I don’t remember how I came to buy Exhalation by Ted Chiang. It was likely the result of a late night, gin fuelled dive through the depths of some obscure subreddit which led me to pre-order a novel I’d never heard of by an author about whom I knew nothing. However it happened, last week a copy of Ted Chiang’s latest novel dropped onto my door mat and I managed, with relative success, to convience my wife that in fact Ted Chiang is one of my favourite writers. I had no clue who he was.
It’s an Absolute Truth that Dune, Frank Herbert’s 1969 classic novel, is the greatest work of science-fiction ever put to paper. The sci-fi equivalent of Lord of the Rings, Dune is a without competition, a fully realised world of ecology, history, and human societies that interact and devour one another. Dune is the finest the genre has to offer, of that there is no doubt or argument.
Oryx and Crake tells the story of Snowman, a strange, bedraggled loner who lives outside of what remains of human society as he struggles to stave off hunger and survive. To say much more would be to spoil the story, but Oryx and Crake is one of the most intelligent, clearly defined works of dystopian — or is it utopian? — science-fiction I’ve ever read. Atwood clearly understands not only the science of genetics in some depth, but also the worrying implications for the development of the human race.
I’m reading a lot of Philip K. Dick at the moment — so far A Scanner Darkly made me a real fan; Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said made me a devotee; and Ubik…well…it’s just amazing.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of Lale Sokolov, a 24-year-old Jewish Slovakian, who arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1949. After working his way through a series of roles in the camp, he is assigned the role of Tattooist. His task: scratching identification numbers into the arms of his fellow victims.