It's cold out there. You've got the fireplace going and everyone settled with blankets, coco and a purring kitten asleep on their lap. Now you need to set in a good supply of books for the long dark night. The Fiction Unbound contributors have suggestions for every speculative fan on your list:
Lisa Mahoney suggests: Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Corey
Half military space opera and half noir detective novel, Leviathan Wakes shows us a future society even more starkly divided than our own. Humanity still suffers from class, sexual, religious and racial prejudices, but Corey adds another prejudice: birth planet bigotry. The Belters living in the asteroid belt are the hard-scrabble, low-gravity, disposable working class while the Martians have the good toys, and Earthers, well, on that paradise they’ve got free air and water. When a rich girl disappears on Ceres, the noir-like detective Miller runs afoul of criminal gangs and revolutionaries in his search for her. Only partnering with the heroic but naive Jim Holden, an ex-navy Earther, might save Miller, the girl and the Solar System from its own toxic prejudices and a life-sucking, alien-made protovirus ... if that's what it is. This is is the first in a series by James S. A. Corey, the pen name of author partners Daniel Abrams and Ty Franck.
This is a great gift for fast readers who love sci-fi action, and fans of old-school noir detective fiction.
If the books are a hit then definitely check out the excellent SYFY TV series, The Expanse. Binge watch Season One before Season Two begins in early February.
Thickness Rating: Bulky. All six books would consume a shelf, and the next book in the series is due out soon.
Price: $10 as a paperback, or $10 on Amazon Kindle where you can add the Audible narration for $4 more.
Mark Springer recommends: The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer
This ambitious survey of 20th-century science fiction lives up to its name: The Big Book of Science Fiction is big, and all the better for it. With over 100 stories from authors representing 25 countries, the collection spans continents and cultures and includes contributions from every major sci-fi movement. Editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have arranged the stories chronologically, making it easy to trace the emergence and evolution of enduring genre tropes like time travel, alien contact, space opera, the utopia/dystopia duality inherent to technological “progress,” and many more. A simple summary can’t do justice to the depth and breadth of the speculative visions on offer. It all makes for an anthology that will stand the test of time—past, present, and future.
This is a great gift for fans of speculative literature who think they know all there is to know about science fiction. (Spoiler alert: They don’t.)
Your giftee will be thrilled if you pair this with tickets to Arrival, the 2016 motion picture adaptation of Ted Chiang’s sublime “Story of Your Life,” one of the many highlights of the big book—but read the story before you see the film!
Thickness Rating: 11 out of 10 (just shy of 1200 pages in dead-tree format).
CS Peterson suggests: Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, by Timothy Morton
O.K., this is not quite a work of fiction, although it is intensely speculative. Morton defines "hyperobjects" as "entities of such vast temporal and spacial dimensions that they defeat traditional ideas about what a thing is in the first place." These are objects that we talk about as if we know what they are. We talk about these "things," have strongly held opinions about them, but we are part of them and so our ability to grasp the fundamentals of their reality is questionable at best. Morton explores the impact of hyperobjects on how we think and on how we exist in our environment (which extends into the solar system and beyond). Global warming is, at present, the most familiar of the objects Morton has in mind, but there are many and they influence the human experience of politics, ethics, art and philosophy itself.
This is a great gift for you dearest armchair philosopher or speculative fiction writer looking for ideas to inspire stories.
Thickness Rating: 200 pages—but take all winter to wrap your mind around it.
Price: $13.99 on Kindle at Amazon
Amanda Boldenow's pick: Broken Bride, by the band LUDO
Broken Bride is a speculative rock opera, told by a man who lost his wife to a car crash and has invented a time machine to go back and save her. Unfortunately, he keeps over- and under-shooting the date of the crash, landing alongside wooly mammoths and in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.
It's a great gift for someone with a long commute who likes books on tape, but might be interested in shaking it up with a musical story.
Perfectly fine to gift wrap a box of tissues to go with—because, you know, the tears.
Thickness Rating: 28-minute concept album.
Price: $4.95 on iTunes, or included with a Spotify subscription ($10/month)
Gemma Webster suggests: A subscription to Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
Rated M (mature) Bitch Planet is what everyone calls the off planet Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, a prison for Non-Compliant women. Featuring a cast of strong women who have been sent away for being too much. “Too fat, too thin, too loud, too shy, too religious, too secular, to prudish too sexual, too queer too black, too brown too whatever-it-is-they’ll-judge-you-for today.” This feminist dystopia resonates even more post election, is the creation of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro. There have been nine issues so far and the next is slated for release in December. If you're looking for back issues then you're in luck: MidtownComics.com is having a black Friday sale that has already begun or check out ImageComics.com to set up twelve issue subscription.
It's a great gift for women and men, but certainly adults (it runs the full gamut of M, violence, nudity, language).
A great gift to bundle with rage and disappointment. Warning: will spoil the taste of apologies.
Thickness Rating: Too Thin, Non-Compliant
Price: Bitch Planet Volume, 1 issues 1-5 is available for $9.99. Bitch Planet Volume 2, issues 6-10 in one handy book for $14.99 and is available for pre-order January 2017. Single comics are just $3.99 per issue or 12 issues for $33.52 (at Image Comics). Digital subscriptions cost less and are available for all issues. But the book is so beautiful you’ll want to hold it in your hands.
Jon Horwitz-White recommends: "A Darker Shade of Magic," by V. E. Schwab
It’s light, fun, and accessible, though I did roll my eyes at a few plot choices. The aspect of the novel that really drew me in was the concept of layered places. Cities exist on top of cities on top of cities, and only two people can traverse between them. While reading, I often thought of the partitioning of physical spaces such as Jerusalem, Berlin, India, Ireland, Korea, the list goes on. And I thought of the ideological partitions that segregate places. Schwab was not heavy handed in drawing those analogies, but the novel certainly invites those comparisons.
A great gift for anyone desperate for an escape from the post-election rants on social media (I’m telling myself to read instead of typing comments and replies). Read while drinking a mug of hot chocolate overflowing with marshmallows.
Thickness Rating: Moderate
Sean Cassity's pic is: Troll Bridge, by Neil Gaiman (story) and Colleen Doran (art)
A supernatural morality tale for adults. Neil Gaiman’s story breaks your heart and Colleen Doran’s art perfectly captures the glow of innocence as it fades into grim experience. Also, those trees ain’t no joke. A great gift for anyone down for a short, beautiful (if sad) experience.
Include a blank journal, some pens and a bottle of good wine for older giftees who might want to reflect on their life choices. Or a box of tissues. Depending.
Thickness rating: You could slide it under your sister’s door.
Theodore McCombs suggests: The Three-Body Problem, by Cixin Liu
A sublime and wild masterpiece of science fiction, The Three-Body Problem challenges the very notion of science: scientists are killing themselves in despair, suspecting that what they had thought of as physics was just a temporary pocket of a chaotic universe. And at the same time, a popular, strangely realistic virtual reality game seems to depict just such a universe, where the sun might or might not rise tomorrow. Is there a connection? And what does Ye Wenjie, a casualty of China’s Cultural Revolution, have to do with it? The Three-Body Problem constantly exceeds expectations with its daring ideas and canny insights into the chaos that is humanity. Oh, and it won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, so.
A perfect gift for your uncle who’s convinced, as of November 9th, that the world will end, and wouldn’t that just serve us right.
Your giftee might benefit from a little physics primer. This is a great excuse to brush up on your particle physics, give Brian Greene’s The Fabric of the Cosmos a concurrent try. (The Three-Body Problem also pairs well with it's equally sublime sequel, The Dark Forest.)
Thickness Rating: Moderate, but dense as last year's holiday loaf.
Price: $10 on Amazon
Danyelle C. Overbo recommends: My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, edited by Kate Bernheimer
Anthologies are a fantastic gift for any occasion. No matter the reader, there is always something for everyone in a collection of stories, especially one as large and varied as this. With a delightfully wicked array of fairy tale retellings heavy in macabre fantasy, each author includes a blurb at the end of their contribution expounding on their choice of fairy tale for the retelling in this special collection. You can’t get farther from scrubbed and shiny Disney tales than this. Great gift for adults looking for a refreshing twist on their favorite fairy tales. Pair it with a bottle of dark red wine.
Thickness Rating: Forty satisfying bites
Bonus Recommendations: Cyber World, edited by Jason Heller and Joshua Viola, and Adventures in Zookeeping, edited by Sam Knight
If you've come this far and nothing's caught your fancy, you might want to try tossing these two in a gift bag together. Cyber World is a reboot of the cyberpunk esthetic. Adventures in Zookeeping, re-imagines the concept of monster twenty times, and proceeds from the sale of the book go to support MileHiCon in Denver. These two books are full of great stories written by authors we know and love here at Fiction Unbound.
Anthologies are great for the picky giftee. At least one of the stories is bound to be a hit!
Thickness Rating: good quick reads. Think smorgasbord.
Price: $4.99 and $16.95 respectively