Warren Ellis has a dark view of the future, and he wants to give you the inside scoop. In his newest book Normal, the prolific author of dozens of graphic novels shares his creepy and worryingly plausible view of the future of surveillance and technology in the world.
The book begins at Normal Head, an isolated facility in the Pacific Northwest. Normal is where futurists, people whose job it is to look forward and prepare for catastrophes, go to recover when the pressures of their jobs drive them to depression, exhaustion and madness. The protagonist is a newly arrived patient who investigates a strange disappearance of another patient at the facility.
While not being an uplifting tale, the book does present an interesting take on where the future of technology may head. Normal is almost more an education on problems humanity may face in the future than a story. It stares unblinkingly at a future that the reader may feel is implausible, but can’t entirely dismiss as impossible. Though it sounds grim, the book is full of memorable and funny — if bizarre — characters, each defined by their quirks and their fears.
Overall the book is a great read, especially for fans of speculative, near-future sci-fi. Not truly dystopian, it shows how we got from present day to a world destroyed. Normal is weird and quirky and dark but ultimately delightful.
Readers who enjoyed this are also likely to enjoy some of Ellis’ other works, such as Trees, a graphic novel set in a near future where our world has been irrevocably changed by massive technological columns (the titular Trees) from space. They might also enjoy Transmetropolitan, another graphic novel by Ellis that is set in the full on dystopian future, though that series is a good deal more crude and adult than this book. For something a little more hopeful, though no less dark, readers could also try Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. This book, also set in the near future, discusses the dangers of government surveillance through the eyes of a teenager living in San Francisco in the wake of a terrorist attack.
In Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers, the first mission to Mars is approaching. Helen, Yoshi and Sergei are a team of astronauts that want to be chosen for the mission. But first, the team must be successful in a 17–month-long simulation on Earth — proving they are the right team that is prepared for any challenges. Though the astronauts believe they are on Earth in an eerily realistic simulation, they begin to question if everything is real or not.
Howrey thoroughly explores the relationships of the astronauts to the people in their lives and to each other. Helen, Yoshi and Sergei demonstrate how the life choice of being an astronaut affects themselves and those around them. Helen feels that she may not have been and continues not to be the mother her daughter, Mireille, needed her to be. Dmitri, Sergei’s son, hides how he truly feels and behaves from his father. Yoshi’s wife, Madoka, believes her husband doesn’t know who she really is and that it would destroy their marriage.
Though this story seems very much like one about the first mission to Mars, it really isn’t at all. This is a story about humanity. It’s about the way the astronauts and the people in their lives are affected by the demanding and adventurous life of an astronaut. It’s about the urge to travel into space and what it is really like once you have been in space. Howrey’s beautiful language and view into the personal thoughts of this group of people make The Wanderers an intriguing and charming read.
If you’re looking for a suspenseful murder mystery full of unexpected twists and turns, check out Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia. An enthralling new novel that cleverly uses the narratives of the victim, the main suspect and the sheriff investigating the crime to reveal whodunit and why, while also exploring how a murder has effected a small, close-knit community.
Hattie Hoffman, an 18-year-old on the verge of graduating high school in the sleepy town of Pine Valley, Minnesota, has been found dead in an abandoned barn. Hattie, an aspiring actress, had plans to leave for New York City after graduating, and to everyone who knew her, she was the perfect daughter, a model student and a loving girlfriend to her football player boyfriend Tommy.
Unsurprisingly, the crime sends shock waves through the community made up of mostly farmers, where the worst crimes to take place are traffic offenses. Sherriff Del Goodman, a friend of Hattie’s family, is tasked with finding out what happened the night Hattie died, and his investigation into the last few months of her life uncovers secrets that have him questioning whether anyone actually knew the real Hattie.
Everything You Want Me to Be is an intricately plotted thriller that gradually unravels the mystery through the three connected narratives. And just when you think you have figured everything out, Mejia throws in a twist to let you know things are not always as they seem, and that innocence and deception sometimes go hand in hand.
Her Every Fear, Peter Swanson’s latest suspense thriller, is just what its title suggests. This novel knows exactly what you’re afraid of — and it’ll get you when you’re least expecting it.
Kate Priddy is more familiar with danger than she cares to admit. She is the survivor of an abusive, suicidal ex-boyfriend and she has crippling anxiety. In her mind, any situation can be life-threatening, and any person can be a killer. That is why everyone (especially Kate) is surprised when she agrees to apartment-swap with her American cousin, Corbin, for six months. This is the fresh start she’s been looking for.
When Kate arrives at Corbin’s luxurious Boston apartment complex, however, something is already wrong. Her next-door neighbor is missing, and Kate knows even before the body is found that the woman is dead.
Now, with a murder investigation underway and her cousin as the prime suspect, Kate has no idea who she can trust. She tells herself that she’s safe because Corbin is halfway across the world and that the noises she hears around the apartment are just her mind playing tricks on her.
Swanson uses multiple perspectives to control the information he gives his audience and build the suspense to almost unbearable levels. Her Every Fear will have you glancing over your shoulder and thinking twice about turning off the lights.
Stephenie Meyer, author of The Host and the world-renowned Twilight series, is back with a new, thrilling tale of espionage and love in The Chemist, her second adult novel.
Juliana Fortis is dead; at least, that’s what she wants the people searching for her to think. She spends her days making wide circles around her routines to throw off trackers, and she spends her nights sleeping in a gas mask just in case an intruder sets off one of her booby traps. She plans for any and every outcome of a given situation: that is the only way to keep breathing when you’re being hunted.
What Juliana (or Alex, for now) doesn’t plan for, however, is the email from her governmental ex-employer that changes everything. Her old boss, the very man that wants her dead, offers Alex a deal: if she will use her very special skill set one more time to help prevent a worldwide catastrophe, the agency will stop looking for her.
Alex tentatively embarks on her new assignment, but learns quickly that not everything is what it seems. In the midst of the most dangerous mission of her life, she finds herself falling for the man she is supposed to stop, and no amount of planning could have prepared her for the events that follow.
Meyer has come through once again with a story so captivating that you won’t want to put it down. Lovers of espionage and romance alike will tear through the pages of The Chemist.