As a writer of dystopian novels, I have always been interested in narratives that challenge the reader. Why? Because I firmly believe that if literature is, as they say, "a window on the world," then mind-bending texts create their own windows, and hence allow the readers to free themselves from all sorts of conventions. What's more, many of my novels deal with a drug, "Synth," that allows the users to change their surroundings at will. So I do write some “mind-bending” stuff myself, with precisely the purpose I mentioned above. To challenge yourself through fiction is to challenge a reality you have not chosen to live in. It is not only an act of defiance, but also, very often, an act of courage.
The Song of Synth
What is my book about?
I have chosen The Song Of Synth because it is, in my eyes, the best introduction to my speculative fiction universe, also known as “the City-States Cycle.” Taking place in the imaginary metropolis Viborg City, it focuses on Marcus, an ex-hacker trapped into working for the government. Addicted to a drug called “Synth,” he comes across some information that will make him face his past and turn him into a fugitive. Dealing with issues such as control technologies, mental manipulations, the political implication of drugs, and the question of identity, I feel that The Song Of Synth is a book that could appeal to a lot of readers who are sensitive to contemporary issues.
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Why this book?
The Bridge is a terrific and terrifying novella about womanhood, the patriarchate, technology, identity, and, ultimately, freedom. Its theme appeals to me as I have always been an ally of the women’s cause and JS Breukelaar does a great job describing a disturbing future if we are not more careful and respectful. What’s more, it is a great story, which embarks the reader in a dark and fascinating labyrinth. Both nightmarish and poetic, with references to ancient mythologies,The Bridge offers a unique reading experience. Although it’s very different stylistically from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I nonetheless consider it to be a top-class feminist speculative fiction classic.
Beyond the Great, Bloody, Bruised, and Silent Veil of This World
Why this book?
Jordan Krall is, in my opinion, one of the greatest speculative fiction writers alive today. This novella takes simultaneously place in two different locations: on a spaceship on its way to Mars and in a unnamed city, both with a main character that may or may not be the same. Easy to read, but difficult to understand, Beyond is both a pleasure and a riddle, challenging the reader in the most satisfying way. Dealing with the questions of identity, metaphysical anguish, and conspiracy theories, it radically breaks apart the world as we know it.
InI Dream Of Mirrors, Scottish writer Chris Kelso describes a nightmarish virtual world in which a self-proclaimed prophet who turns his followers into obedient programs by erasing their memories. The two main protagonists, a nameless narrator, and his unreliable partner Kad, are rebels who want to find out the truth. I absolutely love this book, as it challenges our vision of technological progress and what we assume is our identity. Remarkably well written and with a fantastic pace, it is, in my eyes, a true underground classic, on par with William Gibson’s world-famous Neuromancer.
In Claiming T-Mo, Australian-African writer Eugen Bacon re-invents and shatters all the familiar codes of the magical sci-fi genre. A novel about women, magic, fate, and freedom, Claiming T-Mo is also a deep reflection on motherhood, love, masculinity, and identities. As the different female narrators share their views and feelings about T-Mo, the elusive central character, more questions about filiation and heritage unroll, making the reader a part of the quest. I love Eugen Bacon because she is an incredibly versatile talent, who turns everything she writes about into pure gold.
If, like me, you love labyrinthian books that actually lead you somewhere, then Brazilian writer Fabio Fernandes’s short story collection,Love. An Archeology, is for you. Using meta with meta on top, these loosely related stories will take you on a wild ride with androgynous characters, mysterious places, and poetic situations. As you have probably figured it by now, I love to be challenged by books and this one is one of the most rewarding reads I have experienced. Highly recommended for lovers of high-brow speculative fiction who hate when genre is taken too seriously.
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Professor Paglia’s books are a tad academic for most people’s taste, but I find it important to feature her here. In this book, she stirs up important questions around gender and sex. It seems that we are steadily moving towards a growing acceptance of diversity to the point in which androgyny is even becoming a desirable trait. Being genderfluid myself, I’ve sometimes asked myself these questions daily. In order to have more spiritual sex, it’s important that we accept and acknowledge our desires, and I’m all for supporting the full expression of feminine and masculine in both women and men. On top of this, Paglia is a real provocateur, which I like and can relate to. Truly one of the bright minds of our time.
You’d think the subtitle says it all, but nope. Chocano loved reading bedtime stories to her daughter, but when even Alice and Wonderland proved problematic, she peered through the looking glass to see why. She explores the challenges of raising a female in a world of Disney Princesses, Playboy bunnies, and popular TV shows and movies. She even takes aim at the female manifesto, Eat Pray Love, bless her heart. I met Chocano at a reading of this book when I was nervously submitting A Boob’s Life to publishers. I was thrilled to find overlap with such a kindred spirit. You’ll find Chocana’s byline in major magazines featuring celebrity interviews, but without the snark. Personally, I love the snark - it makes the facts more fun.
Like many people, I was really impressed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk on the problem of a single story. So when I saw that she’d written a short chapbook of feminist advice for a friend who’d recently become a mother to a baby girl, I had to get my hands on a copy. My own daughter was still a preschooler when it came out, so I figured I had just enough time to make good on the fifteen pieces of advice she offers. Witty, wise, and supremely accessible, this is a book for mothers and daughters equally – as well as anyone with an interest in building a more just and equitable world for all.