Rachel's Unruly, Otherworldly, Fantastic Summer Reads

June 22, 2019

Rachel's Unruly, Otherworldly, Fantastic Summer Reads

I can't stop reading speculative fiction. I love the world building. I love seeing all the different ways authors extrapolate our world into its future and into worlds unknown. I love when something hits so close to home I start to wonder if it's ever happened. I love the feeling of being completely transported from this world when it feels like too much. 

I thought for my summer reading list I'd highlight some recent and future faves!

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Ines Estrada

Drawn in hazy gray pencil and printed in blue pantone ink, this book is about Elizabeth, an exotic dancer in cyberspace, and Carlos, who...

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Alienation seems to have it all: body horror, google glands implanted into brains, mass extinction, AI artificial-insemination, and the ability to summon several kinds of sushi to your apartment instantly. Amidst all the dystopian chaos, Estrada keeps our attention on the mundanity that persists in this on-demand, endless-experience world.

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Ezra Clayton Daniels, Ben Passmore

Once a thriving working class neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, the “Bottomyards” is now the definition of urban blight. When an aspiring fashion designer...

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Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore are the comics duo that dreams--and maybe a few nightmares--are made of. BTTM FDRS is an intergenerational exploration of the horrors and complexities of gentrification. Light on lectures and heavy on horror, there's lots here for your mind to wander off with.
(coming July)

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The Bug

Ellen Ullman

With a New Introduction by Mary GaitskillA PEN/Hemingway Award FinalistANew York Times Book Review Notable BookEllen Ullman is a "rarity, a computer programmer with...

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Close to the Machine

Ellen Ullman

With a New Introduction by Jaron LanierASalon Best Book of the YearIn 1997, the computer was still a relatively new tool---a sleek and unforgiving...

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Ellen Ullman is very cool. She was a programmers in the early dotcom boom, and has also been writing for decades. Natasha Lyonne liked Ullman's latest book so much that she brought her in to consult on Russian Doll (swoon).  Close to the Machine, a memoir, and The Bug, a novel, are her first two books. Her work is fast-paced and accessible to coders and the computer-shy alike. Most of all, Ullman champions thoughtfulness and unknowability from the heart of a culture barreling towards profitable predictability and endless efficiency.
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The Centenal Cycle: InfomocracyNull States, and State Tectonics, is set about 100 years in the future, when a new global entity called Information presides over a new global governance system: microdemocracy. Think Google, Facebook, and the UN combining to make nations--and borders--obsolete. Each book features different characters and highlights different aspects and challenges of this new order. Older's writing is a perfect example of how speculative fiction can give fears a home, and transform them into something both critical and hopeful. 

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Khloris is a collage-comic series in which a quartet of blossom-headed demi-goddesses team up to overcome the Pantheon Patriarchy once and for all! It's gorgeous and funny and oh, yeah, the main characters fend off the likes of Poseidon and Prometheus by unleashing streams of flowers at them. A comic even those with the sniffle-iest, sneeze-iest pollen allergies can revel in. 

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Leaving Richard's Valley

Michael Deforge

When a group of outcasts have to leave the valley, how will they survive the toxicity of the big city? Richard is a benevolent...

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Michael Deforge's latest, Leaving Richard's Valley, takes place in a parallel Toronto filled with talking animals, cults, rising rents, and artists trying to see what they can get away with. The four-panel format takes me back to childhood, reading saved newspaper comics in the backseat. This book made me laugh, and it also made me want to take a stroll around my neighbourhood. 

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Native Tongue

Suzette Haden Elgin

Originally published in 1984, this classic dystopian trilogy is a testament to the power of language and women's collective action. In 2205, the Nineteenth Amendment has...

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The Judas Rose

Suzette Haden Elgin

Originally published in 1984, this classic dystopian trilogy is a testament to the power of language and women's collective action. In the second volume of theNative...

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Suzette Haden Elgin

Originally published in 1984, this classic dystopian trilogy is a testament to the power of language and women's collective action. The interstellar Consortium of Planets forsakes the...

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I'm eagerly waiting for the re-release of this feminist sci-fi trilogy from the 80s. In order to resist the oppressive system they're living under, a group of women construct an entirely new language (one that Elgin, a linguist herself, constructed while writing the series!!!). If you've read this far in my list, you've probably caught on that I'm here for stories with alternate political systems, speculations on language and power, and harsh critiques of patriarchal norms. This trilogy has all three! For fans of The Left Hand of Darkness & The Handmaid's Tale.

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I devour everything dorothy, a publishing project releases. Seriously: when I came to the end of their latest releases (Wild Milk and The Taiga Syndrome), it felt as though I'd swallowed them whole. I also adore everything Renee Gladman writes, and so I am particularly delighted that dorothy has published four of her books. This summer I plan to luxuriate in the entire quartet:  Event Factory, The Ravickians, Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge, and Houses of Ravicka. In these books, the city of Ravicka is an omnipresent character whose shifting houses and plans at times seem more lively than its inhabitants.  

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Sofia Samatar

World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Locus award finalistDivided into “Tender Bodies” and “Tender Landscapes,” the stories collected here in this first collection of short...

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Tender is an exquisite collection, full of worlds and seemingly beyond time. Whatever your summer travel fantasies might be, this book has an escape for you. But beware! You might find some of your terrors lurking as well. The writing is adventurous, too, with many different storytelling styles throughout, all undercut with a touch of fantasy. 

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Rita Indiana

Plucked from her life on the streets of post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo, young maid Acilde Figueroa finds herself at the heart of a voodoo prophecy:...

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Tentacle is a hurricane of a book. In a little over 100 pages, there are three timelines, two protagonists, and one prophecy-completing anemone. In one timeline, it still may be possible to save the oceans from their impending devastation (the consequences of which are already playing out in another). This book is queer, action-packed, and haunting. 

Not sci-fi, but not to be missed:

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Hot Comb

Ebony Flowers

An auspicioius debut examining the culuture of hair from the Rona Jaffe Foundation award-winning cartoonist Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into Black women's...

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Mariko Tamaki

All Freddy Riley wants is for Laura Dean to stop breaking up with her. The day they got back together was the best one...

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This Place

Kateri Akiwenzi-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell

Explore the past 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in this groundbreaking graphic novel anthology. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional...

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Wage Slaves

Daria Bogdanska

Daria Bogdanska moves to Malmö to attend art school, sets out to find a job, and discovers that in order to work in the...

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Last Night in Nuuk

Niviaq Korneliussen

The highly acclaimed debut from an author profiled by theNew Yorker as her country's “unlikely literary star,”Last Night in Nuuk follows the lives of...

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Rachel Wallace