Sally's picks for people who don't like sci-fi or fantasy (though I think they'll like these!)

We often get people saying 'anything but sci-fi or fantasy', but there's a lot more to these genres than orcs, quests and spaceships, so here are my picks for people who don't think they like sci-fi or fantasy!

New/Unusual Titles

NK Jemisin, The City We Became 

She won the Hugo Award for The Broken Earth trilogy which is pure fantasy, but this book, The City We Became is much more Neil Gaiman-like - the premise is that cities are alive and people become manifestations of them, I loved it! 

 

Chris Beckett, Tomorrow

He won the Arthur C Clarke award for Beneath the World, A Sea (which is incredible: mind-bending!), Tomorrow is about a novelist who moves to a remote cabin to finish his work in peace, but the natural world intervenes. 

 

Rian Hughes, The Black Locomotive / XX

   

Hughes' work is really hard to describe, it's classed as graphic novel but that doesn't really do it justice. there is a narrative (in XX it's about extra-terrestrials making contact via Jodrell Bank, in The Black Locomotive it's about weird goings on in a secret Crossrail extension under London!), the books are almost like works of art and the narrative is filled with fake wikipedia entries and transcripts, stories within stories, plus some really interesting graphic design (a bit like Emily St Jon Mandel). They are definitely worth having in physical form.

 

Martin Macinnes, Infinite Ground, Gathering Evidence 

He's a Scottish author (he used to be a bookseller at the George Street Waterstones!), both novels start out quite conventionally, (Infinite Ground seems to be a missing person inquiry, Gathering Evidence is a group of scientists studying bonobo chimps), then events spiral and you're not quite sure what's real. Both also deal with extinction and the environment, so they feel very 'now': he is a really beautiful, thoughtful writer.

 

Simon Birks, The Ballad of Broken Song / Songstrom 

Simon lives and works right here in Linlithgow, a local publisher we are delighted to stock! He mainly deals with graphic novels, but the two I've mentioned are novels and they are really decent, pure sci-fi space operas - distant planets, empires in collapse, quests, saviours and futuristic technology, it's all here!

 

Classics

Roberto Bolano, 2666 

A stone cold classic covering the end of civilisation as we know it and set across the US-Mexican border which elevates it above the usual dystopian fiction and gives it real political context, especially with recent hysteria surrounding immigration and refugees. 

 

Alan Moore, Jerusalem 

He's best-known for creating graphic novels such as V for Vendetta and Watchmen, Jerusalem is his only novel (to date!). It's MASSIVE and people either say it's a work of genius, or very self-indulgent. I'd say a bit of both, he's always worth a read though.

 

Hope Mirrlees, Lud-In-The-Mist 

Cited as inspiration for several contemporary fantasy writers, most notably Neil Gaiman, she's all but forgotten today. This is a great fantasy novel with fairies and myths and nostalgia for a world that probably never really existed anyway.

 

Ursula K Le Guin

Anything! I love her work: fiction, non-fiction, children's it doesn't matter, she always had something to say about humanity as well as creating some really incredible worlds and epic adventures.

 

Octavia Butler, Kindred 

Absolutely fascinating writer, an African-American woman who was writing sci-fi in the 60s and 70s! She was out of print for decades, but all of her work is now available. I like Kindred best as it contains civil rights, slavery and time travel, but any of her work is great.

***

These last two are more surreal rather than fantasy/sci fi, but they are both so brilliantly weird (as well as amazingly well written).

 

Flann O'Brien, The Third Policeman

It's quite hard to tell what's going on in this book, I found it best just to enjoy the read and think about it afterwards! It is basically the story of a man who loses his bicycle in an Irish village, but there are also parallel universes and just who is the third policeman?

 

Richard Brautigan, Trout Fishing in America

I unashamedly love everything Brautigan wrote. Again, they are wonderfully weird, and also very short, but a really biting counterpoint to the other 'hippy' stuff that was coming out at the same time. Trout fishing in America is a sort of guidebook to fishing in rural America. But it's so much more than that and I honestly think everyone should read it at least once!

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