* Crazy fiction for crazy times
* Books to satisfy your Black Mirror withdrawals
* From new thrillers to Philip K. Dick and Margaret Atwood classics
If shows like Black Mirror, or the news for that matter, have left you longing to explore strange, alternate realities, here are eight books where the lines between the real and the imaginary, the known and the unknowable, twist, blur and just get crazy. Sometimes, even to the most rational among us, the whole material world seems like something only glimpsed “through a glass, darkly,” as King James’ team of translators render the phrase in 1 Corinthians.
These modern and classic sci-fi cyber punk tales take questioning reality to some very strange new places, and might just help make sense of a world addicted to not-making sense.
Lauren Beukes’ amazingly convincing near-future dystopia isn’t high-handed or apocalyptic: we don’t have hordes of zombies or the Statue of Liberty falling into a sand-dune. For all that it’s actually a much more terrifying future: a world plotted along the trajectory of our own. It features invasive nano tech marketing, cutthroat professional video gamers and hedonism taken to its logical limits.
2. Orxy and Crake
Atwood spins a timeless love story in world out of time. A modern sci-fi classic, Orxy and Crake, part of the MaddAddam Trilogy, gives us one of the most memorable and unsettling visions of a possible future: for-profit genetic engineering accidentally creates a plague. Humanity doesn’t get wiped out, but the world in the wake of that plague is a different sort of place indeed.
3. The Circle
Longtime Bay Area author Dave Eggers pens this sweet silicon valley thriller, which is now a film starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks.
4. The Dark Net
Benjamin Percy’s The Dark Net takes the already very creepy idea of the “dark web” and spins it into a high tech thriller with just enough metaphysical uncertainty to satisfy your Black Mirror/ Twilight Zone cravings.
5. Version Control
This wildly incisive, erudite and reality-warping novel speaks directly to that suspicion, so often memed in our age, that reality is nothing but a simulation, and humans but “little marionette[s] made out of data.”
6. A Scanner Darkly
Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly is maybe the most classic sci-fi take to be inspired by “through a glass, darkly.” Using the idea of a futuristic drug that induces people to be split into two versions, each unaware of what the other is doing, it uniquely explores the limits of knowledge, and the ultimately conditional nature of selfhood.
7. Paycheck and Other Classic Stories
This collection featuring the classic Paycheck is an essential for the bookshelf of any Philip K. Dick fan. Whether you’re a long-time sci-fi buff or just coming around via the recent Blade Runner sequel, this one is a must-read.
8. The One
This gripping and intelligent thriller combines the high-tech hype around personal DNA testing with the age-old story tradition of the “enchanted Matchmaker.”