The Tales That Linger
Needing an escape from reality? Some weird tales to keep you on your toes? Something to challenge your conceptions of reality and what the future might look like; to posite theories on the nature of life and what it means to be a conscious creature? What about surreal fantasy, high action conflict, or uncomfortably familiar dystopias? Just looking for some really, really strange stories? Here, you'll find the fiction that's stuck with me like glue—the good, the bad, and the baffling.
When I developed an interest in cyber security during high school, this book was a top recommendation due to the themes and ideas therein. "Snow Crash" is a ridiculous read, both amusing and absolutely baffling. The story doesn't always take itself too seriously and at times seems more like a sci-fi parody. Think "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" but with more weird cyberpunk flair.
While I found myself disappointed by the later books in the series (mostly for the lack of underwater scenes), this particular book's deep sea exploration spoke to a style of sci-fi I didn't know I wanted until then. Some aspects of this feel akin to a love letter for the deep and dark, the desperately hungry sea critters, and the impassive violence of the unstable ocean floor. I've reread this countless times and find myself equally as enthralled every time.
This story was the first to show me exactly what I wanted out of alien life; give me strange and weird and wonderful lifeforms that are nearly unrecognizable as living by what humans consider to be "life." Also, there are vampires. I promise that's relevant to the story.
I first read this in early middle school and the imagery has lingered with me ever since... definitely a strange and fascinating read.
Opinions on the author aside, "Ender's Game" received some warranted criticism regarding its stance on violence and consequences. I, however, found value in the story when I first read it as a middle schooler who had trouble standing up for himself. Ender and the individuals behind him may not experience the consequences adults see as fair, but it showcases the emotional toll of violence for younger folks. It may not be a happy story, but it sure stuck with me.
I started out with the graphic novel adaptations of this series, but this is one of my favorite fantasy stories and was my introduction to steampunk fiction in general. I found myself cheering for the relationships therein, which was unthinkable when I first read this (I'm still learning to like romance stories...). Top it all off with an excellent main character, both relatable and strong-willed, and you've got yourself one top-notch paranormal romance!
Like "Ender's Game," this book received some warranted criticism and mixed reviews. Personally, I enjoyed this book. The change of environment was refreshing after the fast-paced sterility and toxic culture surrounding the Battle School. "Speaker for the Dead" has its flaws, but I love the anthropological aspects, even if many plot points could've been solved with more communication and proper xenobiological practices.
This graphic novel led to the first online review of a book I've ever done because I enjoyed it so much. I will warn that this is definitely not for children, nor the faint of heart. It was exactly the kind of "Lord of the Flies"-esque survivalist gore-desensitized horror I was looking for. If nothing else, this is another great example of what communities and individuals have the potential to become under the right circumstances.
I have some opinions regarding the depictions of the main character and the depth of the story, but I came for the art style and stayed for the strange world-building. This particular work garnered mixed reviews, and the art style is not everyone's favorite but the spectacular, surrealist environments certainly make up for some of the book's flaws. Be warned, this is the same level of not-child-friendly as Vehlmann's other work "Beautiful Darkness"!
Yet another book I read in middle school with scenes so vivid I still think about them regularly. Creepy predatory seagulls, interpersonal drama due to unstable authority and high stakes, and hyper-aggressive teleporting cats. Honestly, it's the last part that I really can't seem to forget.
Oh boy... beautiful art and use of color, endearing main characters embroiled in a cruel political power-grab, good transgender representation, and fiber arts? Let me tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed this. As someone who knits and really wants to learn to spin their own yarn, I really enjoyed the power and symbolism of the magic in spinning that Grayce learns. This is all-around an enchanting graphic novel.