The holidays are all about magic and miracles in the midst of a cold dark night. What better way to while away the evenings than with a book that leads you into dreams of other worlds? Books are the perfect gift. The writers here at Fiction Unbound have suggestions for every speculative fan on your list.
CS Peterson recommends: Winter by Marissa Meyer
The much-anticipated finale to The Lunar Chronicles. Princess Winter lives on the moon in the court of her stepmother, the powerful Queen Levana. Winter’s face is scarred and she refuses to manipulate the vision of those around her, yet the Lunar courtiers admire her beauty and whisper that it is greater even than that of Queen Levana. Winter has worked in secret for years, undermining the evil queen’s wishes. Now that Levana has declared war on Earth, things look dark. But help may be at hand. Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, is heading to the moon to fight the Lunar queen for her throne. There are others who are on the spaceship with Cinder: Scarlet, her boyfriend, Wolf, and Cress, the hacker, who escaped from her satellite prison and healed her prince's blinded eyes.
This is a great gift for the anyone in your life who likes sci-fi action, princesses who can change a tire and race a spaceship and princes who, while they may be both strong and charming, battle self-doubt as well as mind control. Not so great if you’re buying for a traditionalist who is threatened by AI and shifting gender roles.
Get the whole set: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress and Fairest. That will give your giftee enough pages to get them through the long solstice night curled up with a cat and a comforter in front of the yule log’s warm glow.
Lisa Mahoney suggests: "The Gift that Keeps on Giving" — Daily Science Fiction
Free short short stories emailed straight to a subscriber’s inbox every weekday! But not just sci-fi. To quote DSF's website: DSF is "an online magazine of science fiction short stories. We publish 'science fiction' in the broad sense of the word: This includes sci-fi, fantasy, slipstream—whatever you'd likely find in the science fiction section of your local bookstore. Our stories are mostly short short fiction (flash fiction) each weekday, hopefully the right length to read on a coffee break, over lunch, or as a bedtime tale.”
This would be a great gift for someone always on the go, recipients who use their smartphones while waiting in short lines every day, say, at subway stations or while waiting for the barista. Bonus: anytime the train is late, your recipient can drill deeper. At the website you can search for stories in some unusual categories such as: magical realism, twisted fairy tales, Postmark Andromeda, Alternative History, Tasting Menu, and more. The scope is broad.
It's ultraportable! You gotta check that smartphone everywhere and all the time, anyway, right? Why not let your imagination wander for five minutes a day? Your recipients will remember your thoughtfulness daily. Not so good for giftees who prefers to curl up with a thick book in front of a fire for long, meditative reads.
If you plan to go big, pair this gift with a smart phone! If you're on a budget, DSF is free, but please donate if you can. Your sci-fi fan might also enjoy Strange Horizons, a weekly journal sent to the inbox, for, again, just the price of a donation. The weekly journal usually includes a blend of about half a dozen non-fiction articles, columns, short stories, book reviews, and /or poems.
Price: The priceless satisfaction of charity. Your donations support writers and poets who are paid by both journals.
Gemma Webster's pick: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, 75th Anniversary Edition
A collection of fairy tales from the British master, Angela Carter introduced by Kelly Link (a master in her own right). Angela Carter is fearless about taking classics and twisting them and combining them to make something new. The Bloody Chamber features ten short fairy tales with some recognizable—Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Child—and some rather new, like Wolf Alice. The stories are short enough to read before bed, especially if you are cultivating strange and dangerous dreams.
This is a great gift for those with a dark holiday spirit and who like their fairy tales twisted. However, if your giftee doesn't like women with teeth or can’t take transgressive sex with her fairy tales, pick something else. This is a slender gift: the collection weighs in at 162 pages. It is the right size to fit in a stocking—unless they’re fishnets.
If you want to give a stack of presents, wrap up Johanna Basford’s Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, a set of Prismacolor Colored Pencils sharp enough to prick your fingers, throw in a few Uni-ball fine tips and your favorite twisted soul will be happy for days. This recipient might also love to get Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters or The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman also by Angela Carter.
Mark Springer suggests: The Gone-Away World, by Nick Harkaway
In proper post-apocalypse form, the world as we know it has ended—“gone away,” as the survivors say. What little remains, the Livable Zone, is a narrow strip of Earth held together by an industrial solvent known as FOX, which is pumped around the planet in a giant pipeline and sprayed into the air 24/7. When the pipeline catches fire—foul play, of course—the fate of Livable Zone rests in the hands of Gonzo Lubitsch and his life-long friend, our intrepid narrator, whose pasts are entangled with the events that caused the world to go away in the first place. What unfolds over the course of the novel is synopsis-proof, but the highlights include kung fu, ninjas, desert pirates, a band of traveling mimes, geopolitical intrigue, corporate hegemony, and too many satiric targets to list. Think Monty Python meets Thomas Pynchon for a fun and funny post-apocalyptic romp, with a twist.
This book is a great gift for Douglas Adams fans who really like the The Matrix but wish it was directed by Edgar Wright and starred Simon Pegg. Not so great, though, if you’re buying for someone who likes their apocalypses succinct. The terse, lyrical prose and simple plot of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road this ain’t. Digressions and tangents abound in a substantial 547-page paperback, a style that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Bundle up this book up with a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. Because it’s always fun to gift the classics. Throw in some kung fu lessons as well. Good to know a martial art when you're trying to survive the apocalypse.
Sean Cassity's choice: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
A teenage girl confronts her diplomat father with her discovery of some odd papers he was hiding. What she eventually learns is that Vlad the Impaled, Dracula himself, is still alive and her father and late mother were drawn into hunting him well before her birth. So begins a tale hopping through time and much of Eastern and Western Europe as our hunters use research and scholarship to pinpoint Dracula's modern lair and, hopefully, a final opportunity to end the vampire's dark reign forever.
This gift will satisfy those hungry for the real history behind the legends and don't mind a mingling of the two. But not the best choice for the vampire hunter who would rather see the undead battled with acrobatics and stakes than by intellectuals fighting with more wit than brawn. The Historian clocks in at a savory 720 pages so settle in for a long night.
And one more — CS Peterson also recommends: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Not your typical alien invasion. This book bends form and genre and slams the YA apocalypse into the twenty-first century and beyond. Authors Kaufman and Kristoff build the story through a dossier of interview transcripts, data, screen shots of spaceship blueprints and text message conversations. These documents make up the 'Illuminae files.' Kady, the teen protagonist, has just dumped her boyfriend when she suddenly finds her planet invaded. She and her mom manage to escape on one of three spaceships. Her ex is on another, the lead ship, whose onboard computer goes rogue. He is drafted to be a fighter pilot, Kady discovers a talent for hacking. Add to this a deadly virus spreading from ship to ship, the enemy in hot pursuit and you have a non-stop adventure that will leave you breathless.
This is a spectacular gift for the jaded sci-fi fan on your list who has seen it all before and would rather play laser tag than read a book. The reader can 'dip in' to this book here and there, but once the world catches the reader, this book is more likely to be devoured. Don't let the size deter you. This will be the fastest 600 pages you will ever read. Not so great if your giftee is still trying to figure out how to program the VCR.
Include a subscription to the indie game platform, STEAM and a gift certificate for games. Guaranteed to make you the coolest adult in your circle.
Price: $10.99 — or get it electronically — totally crafted to be read on a hand held device as you flee the monsters