Paul Wargelin is a mild-mannered Web Copy Manager for the great metropolitan Penguin Random House’s Berkley and NAL imprints, who also writes and edits cover copy for the Ace, Roc, and InkLit imprints. Despite a lifetime exposed to a variety of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and superhero fiction, he has yet to develop any superpowers of his own.
Easily the best debut novel I have ever read, science fiction or otherwise. We already live in a world where cameras on every street corner, and in everyone’s hands, record everything we do 24/7. Now, imagine collating all of that recorded footage into a virtual environment, recreated precisely from every conceivable angle, its historical events preserved for people to experience and interact with again and again. Tomorrow and Tomorrow is the poignant story of one man’s addiction to reliving his virtual past, an intriguing murder mystery that unfolds both online and off, and a thought-provoking near-future vision that takes our technological social connected society to its logical, plausible, and increasingly isolating conclusion. My favorite book Penguin has published since I started my career here.
A mesmerizing science fiction mystery featuring the most exciting first chapter I’ve read in recent memory, Lexicon hits the ground running with an amnesiac desperately trying to regain his lost memories and doesn’t stop until his final confrontation against a woman capable of destroying the world with a single word. A riveting story of how ambition, power, and ultimately love, alters our very essence.
A fallen angel. A city comprised of dirigibles. Cybernetic cannibals called carnivorgs. These are just a few of the elements found in Terminal World’s post-apocalyptic far future setting. An incredible adventure from one of science fiction’s most imaginative practitioners, Alastair Reynolds’s novel is a must read for Steampunk aficionados willing to expand their horizons beyond the genre’s basic tropes.
Since I was introduced to Bob Howard in The Atrocity Archives, I’ve faithfully followed the adventures of this tech nerd/cubicle jockey turned “computational demonologist” as he reluctantly fights the forces of Lovecraftian darkness on behalf of Her Majesty’s anti-occult organization known as the Laundry. Bob’s role as an everyman office drone separates him from the destined supernatural warriors chronicled in most urban fantasies, making him one of the most relatable protagonists in the genre. The Rhesus Chart pits Bob against vampire financiers employed by a literal blood bank as Charles Stross once again demonstrates just how bureaucratic office politics can lead to Armageddon in both humorous and horrific style.
The late John Steakley’s contribution to vampire mythology is an action-packed thrill-ride featuring the hunters of Vampire$, Inc., secretly bankrolled by the Catholic Church, exterminating bloodsuckers with extreme prejudice. But the endless cycle of violence against near-immortal demons takes its toll as Jack Crow and his team begin to lose their capacity for compassion—and their very humanity—after every battle. Cynical and daring, Steakley’s focus on Crow’s crew as soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome while leaving the vampires in the shadows made this novel one of my most emotionally invested reads.
Harry Turtledove proves the pen is mightier than the sword as William Shakespeare writes a play to galvanize a conquered populace to turn against their occupiers in this alternate history about the Spanish Armada’s successful invasion of Elizabethan England. Immersing himself in the literary language of the era, Turtledove has crafted an inspired novel in true Shakespearean fashion with his intriguing cat and mouse game between the Bard and Spanish playwright/soldier Lope de Vega, depicted as mutually respectful adversaries loyal to opposing regimes. What I love about Turtledove’s historical novels is that you don’t have to be a scholar to enjoy them, and I find myself educated as well as entertained.
One hundred teenage boys volunteer to trek down the east coast of the United States as contestants in a brutal game of endurance, marching non-stop until only one remains. Reading this in one day, King’s relentless narrative had me just as fatigued as the walkers, feeling their psychological and physical stress as they faltered and fell one-by-one. Taut and tight characterizations put you inside the head and heart of each featured walker, learning the dreams, fears, and agendas that drive them to win. It may have originally been published under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, but in my estimation The Long Walk ranks among the best novels of King’s career—and is also a frightening vision of the potential direction “Reality TV” could take in the future.
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