The best fantasies masquerading as literature

P.K. Silverson Author Of The Fairy's Tale
By P.K. Silverson

The Books I Picked & Why

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

By Douglas Adams

Book cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Why this book?

It should have been the worst Thursday that ever happened. Instead, Arthur Dent is launched away from the end of the world and into a trilogy of adventure which lasts for five novels! With the guidance of the Guide and the companionship of the unpronounceable Zaphod Breeblebrox, our hero is dragged through space and time to discover things he’d never imagined. Fortunately, Douglas Adams did. They tried to make a movie from the book, but it just won’t translate. This series is a must-read if you wish to have enough money to pay for dinner at the restaurant at the end of the universe. Mistakenly filed under sci-fi in most bookstores, this is a true fantasy fully realized.

The Hitchhiker’s Trilogy is actually the motivating factor in expanding my own series from one book to six. Adams went five novels long to tell his marvelous story. It was also a pretty cool joke. It’s less my competitive nature and more in homage to a true genius work that my The Magic Triangle Trilogy wound up being six books long. Thank you, Douglas!

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Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Book cover of Fahrenheit 451

Why this book?

Alternative futures are certainly a true realm of fantastic thought. What possible Utopia or nightmarish Hell lies ahead for us all? Ray Bradbury isn’t considered a master of the written word for nothing. Misfiled under sci-fi because of Bradbury’s specialization in the genre, Fahrenheit 451 presents a truly frightening look at a world bereft of truth and controlled by disinformation. It had already happened once during the author’s lifetime. He wanted to make sure it never happened again. This isn’t just a great book… it should be required reading for everyone.

In my teen years, the twin stars of my hunger for fiction were Doc Asimov and Ray Bradbury. I considered including The Foundation Trilogy, but that monumental achievement got watered down by the apology of the Daneel Olivaw novels later on. Bradbury watered-down nothing. He was also a local fixture and character when I arrived in Los Angeles. One always had to be on the lookout for a man with his thumb out in case Bradbury was looking for a ride somewhere.

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By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

Book cover of Frankenstein

Why this book?

Oh, how the rich and spoiled English gentry ended up spoiling us. Written as a contest entry to outdo her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, eighteen-year-old Mary Shelley’s imagination conjured up a fevered dream of scientific arrogance and the true nature of life. The fictional creature’s eloquence adds a depth of horror unequaled in any other version of this story. Be careful what you seek. You just may find it.

This was a summer read while I was in high school. I’d seen the movies. I was curious about what inspired them. Boy, was I in for a surprise.

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By George Orwell

Book cover of 1984

Why this book?

Published in 1949, this novel leaps thirty-five years into the future to present a grim world under the thumb of an all-controlling totalitarian regime. Constantly at war, the State is embodied in its leader, Big Brother, and anyone who doesn’t fall in line can expect a very unpleasant visit from the Thought Police. The true love of Winston and Julia is no match for reprogramming, and while it might not matter much to them in the end, this cautionary tale empowers the reader to double down on caring about what goes on. Along with the author's other works, this book contributes mightily to the adjective generated by his very name. Orwellian future, indeed.

I’m not sure anybody “loves” this book. It grabs you by the throat and shakes you inside and out, daring you to think for yourself. On second thought, what’s not to love about that? No doubt, this is some serious material very well crafted, but fortunately, it’s still all made up. Or at least, it was at the time.

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By Kurt Vonnegut

Book cover of Slaughterhouse-Five

Why this book?

If you’re not nailed by the very first sentence of Kurt Vonnegut’s undisputed masterpiece, read it again. Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. You know you’re in for the ride of your life. While the author visits horrors and joys which are very personal, his unflagging sense of humor and his mastery of words make the journey a bittersweet joy. Originally filed under sci-fi, Vonnegut’s works slowly migrated across the bookstore into the literature shelves. Just because there are no dragons doesn’t change the fact this is a masterwork of fantasy. Tragedy illuminated through a curmudgeon’s lens of fantasy. Like most of his novels, Slaughterhouse-Five refuses to allow the reader to pigeonhole either the author or his works. So it goes.

This is truly saving the best for last. I discovered Kurt Vonnegut between the Fall and Winter Quarters of my final year at Ohio University. I thought I’d get a jump on the course by knocking off one or two of his books over the holiday break. I had all of the assigned reading done before New Year’s. My hand was raised at every question during class. The prof had to beg other students to get involved just to break up the relentless tedium of my enthusiasm. It was the easiest A I’d ever earned. It wouldn’t have mattered if I’d failed the course. I was hooked on the author’s ever-changing style and fiction for the rest of the joyous time he was still with us. For a grouch from Indiana, he was a pretty cool guy. So it goes.

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