Week of August 19 Pull List: A Classic and Some Crazy

Anyone with a fondness for books knows how quickly a To Be Read pile can get out of control.  It seems the more I read, the more books end up on that pile.  These are the books that hit my radar and got added to that list over the past week.

I’m not entirely sure where this week went.  One moment I was grumbling as I got out of bed on Monday and the next I’m walking into my house Friday afternoon wondering what on my to-do list will get done this weekend (probably very little of it besides laundry… we’re running out of clothes).  Between seeing Fright Night, having dinner with family and my general blah-ness this week, I didn’t spend a lot of superfluous time on the Interwebs.  So not surprisingly this week was a bit light on discovering already released books that I’ve never heard before.

 

The Family Fang: A Novel by Kevin Wilson
Ecco (8/1/11)

Purchase it from Amazon here

Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art.

Their children called it mischief.

Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as long as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.

When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance–their magnum opus–whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.

Filled with Kevin Wilson’s endless creativity, vibrant prose, sharp humor, and keen sense of the complex performances that unfold in the relationships of people who love one another, The Family Fang is a masterfully executed tale that is as bizarre as it is touching.

I’d seen banner ads for this book for a few weeks now, but didn’t really “get” it until I read an actual review earlier this week.  I’m intrigued by the bizarre family dynamic and the resulting chaos of being raised in such an odd environment.  I think this is the closest to “real fiction” I’m willing to get these days – with a nice buffer of off-beat characters and with a nice helping of the bizarre added in.

 

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner
Orb Books (rereleased on 8/2/11, originally published in 1968)

Purchase it from Amazon here

Norman Niblock House is a rising executive at General Technics, one of a few all-powerful corporations. His work is leading General Technics to the forefront of global domination, both in the marketplace and politically---it's about to take over a country in Africa.  Donald Hogan is his roommate, a seemingly sheepish bookworm. But Hogan is a spy, and he's about to discover a breakthrough in genetic engineering that will change the world...and kill him.   These two men's lives weave through one of science fiction's most praised novels. Written in a way that echoes John Dos Passos' U.S.A. Trilogy, Stand on Zanzibar is a cross-section of a world overpopulated by the billions.  Where society is squeezed into hive-living madness by god-like mega computers, mass-marketed psychedelic drugs, and mundane uses of genetic engineering.  Though written in 1968, it speaks of 2010, and is frighteningly prescient and intensely powerful. 

I don’t often read older science fiction, not because I dislike it but because there’s so much new stuff I want to read.  Despite that, I’m really surprised I hadn’t heard of this book before because I do read a lot of articles regarding science fiction’s history.  Despite being written in the 1960s, it sounds like it eerily predicted some aspects of the current state of the United States and culture in general.  I’m always fascinated at what the imagination can come up with, especially when I see the reality all around me as a comparison.  This sounds like a worthy read to seek out and spend some time with instead of the latest zombie book.

 

All book blurbs pulled from the wonderful Goodreads.com