Quick, before they’re all made into movies and TV shows!

Still Dreaming: A Guide to the Essential Philip K. Dick Books

Philip K. Dick/Photo © Nicole Olivieri Panter

The visually striking “Blade Runner 2049” plunges audiences back down a futuristic rabbit hole mingling noir sensibilities with artificial beings living among people who want to eliminate them. But this sequel to 1982’s “Blade Runner” goes way beyond cat-and-mouse suspense to explore what makes us human.

Author Philip K. Dick loved to ponder alternative universes and question reality over his forty-four novels and roughly 120 short stories, merging science fiction with philosophy. Since his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which inspired the original “Blade Runner,” Hollywood has mined his works for ideas, often expanding just nuggets into films.

Dick can be a dense read or a head trip, but this member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame has thoughts on world building that are as relevant today as they were in 1978. “[W]e live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups,” he said in a speech that year. “So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people …. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

The cover of the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Philip K. Dick

The film adaptation of this Nebula Award nominee introduced mainstream audiences to the terms blade runner (a type of bounty hunter) and replicant (an artificial person). Fans of Blade Runner might love to compare how it veers from the book, with sequences such as protagonist Rick Deckard being arrested by a police precinct of androids. Deckard’s empathy remains intact: “The electrical things have their lives too, paltry as those lives are,” he notes.

The cover of the book Time Out of Joint

Time Out of Joint

Philip K. Dick

Dick references Hamlet in the title of this 1959 novel, which might remind readers of the film “The Truman Show.” A man who thinks he lives in a quiet community finds reward in being a crossword puzzle champion. This mild brain teaser, however, turns out to be a ruse for a greater task only he can do – something that would devastate him if he knew the truth. This read offers a good taste of Dick’s favorite themes and frequent setup of an ordinary person watching his life unravel.

The cover of the book The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle

Philip K. Dick

Amazon adapted Dick’s 1962 Hugo Award-winning novel into an acclaimed TV series, now entering its third season. It imagines the Axis powers – chiefly Nazi Germany and Japan – won World War II and have established totalitarian rule in the United States.

 

The cover of the book Clans of the Alphane Moon

Clans of the Alphane Moon

Philip K. Dick

Based on Dick’s short story “Shell Game,” this acerbically comic novel establishes a caste-like society on a distant moon comprised of people with various mental illnesses playing to their strengths. (The paranoiacs are the statesmen and secret police. Those with mania are warriors. The schizophrenics are poets or religious visionaries, and so on.) Dick, who during his life wrote and spoke about his own hallucinations, also includes characters such as a telepathic slime mold.

The cover of the book Ubik

Ubik

Philip K. Dick

Chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 greatest novels since 1923, this “existential horror story” written in 1966 and published in 1969 envisions a future where psychic phenomena are common, to the point that a privacy company employs those who can block telepathic intrusions. Some of those come from the dead, who exist in a suspended state that allows them to communicate.

The cover of the book Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Philip K. Dick

Winner of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, this 1974 novel follows a popular TV star who wakes up one morning to learn that he’s never existed, and that the United States is now a police state following a second Civil War. The title alludes to a musical work by sixteenth-century composer John Dowland, and the plot mixes the espionage of forged identities and a life on the run with reality-warping drugs and parallel universes.

The cover of the book A Scanner Darkly

A Scanner Darkly

Philip K. Dick

Director Richard Linklater adapted this 1977 novel into a well-received animated film starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr. Based partly on Dick’s experiences using amphetamines and living with addicts, the book focuses on an undercover cop who loses his identity as he becomes involved with a new psychoactive drug.

The cover of the book The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick (Edited by Lawrence Sutin)

This 1996 collection presents Dick’s worldview through an impressive mix of autobiography, speculative essays, and critiques. It includes his speech “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (from which the quote above was taken) and gems such as the beginnings of his VALIS trilogy and two chapters of a proposed sequel to The Man in the High Castle.

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Red Rising Ditto

Big fan of the series or pumpded about book 4, Iron Gold? Here are some others things you might enjoy.

Red Rising Shelf End Ditto NU

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2017

by Adrian Liang, November 30, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious

Artificial intelligence, angels fallen to earth, Loki, murderbots, apocalyptic doom, and a leap in evolution are among the highlights of this year’s best science fiction and fantasy.

Every best-of list like this has its own criteria for a book’s inclusion, whether it be formally written out or lurking in the back of the editors’ minds. For my part, I wanted to put a spotlight on stories that were willing to stride down a less-beaten path while still thriving on the core values of heroism and derring-do that draw us to read science fiction or fantasy.

Every year it’s nearly impossible to winnow the list down to only 20. This year, thirteen of the 20 are either standalone books or start a new series, and the other seven books continue series that you’ll thank yourself for plunging into (but start with book one!). Three stories are self-labeled for teens or young adults, quite a few more straddle the “coming of age” space where so much adventure can happen, and even a handful of books revel in the hard-won wisdom that middle-age brings.

Below are 10 of the 20 best books of the year, focusing mostly on standalones or series starters.

To see the full list, go to our page that lists all 20 best science fiction and fantasy books of 2017.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – Arden’s debut novel builds like a thunderstorm, with far-off disquieting rumblings that escalate into a clash between sprites and humans, ancient religions and new, honor and ambition. Set in the 14th century in the bitter north, a two-week ride from the rough city of Moscow, this mesmerizing tale centers on Vasya Petronova, a girl who barely survives birth and grows up with a secret affinity for the sprites and demons that live in and around her village. “A wild thing new-caught and just barely groomed into submission” is how her father imagines her, and he’s not wrong. As her family tries to harness her into the typical domestic life of a young noblewoman, Vasya spends more and more time among the sprites and soon gets caught between two old and powerful gods struggling for domination over her part of the world. And while I think there are only a dozen or so novels in this world that have a perfect ending, I would put The Bear and the Nightingale high on that list. Book two, The Girl in the Tower, hit shelves on December 5.

All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells – A weapon-heavy security bot on a contract with surveyors sent to investigate a new planet, Murderbot (as it refers to itself) takes pains to conceal from the humans it’s guarding that there’s something different about it: Murderbot has disabled the function that requires it to obey any orders given or downloaded. All Murderbot wants is time to itself so that it can watch the thousands of hours of entertainment vids it’s downloaded on the sly, but the sudden, ominous silence from the surveyors’ sister camp knocks those plans awry. Tense action locks in step with Murderbot’s march toward owning its personhood, imbuing the android with more character than other, far larger novels ever manage to do. A tight space adventure with a deep core of humanity, All Systems Red has become one of my favorite books this year to press into the hands of my fellow SF readers.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – Neil Gaiman putting his own fingerprints on the Norse myths? Cue the hyperventilation of delighted readers. That reaction is genuinely earned in this inventive retelling, as Gaiman darts between a Tolkienesque tone in the epic origin stories and his own bright wit in the tales centering on the adventures of Thor, Loki, and Odin. Those new to Norse mythology might be astonished by how bizarre some details are, while fans more well-versed in Norse myths should still appreciate the humor and spark that Gaiman infuses into the stories he has selected to retell, adding to the existing rich literature. Many who read Norse Mythology will make this volume their joyful leaping-off point into a strange and mesmerizing world of gods, giants, undead goats, betrayals, a slanderous squirrel, elves, dwarves, and Valkyries. And don’t forget that ship made of the finger- and toenails of the dead.

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King – This tale of young orphan girls who are trained to be devout warriors—and then, disturbingly, are given to benefactors as servants, concubines, or wives—is ultimately one of strength and sisterhood. Sickly but spirited 18-year-old Kalinda is chosen to be the rajah’s 100th and final queen, an “honor” she desperately does not want but to decline means death. A bubbling civil war and the deadly intrigues of the court complicate Kalinda’s choices further, and King dials up the tension as the date of Kalinda’s wedding grows closer. Powerful and innocent at once, this is a good pick for those who embraced the lessons of justice and generosity in Wonder Woman.

The Power by Naomi Alderman – Margaret Atwood calls this book “Electrifying!” and it’s not just because in The Power young women have developed the ability to electrocute people, overturning the power hierarchy of the world. Girls and boys are sent to segregated schools, and female public officials are required to go through testing to make sure they don’t have the ability because, oh my gosh, the world just might as well be over if women gain physical leverage over men. It would have been easy to write a strident and simplistic anti-man book—one that would be welcomed especially now, during a tsunami of sexual harassment scandals—but instead Alderman weaves more nuanced ideas into a thoughtful yet action-packed story, giving readers of The Power lots to consider and lots to thrill to.

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty – George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones meets Naomi Novik’s Uprooted in this marvelous debut fantasy about a young con artist from 18th century Cairo who learns that her mysterious parentage—and her ability to work small magics—might be connected to the nearly forgotten legends of the djinn, Suleiman the Magnificent, and the mysterious brass city of Daevabad. When Nahri accidentally summons Dara, a djinn warrior with a long and bloody past, she plunges both of them into the brewing animosity among the ancient djinn tribes united only by their disdain for their half-human offspring, who have few rights in the djinn stronghold of Daevabad. But not all djinn think the half-humans should be persecuted. Alizayd, the djinn king’s second son, works in the shadows to right wrongs even as surging tensions birth battles in the streets. Deep and gorgeous world building plus the political plot corkscrews caused me to happily ruminate on this book and its characters weeks after I finished it. I have a few quibbles—Nahri doesn’t have as much to do in the second half as in the first—but Chakraborty’s heck of a finale was both a surprise and felt completely right…and left me quivering with anticipation for the second book in the trilogy.

Artemis by Andy Weir – As in The Martian (the book, not the film), Artemis‘s strengths are Weir’s plotting and the gee-whiz science facts leveraged to make survival more unlikely than guaranteed. Twenty-something Jazz has made a niche for herself as a reliable smuggler in the one and only small city on the Moon. When one of her clients offers her a sabotage job that will let her pay back an old debt, Jax pushes aside her misgivings…and the hijinx begin. For me, the weakness of Artemis is Jazz herself, who, like Mark Watney (in the book!), can come off sometimes as an infantile jerk. Still, there’s quite a lot to enjoy about Artemis as a clever heist-gone-wrong-on-the-Moon story.

The House of Binding Thorns by Aliette de Bodard – The second book in the Dominion of the Fallen series is just as atmospheric as the first and shoves you right into the middle of the twisty political action in which fallen angels and dragons compete for people and power. De Bodard knows how to craft a deliciously tense story in which flawed characters with competing agendas keep you flipping the pages to find out what happens next—and her broken, dark Paris is the perfect setting. Fantasy and urban fantasy fans should start with The House of Shattered Wings with a happy confidence that book two is excellent as well.

Void Star by Zachary Mason – In this near-future SF suspense novel, Irene’s neural implant and her ability to talk with machines makes her a much-coveted and very expensive tech troubleshooter, but her meeting with billionaire Cromwell sets off all sorts of subconscious alarm bells, as does the frightening glimpse of a wild AI she’s never encountered before. Void Star utilizes a deliberate, predatory pace more common to the most exquisite horror novels. A buildup of tiny tells, headlong plunges into the sharp-as-glass memories saved in Irene’s implant, and eerie snapshots of the strange and inexplicable hammer the tension into a near-unbearable drumbeat. But even as Irene crisscrosses the planet—sometimes on the run, sometimes on the chase—it’s the essential role of memories that gives this novel its heft, coaxing us to consider what we keep and what we leave behind in our own daily world-building.

When the English Fall by David Williams – In this spare but tense novel, only the Amish have the skills and the food stores to survive after an unexplained event destroys most modern technology, causing planes to fall out of the sky and electricity to fail. Told through the diary entries of Amish farmer Jacob, the bubbling-up of anger and violence in the outside world slowly begins to affect the self-sufficient Amish, forcing them to rethink their relationships with the non-Amish and how they will stay true to their beliefs while under new pressure. A fascinating exploration of the corrosive effect of anger and the strength that can be found in holding true to one’s beliefs, even if it leads to the harder path.

World Fantasy Awards Announced

by Chris SchluepNovember 07, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious

The winners of the 2017 World Fantasy Awards have been announced. The ceremony was held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas at the World Fantasy Convention. The Lifetime Achievement Awards, presented annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding service to the fantasy field, went to Terry Brooks and Marina Warner.

Below is a list of the winners from selected categories. You can see all of the winners listed on Locus.

Best Novel

  • The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North
  • Borderline by Mishell Baker
  • Roadsouls by Betsy James
  • The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
  • Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Best Long Fiction

  • The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
  • The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
  • Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
  • A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Best Short Fiction

  • Das Steingeschöpf” by G.V. Anderson
  • Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” by Brooke Bolander
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Little Widow” by Maria Dahvana Headley
  • The Fall Shall Further the Flight in Me” by Rachael K. Jones

Best Anthology

  • Dreaming in the Dark edited by Jack Dann
  • Clockwork Phoenix 5 edited by Mike Allen
  • Children of Lovecraft edited by Ellen Datlow
  • The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2016 edited by Karen Joy Fowler & John Joseph Adams
  • The Starlit Wood edited by Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe

Best Collection

  • A Natural History of Hell by Jeffrey Ford
  • Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
  • On the Eyeball Floor and Other Stories by Tina Connolly
  • Vacui Magia by L.S. Johnson
  • The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

10 Space Operas to Read Before You See Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Space

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

With “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” due to arrive in theaters on December 15th, we still have a fair amount time to kill before we find out what the deal is with bearded, hermit Luke and to see the brilliance of the late Carrie Fisher onscreen one final time. Fortunately, there are quite a few literary options to both pique and maintain your love of all things space opera in the interim. With that in mind, here are eight of our recent space-faring, swashbuckling faves.

The cover of the book Phasma (Star Wars)

Phasma (Star Wars)

DELILAH S. DAWSON

What better way to get in the mood for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” than reading a novel under the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi banner? This latest novel from Delilah S. Dawson centers on one of the most mysterious new additions to Star Wars canon: Captain Phasma. This origin story lays out the dark and brutal background of one of the First Order’s most ruthless and relentless officers and is not to be missed.

The cover of the book Armada

Armada

ERNEST CLINE

Ernest Cline is best-known for the pop-culture extravaganza of Ready Player One. Armada is his sophomore effort and sees the author turns his nerd-approved eye toward the stars for an alien invasion thriller. Armada centers on Zack Lightman, a gaming maven and sci-fi junky whose life is changed forever when he sees a flying saucer and realizes the his favorite game, a flight simulator called Armada, is far more than it seems.

The cover of the book Aftermath: Star Wars

Aftermath: Star Wars

CHUCK WENDIG

Wondering what took place in the years between “The Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens”? Don’t worry, Chuck Wendig has you covered. The Aftermath trilogy picks up following the infamous Battle of Endor and sees the fledgling New Republic working to maintain its foothold over the reeling Empire – but the Empire may have still have a few tricks left up its sleeve.

 

The cover of the book Artemis

Artemis

ANDY WEIR

Following the runaway success of Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, expectations are running high for his second effort: Artemis. The story follows Jazz Bashara, a smuggler on Artemis, the first and only city on the Moon. Struggling to make ends meet, Jazz lives a difficult and sometimes dangerous life. All of that changes, however, when Jazz lands the opportunity to commit the perfect crime. The crime is an impossible one. Artemis is an edge-of-your-seat thriller like only Andy Weir can write. It’s also a heist story. On the moon. What more do you need to know?

The cover of the book Lightless

Lightless

C. A. HIGGINS

In this intriguing sci-fi thriller, C.A. Higgins takes readers aboard the Ananke, an experimental military spacecraft funded by the ruthless organization that controls Earth. The novel centers on Althea, a computer scientist with an closer emotional bond to the ship’s systems than any of her crewmates. When a pair of terrorists gain access to the ship, it falls to Althea to defend the Ananke from its twisted saboteurs.

The cover of the book Empress of a Thousand Skies

Empress of a Thousand Skies

RHODA BELLEZA

This revenge epic from Rhoda Belleza falls somewhere on a spectrum that includes Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga and Joss Whedon’s “Firefly.” Rhee is the crown princess and sole surviving heir to a powerful dynasty. Aly is a war refugee falsely accused of murdering Rhee. With war looming just on the horizon, Rhee and Aly forced together to confront a ruthless evil putting the entire galaxy at risk.

The cover of the book Ascension

Ascension

JACQUELINE KOYANAGI

Featuring a quirky and eclectic cast of space-faring ne’er-do-wells, plenty of interstellar adventure, and even a bit of romance, Ascension is just the ticket for Star Wars fans not so patiently waiting for “The Last Jedi.” The story centers on Alana Quick, an ace starship mechanic who stows away on the Tangled Axion and gets way more than she bargained for.

The cover of the book On a Red Station, Drifting

On a Red Station, Drifting

ALIETTE DE BODARD

Set in the same universe as Aliette de Bodard’s award winning ImmersionOn a Red Station, Drifting centers on Prosper Station – which has thrived for generations under the guidance of artificial intelligence born from a human womb. When the station’s people are called to war to defend the Emperor, life as those on the station have long known quickly begins to unravel.

The cover of the book Red Rising

Red Rising

PIERCE BROWN

If you haven’t picked up Brown’s bestselling Red Rising Saga, now’s the perfect time. Reading like The Hunger Games by way of Ender Wiggin, Red Rising centers on Darrow, a red and member of the lowest caste of a color-coded society. He and his kind have spent generations toiling underground to make the surface of Mars livable for those remaining. When tragedy strikes, Darrow discovers that the world he has long known is built on a lie and he sacrifices everything to infiltrate the dominant Gold caste and exact his brutal revenge.

The cover of the book Star Wars Rebel Rising

Star Wars Rebel Rising

BETH REVIS

Jyn Erso’s story may have come to a heroic, if tragic, end in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” but there were a lot of questions about the pivotal Rebel hero left unanswered in the film. Thankfully for Star Wars fans, Rebel Rising fills in those gaps. The novel takes place in the years between the moment a five year-old Jyn saw her mother murdered and her father taken away and the events of “Rogue One,” including Erso’s years with the infamous outlaw Saw Gerrera.

 

“My name is James Tiberius Kirk.”

Happy (eventual) birthday Captain Kirk !

CPKirkWSKirk

Now available in Original and Alternate Time-Line!

 

On this day, March 22, in fictional future history, 216 years from now, another of the best imaginary captains to ever fictionally exist will have been born in Riverside, Iowa… or deep space, depending on which reality you’re in… The place doesn’t really matter. You celebrate the day after all and now is the time.

Feeling nostalgic and/or confused? Want to revisit the adventures of one of the best commanders in Starfleet history and/or figure out what the heck I am talking about? The Moline Library has you covered. Come check out Star Trek: The Original series, the movies, the”reboot” movies, or any of a number of Star Trek novels to fill in the gaps between the episodes and movies! It could keep you busy for a while. And if you get hooked, there is alway the Next Gen series, movies and books – vive le Jean-Luc!