science fiction

Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville

You'll find this book in science fiction but these stories truly transcend the genre. When extraterrestrials do appear, they do so in unlikely ways, such as remnants to be rediscovered in an archeological dig. More commonly, Miéville's tales traffic in the uncanny—card games disrupted by the appearance of "hidden suits" (cards that don't exist in the standard 52-card deck), a guardian of religious objects who addresses the idols in his care as if they were alive, the sudden appearance and disappearance of what Hogarth called "shapes of horror." One highlight is "Polynia," a story about the arrival of icebergs floating above London and how this bizarre event affects the lives of a group of schoolboys. Each story offers a glimpse into a different kind of world but Miéville's gift is to keep even his strangest stories rooted in the human experience—his characters are as striking as his inventive plots. Call it speculative fiction, call it weird fiction, call it what you will, this is a remarkable book of literary invention that brings to mind the work of Daphne DuMaurier and J.G. Ballard. – Kenneth Loosli

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

There is no tonic more bracing in the face of our present melting-down world than Margaret Atwood’s smart and slyly funny cynicism, no stratagem more effective in warding off disaster than staring it in the face—and laughing at it. The Heart Goes Last finds a married couple, Stan and Charmaine, living in their car fending off roving gangs. The economy has crashed and their once-bright futures are dim, to put it mildly. After seeing an ad for a corporation that offers hope—security, money, a safe albeit controlled environment—they apply, ignoring warnings from Stan’s brother, and are accepted. What happens to each of them in the town of Consilience, the panache and wit with which Atwood peoples that town, what their fate says about the fate of all of us is the stuff of this mesmerizing, funny, frightening novel. – Betsy Burton