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Justine Jordan Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Until, that is, he falls victim to his illiterate housekeeper and a proto-Nazi concierge, and begins a grotesque descent into madness and the urban underworld, guided by an evil dwarf. This is a blackly comic study of vulnerability, fascism and self-destruction by the polymathic author of Crowds and Power, and a serious novel of ideas in the grand Central European manner. David Newnham Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.

In this Chinese classic, the monk Tripitaka travels to India to fetch sacred Buddhist texts, accompanied by three disciples: the greedy Pigsy, the river monster Sandy and Monkey recruited so that they may atone for past sins , on the way doing battle with demons, monsters and evil magicians. The quest may have been given to the blundering monk, but the real star of the story is its antihero, the irrepressible trickster, rule-breaker and troublemaker Monkey.

Ginny Hooker Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The horror! Lord Jim takes the familiar narrative of the seafaring hero and turns it inside out, as only Conrad can. His Jim is a young idealist who is promoted in the merchant navy without ever really having had his mettle tested. But is he really in the wrong?

Conrad uses every trick he knows to express the doubts and fears of a time when ideas of conventional morality seemed to be crumbling underfoot. But where Heart of Darkness draws us into a deeply subjective interior, the language of Nostromo is radically exteriorised — alienating, even. An essential modernist experiment, as rigorous and unsparing in its imagination as the glare of the midday sun that falls upon its cynical protagonists.

His prose may be workmanlike, but his relish for the books is infectious. In short, Sharpe is fun. Sam Jordison Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. To describe this satire as unique barely does justice to its eccentric charm, but only recently has Coventry been recognised as a talent independent of his hero Henry Fielding. A shame, since this book deserves a wide readership.

This is the original adventure yarn. Crusoe rebels against his father, runs away to sea and has all sorts of adventures, including a daring escape from slavery in north Africa, before God decides to teach him a lesson and shipwrecks him on his desert island. The only survivor, our entirely resourceful hero, survives for 26 years by learning how to make everything from scratch, from pots to Christian theology he does have a bible.

He also defeats encroaching cannibals and pirates. John Mullan Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The level of detail employed in this frequently underrated novel is what makes it truly shocking: its tone of cool, clinical analysis is always the same, whether applied to death and destruction or machinery and weather conditions.

Four friends set out on a canoe trip down the Cahulawassee, a soon-to-be-dammed river in northern Georgia. While there, the men encounter two savage locals who quickly transform the weekend adventure into a traumatic ordeal — one that not everyone survives. John Dugdale Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.

Characteristically episodic and disorienting, this is a gem of an antiwar novel by an unjustly overlooked writer. Often criticised for having no plot, South Wind is a mystifying, but still enlightening, conversational novel, full of entrancing discussions of love, pleasures and scandals that together form a touching plea for tolerance and fantastic evocation of bohemian life.

Its fast-paced narrative and curious philosophical musings also ensure it remains the most entertaining and intriguing of all the versions out there. Joanna Hines. Captain Clancy is leading his men across the Vietnam hills when he is mortally wounded. The town of Krishnapur is under siege and the garrison is hard put to survive and, just as importantly to some of them, to cling to their Victorian values.

They believe in science but their two doctors disagree about almost everything; they believe in their civilization but their subjects are rebelling. The local Indian populace picnic on a nearby hill and enjoy the spectacle of the unfolding drama. Violence is coolly recorded, derring-do excitingly narrated, yet this is a darkly funny book, whose unsentimental, omniscient narrator scrutinises the self-delusions of the colonialists. Christopher Tietjens, the central character, is passionately attached to a gentlemanly code that brings him nothing but trouble in Whitehall, the army and his marriage to the icy Sylvia.

Chris Tayler Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. She befriends by a cockney sailor, Charlie Allnutt, commander of the decrepit African Queen. Rose persuades the cowardly Charlie to sail down the Ulanga river and blow up a German warship. The subsequent hardship brings them together as lovers. The African Queen sinks before they can make their suicidal strike.

They are taken prisoner by the Germans, who treat them well. The enemy ship is eventually sunk by the Royal Navy. The most enduringly popular of neo-Victorian novels. It is the proverbial military cock-up. Ironically, Harry emerges as, underneath it all, rather a good fellow. On Cold Mountain, after the death of her father, Ada is struggling to run the farm she is ill-equipped to manage, until the arrival of the illiterate but formidably resourceful Ruby helps her to take control of her future.

This, more than any other, was the novel that launched a thousand gap years. The story of Richard, roaming Asia in search of a secret Thai island, inspired an entire generation of backpackers. A warship journeys from Old Albion to the Antipodes, some time in the early s. At the age of three, the precocious Oskar Matzerath decided to stop growing and acquired the ability to shatter glass with his scream. The Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora are now familiar mainly from their mosaic portraits in Ravenna. Campaigns in Persia, Carthage, Sicily and Italy, and a vibrant cast of dancing girls, concubines, charioteers, bear masters, Nestorian monks and Herulian Huns, and even a whale called Porphyry, combine to make this a vibrant account of a period that should be better known.

Completed in but not published until the s, and then only outside the USSR, Life and Fate is a conscious attempt to write the War and Peace of the second world war. Chris Taylor Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. War-torn Beirut has been a childhood playground for Bassam and George; now the former is dabbling in petty crime to fund his escape, while the latter looks for status and purpose with the local militia.

The quest involves battles with natives and the discovery of both the lost white man and the Solomonic treasure. The novel — one of the great page-turners in English literature — launched the author on a bestselling literary career. Leo Vincey is left an iron box by his dead father, to be opened when he is It contains the startling information that he is descended from an ancient Egyptian priest, Kallikrates.

Leo is instructed to go to Africa and kill the mysteriously immortal queen whok killed Kallikrates. She takes Leo as her lover. Leo returns to England, a wiser and older man. In his hands, the story of a festering quarrel between the inmates of a dreary suburban boarding house becomes a comic tour de force as well as an unusually sardonic depiction of life on the home front during the second world war. In March , a group of codebreakers are attempting to break the German U-boat Enigma cipher from their secret Buckinghamshire base.

Among them is Tom Jericho, who is in love with the beautiful but mysterious Claire Romilly. This twist-laden thriller, later adapted into a screenplay by Tom Stoppard, popularised the previously little-known story of Bletchley Park. Hasek was 39 when he died of tuberculosis, after decades of boozing and vagrancy. Yet there is an irresistible, feverish energy to this picaresque comedy about a little man dodging the horrors of the great war. Without Svejk, Joseph Heller has said, there would have been no Catch Phil Daoust Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.

Anyone who comes to this novel expecting simplicity of style and unthinking machismo will be swiftly disabused. Visiting the country, Rudolf Rassendyll is observed uncannily to resemble the soon-to-be- crowned King Rudolf. Villainous Duke Michael abducts him and Rassendyll is prevailed upon to impersonate the monarch whom, with the assistance of loyal Fritz von Tarlenheim, he later rescues. Having put Ruritania to rights, he returns to England and a somewhat pointlessly unadventurous existence.

Hope was inspired to write the novel by seeing two men in a London street who closely resembled each other. Some of these are even caused by the children themselves. Xan Brooks Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. He then returns to Abyssinia. Ian Pindar Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Kantor also shows how the ordinary prisoners were preyed upon by a gang of thugs called the Raiders, led by a Union soldier called William Collins.

Drawing on his extensive research of the incident, Keneally spares the reader none of the horrors of war. Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and Nazi party member, set up a factory in Poland producing supplies for the German army. By the end of the war he had become an unlikely hero, risking his life to save more than a thousand Jews from being sent to the concentration camps. When his plane is shot down, he parachutes to safety in a German prisoner-of-war camp, but after the war he discovers his crew are all dead.

The novel ponders the question, why did so many of the accused meekly confess their guilt in court? After losing his parents in the mayhem of the second world war, a Polish child wanders through the countryside at the mercy of the brutal and ignorant central or eastern European villagers he encounters, who assume he is a Jew or a Gypsy. Call it Eternity. Levi, most renowned for his coruscating documentary report on life in a concentration camp, If This Is A Man, published this, his only novel, in Set in , it follows a group of Jewish partisans making their way, behind enemy lines, across a Europe unmarked by place names and directions, with Palestine their aim.

It is the German guns of the title that must be silenced to permit the evacuation of the British troops from a nearby island, and so change the course of the war. This is both a coming of age story and an elegy for a lost American era. Blood Meridian is not a revisionist western so much as a gore-soaked demolition of the myth of manifest destiny. The New World is born out of violence. California in the s was the origin of the famous masked crusader and camper, sexier and more ironic American-style Robin Hood.

Mailer was just 26 when his debut novel was published, three years after the end of the second world war. His tale of a platoon of young American soldiers making their way through treacherous jungle on the Japanese-held island of Anopopei was without respite. Its focus on the ordinary American in all his bullying pettiness and fear, its detailed depictions of armed combat and insight into the psychology of men in pursuit of power caught the mood of an American public searching for the reality of war; it made this a bestseller and Mailer a superstar.

Shanghai This is a brilliant portrait of a particular marriage and of the world at war. Dramatic, comic and entirely absorbing, it was televised, equally brilliantly, by the BBC in Carmen Callil Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The jungle town of Macondo is a place where it is as possible to ascend heavenwards while hanging the laundry as to be machine-gunned by agents of the local banana company.

This novel remains the beacon of magical realism and the standard bearer for Latin American literature; in Spanish, only Don Quixote has been more successful. His wife dies shortly thereafter, leaving their four children orphans. The story follows their growing to adulthood and — with the Restoration — the rebuilding of Arnwood and the Beverley family fortunes. The novel was immensely popular with Victorian children and became the pattern for innumerable juvenile tales over the next century. We all know the story: man seeks unattainable object of deranged desire and causes general devastation in the process.

A Very Big Theme, necessarily expressed in dense, wildly idiosyncratic prose as ambitious as Ahab himself. But also: the best book ever written about whaling, which means the most richly detailed novel of the sea, work, friendship and ecology. The timeless, repetitive waiting. Ida, a widowed schoolteacher, is living in s Rome with her two sons: Nino, a reckless and angry teenager, and baby Giuseppe, conceived when Ida is raped by a German soldier. She like Morante herself is half-Jewish, and lives in a permanent state of fear that her forbidden faith will be discovered.

Her handwritten manuscript was salvaged by her two young daughters who, orphaned and traumatised, did not release it for publication until 64 years later. Few heroes emerge in this take on French manners exposed in the most extreme circumstances. Emily Mann Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.

Orczy had huge success with her foppish, inane, kind-hearted, cold, proud, passionate and indefatigable Pimpernel and his wonderful wife Marguerite. Belief may need to be suspended as Orczy allows him to escape yet another tricky situation, but when the thrills are this swashbuckling, it is churlish to care. Flory, a timber merchant disillusioned with the Imperial racket, falls for a pretty girl sent out east to stay with her relatives.

Steeped in essence of Maugham and crammed with impressionistic descriptions of the Burmese landscape, it also harbours many an early signpost from the road that led to Nineteen Eighty-Four. DJ Taylor Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Its staggering intellectual weight is what really leaves a dent, however, using the development of the V2 rocket in Nazi Germany as a starting point for a novel that is as densely packed as grey matter and equally mysterious.

Victoria Segal Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Raspe himself lived a shadily picaresque life but could only have been an amateur compared with the baron, whose stories leap from the sublime to the ridiculous — then keep on jumping. The soldiers reserve their hatred not for the enemy but the armchair warriors on the home front.

A literal hatchet job. Riobaldo, an old farmer living in the arid hinterlands of Brazil, tells the story of how he became the leader of a gang of bandits, revealing on the way that he may have sold his soul to the devil. After a duel with a wicked marquis leaves his friend dead, the young man stirs up discontent against the upper classes and is forced to become a fugitive, joining a wandering theatre troupe as disguise.

Those staples of historical adventures — honour, vengeance and dark family secrets — provide the kerosene; the political intrigue strikes the match. Dr Peter Syn is an Irish surgeon, peacefully plying his healing trade in the west country. The sentence is commuted to transportation to the Barbadoes. Pirates of the Caribbean adventures ensue, before a happy-ever-after in Devon.

Buckles never swashed more dashingly. Others have been deeply irritated by this story of a young American Jew who visits Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. What do they hate so much? After a series of bestselling Scottish novels, the Wizard of the North still anonymous to his contemporary readers turned to English history. The story is set in the 12th century, at the time of the crusades. King Richard has been captured on his return from the Holy Land.

Now less read than it deserves to be. The most famous animal story of the 19th century. The novelty of the work is that it is narrated by a horse apparently sexless , which is miraculously able to talk like a well-brought-up Victorian servant. Maus exploded not merely any preconceptions about appropriate subject matter for a comic strip, but also suggested that the unspeakable might best be rethought through unexpected means.

Adam Newey Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. A much loved, popular novel that almost transcended the cult label. He meets and mocks both his fellow English travellers on their Grand Tours and the French philosophes whom he visits in their Paris salons Sterne, as the celebrated author of Tristram Shandy, had recently cut a swathe through fashionable Parisian society. Oddly enough, these are usually attractive young women who are happy to have their pulses felt by a sympathetic gentleman.

David Balfour, an orphan, comes to live with his villainous uncle, Ebenezer of Shaws. Having failed to murder his ward himself, Ebenezer has his nephew kidnapped, as a white slave, on the brig Covenant. The vessel runs down a rowing boat containing a Jacobite rebel, Alan Breck. He and David conspire to escape their captors and, on land, the brutal English soldiery who are still ravaging Scotland.

Alan takes refuge in France.

THE EGG AND I

Also on board their vessel, the Hispaniola, is the villainous, one-legged sea-cook, Long John Silver, who takes over the vessel. Without it, we would never have had Pirates of the Caribbean. Then on his last voyage he meets the Houyhnhnms, virtuous and perfectly rational talking horses, and his pride collapses into misanthropy and self-loathing. He and we are just Yahoos, the malevolent, cunning, libidinous beasts with whom the Houyhnhnms are fated to share their land. Its dispassionate eye follows peasants, emperors, soldiers, and priests through decades, taking in life and death in all its forms.

This is no heroic tale of good versus evil, of strategies and battle formations, but a vivid depiction of the banality, tedium and senselessness of war. Its everyman hero, Pierre played unforgettably on TV by Anthony Hopkins , blunders along, struggling to find meaning in his life, and each of the dozen or so central characters battle their own demons, searching for truth and peace.

Their struggles are timeless, as is the unforgettable love story at its heart. Imogen Tilden Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Huck escapes, and drifts by raft down the Mississippi, with a runaway slave, Jim. After various adventures and reunion with Tom all comes well. At the end, the two young heroes intend to light out to the Indian territory — a sequel Twain never wrote. Master of the voyage imaginaire , Verne also revealed himself adept at mingling high adventure with Thomas Cook-style tourism.

Fogg, having read of a new railway link in the Indian subcontinent, wagers his fellow Reform Club members that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days. The itinerary is meticulously chronicled. Fogg arrives back to foggy London, as he thinks, a day late — but he has forgotten that he has crossed the date line.

He makes it to the club with seconds to spare. A williwaw is a snow-laden hurricane, and 50 years before The Perfect Storm was a bestseller, Vidal showed us how it should be done. Our fresh-faced hero embarks on his picaresque journey across Europe and Latin America, which sees Enlightenment optimism sorely tested by — among other delights — rape, murder, syphilis, cannibalism, the wanton destructiveness of natural forces and the human cost of the western addiction to sugar.

He is, perhaps, mad. Or, as he believes, he has been given the power of clairvoyance and time travel by extraterrestrial Tralfamadorians, whose prisoner he is. The Tralfamadorians have destroyed the universe by their bombing error but can enjoy the good moments of their previous existences.

The Egg and I, by Betty MacDonald

The narrative recoils from graphic description of wartime atrocity to fanciful space opera. As Konnegut records, it was an immensely painful novel to write and, for all its incidental comedy and literary skill, remains painful to read. But necessary, none the less. Basil Seal, posh and feckless, has been a leader writer on the Daily Beast, a champagne salesman, a tour guide, a secret policeman in Bolivia, and an adviser on modernisation to the emperor of Azania — all way relationship between a young southern writer, a Polish Auschwitz survivor and a Jewish New Yorker interweaves a host of complex themes survivor guilt, ancestral guilt, madness and betrayal.

The movie was Oscar-nominated; the book was banned in libraries across the States. But this is not just about provocative comparisons. Guy Crouchback is the last of an ancient English Catholic family — miserable, childless, divorced and forbidden by his religion to remarry. Under his Darwinian scalpel, animals are raised to quasi-humanity. Moreau is killed by a puma he is tormenting and rebellion breaks out. The animals revert to their natural animalism.

After their school takes a hit during an air-raid, McGill and his friends make use of the free time to wage their own war against the enemy. The Machine Gunners, which was adapted into a BBC television serial in , brilliantly evokes Tyneside in the second world war and the disruption to ordinary family life, while capturing the complicated relationships that exist between children and adults. James Smart Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Voss, a German explorer, sets out in to cross the uncharted Australian desert. Before leaving, he meets Laura Trevelyan, a young Englishwoman newly arrived in the colony, and they fall in love.

This book has all the freshness of a literary pioneer. Jean Macquart, earthy and pragmatic, wins the respect of the intellectual and mercurial Maurice Levasseur. Andrew Pulver Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Set aboard a vast generation starship millennia after blast-off, the novel follows Roy Complain on a voyage of discovery from ignorance of his surroundings to some understanding of his small place in the universe.

Complain is spiteful and small-minded but grows in humanity as his trek through the ship brings him into contact with giant humans, mutated rats and, ultimately, a wondrous view of space beyond the ship. Eric Brown Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Hari Seldon invents the science of psychohistory with which to combat the fall into barbarianism of the Human Empire, and sets up the Foundation to foster art, science and technology. Wish-fulfilment of the highest order, the novels are a landmark in the history of science fiction. EB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.

On planet Zycron, tyrannical Snilfards subjugate poor Ygnirods, providing intercoital entertainment for a radical socialist and his lover. We assume she is Laura Chase, daughter of an Ontario industrialist, who records their sex and sci-fi stories in a novel, The Blind Assassin. Iris is 83 in the cantankerous present-day narrative, and ready to set the story straight about the suspicious deaths of her sister, husband and daughter. In this Booker prize-winning novel about novels, Atwood bends genre and traps time, toying brilliantly with the roles of writing and reading.

Natalie Cate Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Anna Blume, 19, arrives in a city to look for her brother. She finds a ruin, where buildings collapse on scavenging citizens. All production has stopped. Nobody can leave, except as a corpse collected for fuel. Suicide clubs flourish. Anna buys a trolley and wanders the city, salvaging objects and information. She records horrific scenes, but also a deep capacity for love. This small hope flickers in a world where no apocalyptic event is specified.

NC Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Consider Phlebas introduced the first of many misguided or untrustworthy heroes — Horza, who can change his body just by thinking about it — and a typically Banksian collision involving two giant trains in an subterranean station. PD Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. A magic carpet is the last refuge of a people known as the Seerkind, who for centuries have been hunted by both humans and the Scourge, a mysterious being that seems determined to live up to its name.

Nicola Barker has been accused of obscurity, but this Booker-shortlisted comic epic has a new lightness of touch and an almost soapy compulsiveness. A jumble of voices and typefaces, mortal fear and sarky laughter, the novel is as true as it is truly odd, and beautifully written to boot. He sends him back to the far future in an attempt to save the Eloi woman Weena, only to find himself in a future timeline diverging from the one he left.

Bear combines intelligence, humour and the wonder of scientific discovery in a techno-thriller about a threat to the future of humanity. A retro-viral plague sweeps the world, infecting women via their sexual partners and aborting their embryos. Somehow surviving, he swiftly gets down to it. Those who stumble across it are inevitably surprised to find it was written half a century ago.

Along the way he joins up with a group of vampires, finds his true family and discovers what he really values, amid much blood, sex, drugs and drink. Keith Brooke Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Al Barker is a thrillseeking adventurer recruited to investigate an alien labyrinth on the moon. Barker is the first person to survive the trauma of witnessing their own death, returning again and again to explore. Rogue Moon works as both thriller and character study, a classic novel mapping out a new and sophisticated SF, just as Barker maps the alien maze.

KB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. When the Devil comes to s Moscow, his victims are pillars of the Soviet establishment: a famous editor has his head cut off; another bureaucrat is made invisible. This is just a curtain-raiser for the main event, however: a magnificent ball for the damned and the diabolical. For his hostess, his satanic majesty chooses Margarita, a courageous young Russian whose lover is in a psychiatric hospital, traumatised by the banning of his novel.

Reading Progress

No prizes for guessing whom Bulgakov identified with; although Stalin admired his early work, by the s he was personally banning it. In this pioneering work of British science fiction, the hero is a bumptious American mining engineer who stumbles on a subterranean civilisation. Also present are ray guns, aerial travel and ESP. Ironically, the hero finds utopia too boring. He is rescued from death by the Princess Zee, who flies him to safety. One of a flurry of novels written by Burgess when he was under the mistaken belief that he had only a short time to live. Set in a dystopian socialist welfare state of the future, the novel fantasises a world without religion.

JS Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. In one of the first split-screen narratives, Burgess juxtaposes three key 20th-century themes: communism, psychoanalysis and the millennial fear of Armageddon. JJ Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. John Carter, a Confederate veteran turned gold prospector, is hiding from Indians in an Arizona cave when he is mysteriously transported to Mars, known to the locals as Barsoom. Butler single-handedly brought to the SF genre the concerns of gender politics, racial conflict and slavery.

Several of her novels are groundbreaking, but none is more compelling or shocking than Kindred. The hero Higgs finds himself in New Zealand as, for a while, did the chronic misfit Butler. Does it sound familiar? Higgs escapes by balloon, with the sweetheart he has found there. It is a boy quarrels with his aristocratic parents and climbs a tree, swearing not to touch the earth again.

He ends up keeping his promise, witnessing the French revolution and its Napoleonic aftermath from the perspective of the Italian treetops. In this novel, the domineering old spinster Queenie dies — a relief to those around her. Her niece Alison inherits the house, but soon starts to suspect that the old woman is taking over her eight-year-old daughter Rowan. A paranoid, disturbing masterpiece.

Alice, while reading in a meadow, sees a white rabbit rush by, feverishly consulting a watch. She follows him down a hole Freudian analysis, as elsewhere in the story, is all too easy , where she grows and shrinks in size and encounters creatures mythological, extinct and invented. Morbid jokes and gleeful subversion abound.


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More donnish in tone, this fantasy follows Alice into a mirror world in which everything is reversed. Her journey is based on chess moves, during the course of which she meets such figures as Humpty Dumpty and the riddling twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee. More challenging intellectually than the first instalment, it explores loneliness, language and the logic of dreams. The year is — and other times. Fevvers, aerialiste, circus performer and a virgin, claims she was not born, but hatched out of an egg. She has two large and wonderful wings. In fact, she is large and wonderful in every way, from her false eyelashes to her ebullient and astonishing adventures.

The journalist Jack Walser comes to interview her and stays to love and wonder, as will every reader of this entirely original extravaganza, which deftly and wittily questions every assumption we make about the lives of men and women on this planet. The golden age of the American comic book coincided with the outbreak of the second world war and was spearheaded by first- and second-generation Jewish immigrants who installed square-jawed supermen as bulwarks against the forces of evil. It celebrates the transformative power of pop culture, and reveals the harsh truths behind the hyperreal fantasies.

XB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. One of the first major works to present alien arrival as beneficent, it describes the slow process of social transformation when the Overlords come to Earth and guide us to the light. At the centre of all is the terrifying Sunday, a superhuman force of mischief and pandemonium. Two rival magicians flex their new powers, pursuing military glory and power at court, striking a dangerous alliance with the Faerie King, and falling into passionate enmity over the use and meaning of the supernatural.

This classic by an unjustly neglected writer tells the story of Drove and Pallahaxi-Browneyes on a far-flung alien world which undergoes long periods of summer and gruelling winters lasting some 40 years. This is just the kind of jargon-free, humane, character-driven novel to convert sceptical readers to science fiction.

This is a story about the end of the world, and the general falling-off that precedes it, as year-old Karen loses first her virginity, then consciousness. When she reawakens more than a decade later, the young people she knew and loved have died, become junkies or or simply lost that new-teenager smell.

Wondering what the future holds? A curly tail, trotters and a snout are not far off. Joanna Biggs Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The setting is a post-apocalyptic future, long past the age of humans. The novel follows Lobey, who as Orpheus embarks on a quest to bring his lover back from the dead. With lush, poetic imagery and the innovative use of mythic archetypes, Delaney brilliantly delineates the human condition. Here California is under-populated and most animals are extinct; citizens keep electric pets instead. In order to afford a real sheep and so affirm his empathy as a human being, Deckard hunts rogue androids, who lack empathy.

As ever with Dick, pathos abounds and with it the inquiry into what is human and what is fake. The Axis has won the second world war. Imperial Japan occupies the west coast of America; more tyrannically, Nazi Germany under Martin Bormann, Hitler having died of syphilis takes over the east coast. The Californian lifestyle adapts well to its oriental master. Germany, although on the brink of space travel and the possessor of vast tracts of Russia, is teetering on collapse. The novel is multi-plotted, its random progression determined, Dick tells us, by consultation with the Chinese I Ching.

And in the character of Isserley — her curiosity, resignation, wonderment and pain — he paints an immensely affecting portrait of how it feels to be irreparably damaged and immeasurably far from home. Determined to extricate himself from an increasingly serious relationship, graduate Nicholas Urfe takes a job as an English teacher on a small Greek island. Walking alone one day, he runs into a wealthy eccentric, Maurice Conchis, who draws him into a succession of elaborate psychological games that involve two beautiful young sisters in reenactments of Greek myths and the Nazi occupation.

Appearing after The Collector, this was actually the first novel that Fowles wrote, and although it quickly became required reading for a generation, he continued to rework it for a decade after publication. Before long, he is embroiled in a battle between ancient and modern deities: Odin, Anansi, Anubis and the Norns on one side, TV, the movies and technology on the other. The three narrative strands — young lovers in the s, the chaos of thebetweenalcoholics, English civil war and soldiers going native in a Vietnam-tinged Roman Britain — circle around Mow Cop in Cheshire and an ancient axehead found there.

Dipping in and out of time, in blunt, raw dialogue, Garner creates a moving and singular novel. A fast-paced thriller starring a washed-up hacker, a cybernetically enhanced mercenary and an almost omnipotent artificial intelligence, it inspired and informed a slew of films and novels, not least the Matrix trilogy. When the adults finally arrive, childish tears on the beach hint less at relief than fear for the future. When Haldeman returned from Vietnam, with a Purple Heart for the wounds he had suffered, he wrote a story about a pointless conflict that seems as if it will never end.

Known for his intricate short stories and critically acclaimed mountaineering novel Climbers, Harrison cut his teeth on SF. In typical fashion, he writes space opera better than many who write only in the genre. For all its star travel and alien artefacts, scuzzy 25th-century spaceports and drop-out space pilots, Light is actually about twisting three plotlines as near as possible to snapping point. This is as close as SF gets to literary fiction, and literary fiction gets to SF.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Amateur stonemason, waterbed designer, reformed socialist, nudist, militarist and McCarthyite, Heinlein is one of the most interesting and irritating figures in American science fiction. This swinging 60s bestseller working title: The Heretic is typically provocative, with a central character, Mike Smith, who is raised by Martians after the death of his parents and questions every human assumption — about sex, politics, society and spirituality — on his arrival on Earth.

Set on the desert world of Arrakis, this complex novel combines politics, religion, ecology and evolution in the rise to power of Paul Atreides, who becomes a revolutionary leader and a prophet with the ability to foresee and shape the future. Epic in scope, Dune is primarily an adventure story, though Herbert was one of the first genre writers convincingly to tackle the subject of planetary ecology in his depiction of a drought-stricken world.

After the Bomb — long, long after — humanity is still huddled in medieval-style stockades, cold, ignorant, superstitious and speaking in degraded English, the patois in which this book is written. Yet his story is still poignant. This is what happens to Robert Wringhim, who is brought up in the Calvinist belief in predestination. When he encounters a devilish figure known as Gil-Martin, Wringhim is easily tempted into undertaking a campaign to purge the world of the Reprobate — those not selected for salvation.

After a series of rapes and murders, and seemingly pursued by demons, Wringhim yields to the ultimate temptation of suicide. Sexist, racist, snob, Islamophobe … Houellebecq has been called many things, with varying degrees of accuracy. The charge of misanthropy is hard to deny, given his repeated portrayal of humankind as something that has lost its way, perhaps even its right to exist.

Atomised — set in the world we know but introduced by a member of the superior species that will supplant us — provides two more examples of our inadequacy in half-brothers Michel and Bruno, an introverted biologist and a sex-addict teacher. Conflict has been eradicated with the aid of sexual hedonism and the drug Soma; babies are factory-bred in bottles to produce a strict class hierarchy, from alpha to epsilon.

It is the year AF After Ford Eventually he recalls that he is an eminent concert pianist, scheduled to perform. The man is shepherded through an expanding and contracting world, his own memories and moods changing like the weather.

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Yet the dream-logic is rooted in real, poignant, human dilemmas. One for readers who have grown out of Philip K Dick. CO Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Hill House is haunted, but by what? The ghosts of the past or the people of the present? Here is a delicious, quietly unnerving essay in horror, an examination of what makes us jump.

Jackson sets up an old dark house in the country, garnishes it with some creepy servants, and then adds a quartet of intrepid visitors. But her lead character — fragile, lonely Eleanor — is at once victim and villainess. By the end, the person she is scaring most is herself. Are the ghosts that a new governess in a country house believes to be steadily corrupting her young charges apparitions, hallucinations or projections of her own dark urges? The book divides SF critics and puzzles fans of her crime novels, but remains one of the great British dystopias and a trenchant satire on our times and values.

JCG Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. In the centre of England, a vast crystalline lake has formed. A strong candidate for the most beautiful of all Victorian novels. Owing debts to Jimi Hendrix and offering a decidedly 60s summer festival vibe, Bold as Love is the first in a series of novels that mix politics with myth, counterculture and dark age sensibilities.

It deservedly won Jones the Arthur C Clarke award. On the morning of his 30th birthday, Josef K is arrested by two sinister men in dapper suits. What for? PO Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The story has two central characters. Algernon is a mouse, whose intelligence is surgically enhanced to the level of rodent genius. The same technique is applied to Charlie Gordon, a mentally subnormal fast-food kitchen hand.

The narrative, told by Charlie as his IQ soars, traces the discontents of genius. Alas, the effects of the surgery are shortlived, and the end of the story finds Charlie back in the kitchen — mentally challenged but, in his way, happy. Being smart is not everything. The hotel is haunted by unexorcised demons from brutal murders committed there years ago.

Torrance is possessed and turns, homicidally, on his wife and child. Jack is beyond salvation. The film was brilliantly filmed by Stanley Kubrick in A young married woman, Melanie, scours antiques shops to furnish her new home and comes back with an old chaise-longue, which is perfect apart from an unsightly reddish-brown stain. She falls asleep on it and wakes up in an unfamiliar house, an unfamiliar time — and an unfamiliar body. At first she assumes she must be dreaming. But gradually she starts to piece together the story of Milly, the young Victorian woman in the last stages of consumption whom she has apparently become, and the nature of the disgrace she has brought on the household run by her fearsomely stern elder sister.

Why does the sight of the doctor make her pulse beat faster? And can she find a way back to her own life? AN Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. This is frequently judged the best ghost story of the Victorian period. On the sudden death of her father, Maud, an heiress, is left to the care of her Uncle Silas, until she comes of age. Sinister in appearance and villainous by nature, Silas first plans to marry Maud to his oafish son, Dudley who is, it emerges, already married. When this fails, father and son, together with the French governess Madame de la Rougierre, conspire to murder their ward with a spiked hammer.

Told by the ingenuous and largely unsuspecting Maud, the narrative builds an impending sense of doom. Set in a near-future in a disintegrating city, where lawlessness prevails and citizens scratch a living from the debris, this dystopia is the journal of an unnamed middle-class narrator who fosters street-kid Emily and observes the decaying world from her window. Despite the pessimistic premise and the description of civilisation on the brink of collapse, with horror lurking at every turn, the novel is an insightful and humane meditation on the survivability of the species.

The world has entered the Second Enlightenment after the Faith Wars. In the Republic of Scotland, Detective Inspector Adam Ferguson investigates the murders of religious leaders, suspecting atheists but uncovering a plot involving artificial intelligence. Before his current incarnation as a thriller writer specialising in conspiracy theories and psychopathic gore, Marshall Smith wrote forward-thinking sci-fi which combined high-octane angst with humour both noir and surreal. His debut features a bizarre compartmentalised city with different postcodes for the insane, the overachievers, the debauched or simply those with unusual taste in interior design; as well as adventures in the realm of dreams, a deep love of cats and a killer twist.

Robert Neville is the last man standing, the lone survivor in a world overrun by night-crawling vampires. But if history is written by the winners, what does that make Neville: the hero or the monster? Clearly this was too much for the recent Will Smith movie adaptation, which ran scared of the very element that makes the book unique. Francie Brady is a rambunctious kid in s Ireland. McCabe leads us on a freewheeling tour of a scattered, shattered consciousness, as Francie grows from wayward child to dangerous adult — nursing his grievances and plotting his revenge.

Chances are that old Mrs Nugent has a surprise in store. These two figures are pushing south towards the sea, but the sea is poisoned and provides no comfort. In the end, all they have and, by implication, all the rest of us have is each other. During the Korean war and then the space programme, Yeremin closes down his emotions even as his horizons expand, from the Arctic skies to the moon itself. The second of his sprawling steampunk fantasies detailing the alternate universe of Bas-Lag follows Armada, a floating pirate city, in its search for a rip in reality.

Miller breathes new life into the Gothic antihero with his beautifully written Impac-winning first novel. Technology emerges. In an epilogue, a spaceship leaves Earth with a cargo of monks, children and the Leibowitzian relics.


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  8. The Wandering Jew makes recurrent and enigmatic appearances. Then it hops all the way back down again, resolving each story in turn. These include a camp Ealing-style misadventure, an American thriller and an interview with a clone, all connected by a mysterious comet-shaped tattoo. Moorcock spills out such varied books that he often feels impossible to nail down, which is probably the point. Mother London, his most literary — it was shortlisted for the Whitbread — shows him at the height of his powers.

    Having gone to sleep on the London underground, the narrator awakes to find himself in 20th-century Hammersmith. He bathes in the now crystalline Thames and spends a day in what used to be the British Museum, airily discussing life and politics. He then travels up the river to Runnymede, where Magna Carta was signed, going on from there to some idyllic haymaking in Oxford. Sweet Home is a deceptive name for the Kentucky plantation where horrific crimes have been committed, as Beloved is for this shocking and unforgettable account of the human consequences of slavery.

    Sethe lives in Ohio in the s; she has escaped from slavery, but cannot escape the past, which quite literally haunts her. It sparks off a page adventure that sees him trapped at the bottom of a well, marked with a strange blue stain and taken on many otherworldly adventures, all in search of his missing wife.

    Murakami has the Japanese trick of writing about surreal events in a matter-of-fact way, making them all the more disturbing. Ada or Ardor is part sci-fi romance, part Proustian memoir. It plays out on a fantasy planet, a marriage of contemporary America and pre-revolutionary Russia, and details the love affair of precocious Van Veen and his sister Ada, chasing them from lustful puberty to decrepit old age. It is a gorgeous display of narrative wizardry, at once opulent, erotic, playful and wise.

    A moving affirmation of the continuities of love against unusual odds. JH Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. But this novel, which won Hugo and Nebula awards, reminds us he was once one of the most exciting names in hard sci-fi. Part of the Known Space series, it follows a group of humans and aliens as they explore a mysterious ring-shaped environment spinning around a star like a giant hula-hoop. Set in Manchester in the near-future and in a phantasmagorical virtual reality, Vurt is the story of Scribble, his gang the Stash Riders and his attempt to find his sister Desdemona, who is lost in a drug-induced VR.

    Set in a rural Ireland that is also a vision of hell, it features policemen turning into bicycles; that SF standby, the universal energy source; and any number of scientific and literary in-jokes. According to Yoruba tradition, a spirit child is one who has made a pact with his fellows in their other, more beautiful world, to rejoin them as soon as possible. Azaro breaks the pact, choosing to remain in this place of suffering and poverty, but the African shanty town where he lives with his parents teems with phantoms, spirits and dreams.

    An angry, impassioned fantasy of how to take down corporate America, and an ingenious modern version of the myth of the double. Thwarted in love, the hero Scythrop reads The Sorrows of Werther and considers suicide, but settles for the comforts of madeira instead. Sinister and sensual, overwrought and overwritten, Titus Groan is a guilty pleasure — a dank, dripping Gothic cathedral of a novel.

    He inherits Gormenghast castle and its extraordinary household: emaciated Flay, with his whip-crack joints; the morbidly obese cook, Swelter; feverish, moody young Fuchsia; cackling Dr Prunesquallor, and many others. But at its heart is a chilling glimpse of the nature of evil. With this gargantuan novel, Powys set out to take a location he knew well from his boyhood and make it the real hero of the story. It tells the story of Glastonbury through a year of turmoil, setting mystic mayor John Geard against industrialist Philip Crow.

    Geard wants to turn the town into a centre for Grail worship, while Crow wants to exploit and develop the local tin mines. Complex and rich, this is a landmark fantasy novel. The novel is as much a study of their obsession as a brilliant examination of magic and rationalism. A Benedictine monk who gave it up to study medicine, Rabelais wrote this satirical tale of the giant Pantagruel and his even more monstrous and grotesque father Gargantua on the cusp between eras.

    In his portrayal of Gargantua, a belching, farting scholar given to urinating over the masses below his ivory tower, he satirises medieval learning as well as the emerging Renaissance thirst for knowledge. A drink! Remind you of anything more contemporary? NB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. This was the novel that brought the one-time astrophysicist to the attention of the SF mainstream.

    Robinson asks: what if the Black Death destroyed 14th-century European culture and the Mongols reached the Atlantic shores? What follows is a history of our world with Islam and Buddhism as the dominant religions and the major scientific discoveries and art movements we take for granted happening elsewhere.

    RAY'S BACK 4 EVER - Off Topic #177

    Necessarily schematic in places, but a stunning achievement all the same. Every now and then, a book comes along that is so influential you have to read it to be part of the modern world. It is also a truly global phenomenon, and a nice little earner for the tribe of British character actors who have had the good fortune to be cast in the films.

    Claire Armitstead Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The offensive core of the novel depicts, under thin disguise, the prophet Muhammad, and wittily if blasphemously questions the revealed truth of the Koran. Stranded in the Sahara, a pilot meets a boy. He claims to have come from an asteroid, which he shared with a talking flower, and to have visited many other worlds — one inhabited only by a king, another by a businessman, a third by a drunkard … On Earth, he has chatted with a snake and tamed a fox. Blindness is black, says an onlooker to the man who has suddenly ceased to see while sitting in his car at the traffic lights; but this blindness is white, a milky sea in the eye.

    Soon everyone is affected and the city descends into chaos. His flowing, opaque style can be challenging, but this parable of wilful unseeing, which resists reductive interpretations, is full of insight and poetry. When Lily Bloom dies, she simply moves house: to a basement flat in Dulston, north London borough for the deceased, which she shares with a calcified foetus and her surly, long-dead son.

    The classic Gothic tale of terror, Frankenstein is above all a novel of ideas. Victor Frankenstein is a young Swiss student who resolves to assemble a body from dead parts and galvanise it into life. As well as an exploration of nature and nurture, the book can be read as a reaction to motherhood and a comment upon creativity. High SF at its best. The world is gone, destroyed in an accident that gave humanity farcasters, controlled singularities that enable instant travel across galactic distances. The internet is now a hive mind of advanced AIs that control the gates and keep a vast empire in existence.

    Yes, but is it performable? The only performances that make it all the way Wolfgang Tillmans, Brigitte Oetker Eds. What Is Different? Jahresring 64 Pierre Bal-Blanc Ed. Daniel S. Berger, John Neff Eds. Was ist anders? When Is the Digital in Architecture? EP Vol. Dysfunctional Comedy A Reader Apple. What Ever Happened to New Institutionalism?

    Individual Stories John C. World of Matter Jutta Koether f. In the Holocene K. Martin and the Situationist International F. Not Now! Art Production beyond the Art Market? Undoing Property? Ingo Niermann Ed.