Doom by William Gerhardie, 3/5
Few escape the author’s satirical pen in this madcap, semi-autobiographical novel, even himself. From struggling artists to business magnates, grasping socialites to simple countryfolk, Gerhardie peoples his version of reality with mostly unlikeable but all too recognizable characters, living in a doomed world that is not as different from ours as one might hope. Is it an eerie prescience, or just a testament to mankind’s unchanging nature, that a novel written almost 100 years ago would depict the machinations of mass media moguls, the limitless privilege of the wealthy elite, and a world polarized by war over Russian territorial claims?
Why I read it: another entry on the list of “10 Forgotten Fantastical Novels You Should Read Immediately.”
Looking for the General
Looking for the General by Warren Miller, 3/5
Set in a semi-dystopian version of the 1960s, this bizarre book is written from the perspective of a physicist who becomes radicalized by an alien cult (literally, a group of people who believe aliens possessing unimaginable knowledge and power, having left earth, continue to monitor mankind via possession of abducted individuals and will return to elevate the deserving). It is a testimony to Miller’s observational powers and skill as a writer that he could create a serious, insightful, and fascinating novel based on such an unhinged premise.
Why I read it: Many years ago, I encountered a list of “10 Forgotten Fantastical Novels You Should Read Immediately,” and am slowly working my through it, having finally got around to using my library’s interlibrary loan service to order the more rare or out-of-print entries.
Early Riser: A Novel by Jasper Fforde, 3/5
This dystopian novel explores the logistical, social, and political implications of living in a world so close to another ice age that humans must hibernate through the winter months. Fforde’s inimitable style does shine through in a couple places, but overall I found the story to be a bit on the pedestrian side. Not exactly predictable, but familiar, like it was based on a Netflix series I’d already seen or something. Of course, Netflix was still a mail-order DVD service the last time I read anything by Jasper Fforde, so hopefully the perceived lack of depth and magic is not simply a result of brain rot from indulging in more mindless TV than good books in the last few years.
Why I read it: the author came up in conversation with my sister.
Mockingbird by Walter Tevis, 5/5
In this touching story, set in an eerily believable dystopian future, Tevis explores what it means to be human–a well-worn topic that somehow finds fresh, new life under his sensitive but sure hand. I quite liked how the story unfolded when approached with rather less preknowledge than could be gained from the previous sentence, so I will leave this review suitably sparse. Suffice it to say that the author’s insight into the human condition combines with the book’s accessibility, immediacy and artistic merit to outshine, in my opinion, other novels in the genre, such as Brave New World and 1984.
[Why I read it: A recommendation from my friend, Alison.]
Ready Player One
Ready Player One: A Novel by Ernest Cline, 3/5
A dystopian setting in Planet Earth’s near future provides an interesting contrast to the steady stream of 1980s trivia in this homage to geek culture. It is, perhaps, unreasonable to complain about the preponderance of cliches and stereotypes in this novel, since Cline uses them effectively to create an exciting, page-turner story. However, the complete lack of character development, increasingly contrived plot, clumsy foreshadowing, excruciatingly poorly-written “love” angle, and lightweight ending complete with deus ex machina ultimately kind of killed it for me.
[Why I read it: I waited so long for this book to come in at the library that I’ve completely forgotten how I heard about it. Perhaps a friend told me about it?]