Recommended Reading

Below you'll find a list of some of my favorite books by some of my favorite authors. I've listed the least popular authors first because I think they should be more widely read.

The Physiognomy by Jeffrey Ford

"Offering a freshly-imagined world of bizarre creatures and strange customs, this unique and sardonic allegory explores the power and price of science and the ambiguity of morality. Humorless and drug addicted, physiognomist Cley is ordered by the Master of the Well-Built City to investigate a theft in a remote mining town. Well-versed in serving justice, arrogant Cley sets out to determine the identity of the thief using the pseudo-science of judging people by their features, but becomes distracted from his task by a beautiful girl from town. When the young-but-wise woman rejects him, he looses faith in his abilities, and in a drug-induced frenzy he “remakes” her features. The subsequent horror of what he has done, what he represents, and the shallow life he leads forces him to seek atonement and true justice, risking the Master’s wrath, which may entail death by head explosion."

-from book description

The Fantasy Writer's Assistant by Jeffrey Ford

"At times literary, at other times surreal, this collection offers a diverse range of stories that deal with real-life conflicts, human values, and coming-of-age experiences, all placed within fantastical settings. An author’s search for an elusive Kafka story leads to a potentially cursed book in “Bright Morning,” while in the award-winning “Exo-Skeleton Town,” humans dress in protective exoskins conveying the personas of bygone Hollywood movie stars in order to barter old Earth movies for an alien aphrodisiac. A young boy comes to term with “Creation” when he molds a man out of the detritus of a nearby forest, and in the title story, a great fantasy writer loses touch with the world he has created and pleads with his young assistant to help him visualize the story’s end and enable him to complete his greatest novel ever. An eclectic offering, these witty and modern fables blend mundane surroundings with eerie situations."

-from book description

The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford

"Mixing the mundane with the metaphysical, the pairings of the everyday and the extraordinary in this collection of short fiction yield supernatural results—a young musician perceives another world while drinking coffee; a fairy chronicles his busy life in a sandcastle during the changing tide; a demonic 16th-century chess set shows up in a New Jersey bar; and Charon, the boatman of hell, takes a few days of vacation. Storylines both conventional and outlandish reveal humdrum routines as menacing and imaginary worlds as perfectly familiar. Allusions to authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne reinforce the fantasy tradition in these tales, while understated humor and moments of sadness add a quirky unpredictability. Each story is followed by a brief afterword that details its genesis, offering insight into the many autobiographical elements found within."

-from book description

Last Days by Brian Evenson

Very dark, very funny. Although, I wish some of the history and inner workings of the cult were more deeply explored.

I've recommended this book to anyone who will listen over the last five years or so. Everyone who listened was not disappointed.

The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce

"An unlikely sprite assumes a sinister incarnation in this exceptional supernatural novel about a troublesome but endearing trio of boys coming of age in the English Midlands in the 1960s. Seven-year-old Sam first lays eyes on the Tooth Fairy 'oddly dressed and smelling of horse's sweat and chamomile' in the middle of the night after he has stashed a tooth under his pillow. Over the years, the fairy becomes a fixture in his life. No one else can see or hear this odd creature, who is sometimes male, sometimes female and alternately coy, cruel and cuddly. Even without this personal demon, Sam would get into plenty of trouble with his chums: Clive, a "gifted child" who wins a NASA (yes, the American NASA) science contest at age six but longs to be normal; Terry, an affable lad whose life is plagued by catastrophe; and Alice, the fetching, knowing girl who drives the boys wild with lust. Joyce (Requiem) engagingly describes the boys' childhood experiences?sampling drugs, toying with explosives, worrying over acne?and carefully portrays their childlike stoicism in the face of several horrifying tragedies. Sam worries that the Tooth Fairy, who grows menacing and sexually demanding, is responsible for those calamities. The novel's appeal lies primarily in the three boys, who are charmingly mischievous, naive and hormone-driven, portrayed by Joyce with a gentle wit. No less compelling, though, is the fairy, a fleur de mal from childhood's secret garden whose perfume seduces Sam and the reader alike into a fertile, startling nightmare. (Mar.) FYI: The Tooth Fairy has won the 1997 British Fantasy Award for best novel."

-from Publishers Weekly (Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

"In the French Pyrenees, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. An evacuation as sudden and thorough as this leaves Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone. They are trapped by the storm, completely isolated, with another catastrophic avalanche threatening to bury them alive . . . again. And as the couple begin to witness unset­tling events neither one can ignore, they are forced to confront a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit."

-from book description

Two Trains Running by Lucius Shepard

"This collection of fact and fiction was inspired by the time science fiction writer Lucius Shepard spent with Missoula Mike, Madcat, and other members of a controversial brotherhood known as the Freight Train Riders of America. Shepard rode the rails throughout the western half of the United States with the disenfranchised, the homeless, the punks, the gangs, and the joy riders for the magazine article 'The FTRA Story'. That original article is presented here, along with two new hobo novellas, 'Over Yonder' and 'Jailbait'. In 'Over Yonder', alcoholic Billy Long Gone finds himself on an unusual train. As Billy travels his health improves and his thinking clears, and he arrives in Yonder -- an unlikely paradise where a few hundred hobos live in apparent peace and tranquillity. But every paradise has its price, and in Yonder, peace and tranquillity breed complacency and startling deaths. 'Jailbait' is a hardcore tale of deception, lust, revenge, and murder in the seedy underbelly of rail yards and train hopping. Madcat, who functions best in a whiskey-induced haze, must decide between solitude and companionship when he meets up with Grace, an underaged runaway. Grace, in turn, seeks the security of an older man and the life about which only young girls can dream."

-from book description

Trujillo by Lucius Shepard

"Heat-the steamy oppression of Honduras's Mosquito Coast and the turgid psychological condition of this novel's two leading characters-dominates Shepard's macabre excursion into the paranormal (after Colonel Rutherford's Colt). Having survived eighteen days adrift in the Caribbean, even after the suspicious disappearance of his two Nicaraguan companions, wealthy young American Thomas Stearns is treated for amnesia by semi-retired Honduran psychiatrist Dr. Arturo Ochoa. Sinister flotsam surfaces from Stearns's unconscious as he half-remembers a primitive statue rising out of a maelstrom, a Mesoamerican artifact supposedly buried at Trujillo by Columbus's men and containing an ancient demon. The statue's symbolism posits an interrelation between death and sexuality that gradually obsesses Ochoa until the physician/patient roles reverse, a process catalyzed by the strangely gifted young native woman Stearns marries. Though Shepard's extended scenes of sexual predation and sadism may be excessive, his evocation of sultry tropical dangers and spiritual possession is powerful, like a suffocating nightmare when the air conditioning-or conventional morality-has broken down."

-from Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)

The Ecstatic by Victor LaValle

"Something is wrong with Anthony—our 318-pound hero—and it’s getting worse. A monster has caught his uncle and his mother; now it wants Anthony. Mental illness has been transmitted through his family’s blood. The three women in his life—his mother, younger sister, and grandmother—find him naked and disoriented in his off-campus college apartment and take him home to Queens, each determined to fix him in her own peculiar way. But his presence soon turns their house into a semisuburban asylum."

-from book description

Zeppelins West by Joe R. Lansdale

"The Wild West Show travels by Zeppelin to perform before a Shogun, soon to be emperor of Japan, only to discover the Frankenstein monster is being whittled down slowly and ground into aphrodisiacs by the would-be ruler. Buffalo Bill, who, due to a recent accident, exists only as a battery powered head in a jar of liquid manufactured from the best that modern science and pig urine has to offer, along with Wild Bill Hickok, Annie Oakley, Sitting Bull, and a cast of historical as well as literary characters, rescue the monster, only to be shot down over the Pacific, where they are saved from sharks by Captain Nemo and his intellectual seal, Ned. And then things get weird."

-from book description

Flaming London by Joe R. Lansdale

"Against the backdrop of a Martian invasion à la The War of the Worlds, Lansdale's ripsnorting sequel to Zeppelins West (2001) chronicles the fantastic adventures of two elderly authors, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and Jules Verne. Other members of the madcap cast include a young H.G. Wells, Sitting Bull, a Martian ape, a steam-powered robot and an intelligent seal (and future dime novelist), whose diary and journal entries form the bulk of the narrative. All must deal with the havoc caused by Wells's dang time traveler, the hero of The Time Machine, who has opened multiplying cracks in the time continuum. Seasoned with earthy, down-home humor, Lansdale's homage to Twain, Verne and Wells is sci-fi fun at its boisterous, silly best. Timothy Truman's delightful cover art and interior illustrations perfectly complement the text. (Dec.)"

-from Publishers Weekly (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.)

The Scar by China Miéville

"Aboard a vast seafaring vessel, a band of prisoners and slaves, their bodies remade into grotesque biological oddities, is being transported to the fledgling colony of New Crobuzon. But the journey is not theirs alone. They are joined by a handful of travelers, each with a reason for fleeing the city. Among them is Bellis Coldwine, a renowned linguist whose services as an interpreter grant her passage—and escape from horrific punishment. For she is linked to Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, the brilliant renegade scientist who has unwittingly unleashed a nightmare upon New Crobuzon.

For Bellis, the plan is clear: live among the new frontiersmen of the colony until it is safe to return home. But when the ship is besieged by pirates on the Swollen Ocean, the senior officers are summarily executed. The surviving passengers are brought to Armada, a city constructed from the hulls of pirated ships, a floating, landless mass ruled by the bizarre duality called the Lovers. On Armada, everyone is given work, and even Remades live as equals to humans, Cactae, and Cray. Yet no one may ever leave.

Lonely and embittered in her captivity, Bellis knows that to show dissent is a death sentence. Instead, she must furtively seek information about Armada’s agenda. The answer lies in the dark, amorphous shapes that float undetected miles below the waters—terrifying entities with a singular, chilling mission."

-from book description

The City & The City by China Miéville

"When a murdered woman is found in the city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks to be a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. To investigate, Borlú must travel from the decaying Beszel to its equal, rival, and intimate neighbor, the vibrant city of Ul Qoma. But this is a border crossing like no other, a journey as psychic as it is physical, a seeing of the unseen. With Ul Qoman detective Qussim Dhatt, Borlú is enmeshed in a sordid underworld of nationalists intent on destroying their neighboring city, and unificationists who dream of dissolving the two into one. As the detectives uncover the dead woman’s secrets, they begin to suspect a truth that could cost them more than their lives. What stands against them are murderous powers in Beszel and in Ul Qoma: and, most terrifying of all, that which lies between these two cities."

-from book description

Imajica by Clive Barker

"Imajica is an epic beyond compare: vast in conception, obsessively detailed in execution, and apocalyptic in its resolution. At its heart lies the sensualist and master art forger, Gentle, whose life unravels when he encounters Judith Odell, whose power to influence the destinies of men is vaster than she knows, and Pie 'oh' pah, an alien assassin who comes from a hidden dimension.

That dimension is one of five in the great system called Imajica. They are worlds that are utterly unlike our own, but are ruled, peopled, and haunted by species whose lives are intricately connected with ours. As Gentle, Judith, and Pie 'oh' pah travel the Imajica, they uncover a trail of crimes and intimate betrayals, leading them to a revelation so startling that it changes reality forever."

-from book description

Galilee by Clive Barker

"Rich and powerful, the Geary dynasty has reigned over American society for decades. But it is a family with dark, terrible secrets. For the Gearys are a family at war. Their adversaries are the Barbarossas, a clan whose timeless origins lie in myth, whose mystical influence is felt in intense, sensual exchanges of flesh and soul. Now their battle is about to escalate.

When Galilee, prodigal prince of the Barbarossa clan, meets Rachel, the young bride of the Gearys' own scion Mitchell, they fall in love, consumed by a passion that unleashes long-simmering hatred. Old insanities arise, old adulteries are uncovered, and a seemingly invincible family will begin to wither, exposing its unholy roots. . . ."

-from book description

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