langan's short story collection Black Juice enough. You can read one of the stories from it online. Kelly Link's Stranger Things Happen is also available for download.
posted by jobby at 7:45 AM on September 1, 2006

For the last twenty years or so, the gold standard for literary science fiction has been Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun. It's not quite as recent as the other books you've named, but I'd being doing you a disservice if I omitted it.

Gaiman first came to prominence with The Sandman, a series of graphic novels with a "modern mythology" theme similar to that of Anansi Boys. If you enjoyed the latter, you'll almost certainly like the former; it's still his masterpiece.

Come to think of it, much of the good genre fiction I've read over the past few years is actually stuff I've come by through Gaiman's reading recommendations. Particularly useful was this article here.
posted by Iridic at 7:52 AM on September 1, 2006

Agree that Cloud Atlas is the next natural element in your list, and of course A Handmaid's Tale. And there's the short story "Welcome to the Monkey House" by Kurt Vonnegut. Oh, and the comic book series Y the Last Man.

If you'd be inclined to enjoy some of the same themes in literature for young people, (I really think both Anansi Boys and Never Let Me Go teetered on that young adult/adult line), try
The Giver by Lois Lowry and its sequels
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Seriously. Give one a try. I know some people don't like to be seen with kids' books, but these titles really captured my imagination.

I've never been a SF person, with the sole exception of this type of speculative fiction, I think because The Giver and 1984 were early influences. It may go without saying, but if you haven't read 1984 yet, (and also A Clockwork Orange, although that's a different type of future dystopia), you must.
posted by lampoil at 8:02 AM on September 1, 2006

If your looking at Jeff Noon - I believe VURT is the best of the best. Needle in the Groove as well as Pollen are also quite good.
posted by savagecorp at 8:06 AM on September 1, 2006

Damn, in addition to forgetting Tim Powers the first time, I also forgot Matt Ruff! Try Fool on the Hill. His second book, Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy features Ayn Rand reincarnated in a hurricane lamp and a VW Beetle possessed by the spirit of Abbey Hoffman. You can read samples of his work at his Web site. I really liked Set This House in Order too, but it's not so much a fantasy.
posted by kindall at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2006

Blindness by José Saramago. A whole country suddenly goes blind. It's like 28 Days Later if it were a book-length poem.
posted by crookedneighbor at 8:26 AM on September 1, 2006

The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, mentioned above, is the sequel to Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and it might be better to read that one first (I don't know, I read them the wrong way round).

Anansi Boys and Oryx and Crake are both still on my to-read list so I may not be much help here, but maybe some Charles de Lint would appeal? Assorted mostly Native American mythical beings interacting with the normal world, as with Neil Gaiman's American Gods. Anything set in the fictional US city of Newford is probably a good place to start, maybe with Forests of the Heart.
posted by Lebannen at 10:01 AM on September 1, 2006

I must recommend James Morrow. Towing Jehovah and it's sequels are excellent. I've also loved This Is The Way The World Ends and City of Truth...both are fantastic. For some shorter fiction of his, check out the collection Bible Stories for Adults.

Also, I'll second Christopher Moore. His books are highly entertaining. So far my favorite is Coyote Blue, but none have been disappointing.

And crookedneighbor right, Blindness is excellent (although I've recently read the followup, Seeing, which wasn't quite as satisfying).
posted by JaredSeth at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2006

I love SF, but not Fantasy. Speculative fiction/SF is a great combo. I recommend trying Ken McLeod's Learning the World. It's a first contact story, set in a theoretical future.
posted by Joh at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2006

Nah, I think The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul stands alone pretty well. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency is also good of course, but I like Tea-Time better.

Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves is another one you might like.
posted by kindall at 5:53 PM on September 1, 2006

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