Monday, July 30, 2012

Bend Your Mind

Are you a fan of movies like Inception or Memento, with shocking revelations and plot twists that make you go whoa, what's going on? (In a good way!) Well, then, I have some books you'll love to be confused by!

The Mirage is the new novel by Matt Ruff, author of the hilarious plot rollercoaster Bad Monkeys. It opens with a Homeland Security agent investigating terrorist attacks by religious fundamentalists from an impoverished third-world country. The twist: this agent works for the United Arab States, the dominant world power, and the terrorists come from the backwards, Balkanized region of...America. So that's how this book starts, and it'll just keep twisting your brain into knots as you get further into the story! Read on for more head-exploding books and authors...

Now, any post about mind-bending sci-fi needs to give kudos to Philip K. Dick. He did it first, and arguably best. Just look at all the popular movies that have been based on his work: eight and counting! A good place to start would be Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? We have lots of different editions of this classic available here at the library, including as an ebook. If you're a movie fan, you may already be familiar with some of its plot, since Blade Runner was (loosely) based on it. But the book offers so much more bizarreness than the movie, from a video-game-style religion, to learning more about the inner lives of the androids, to delightful discursions into the value of electric sheep vs. other robotic animals, to a different (equally enigmatic) ending. After you've enjoyed that book, some other PKD classics to add to your To-Read list include any of his short story collections, The Man in the High Castle, and A Scanner Darkly.

It's easy to assume that the only books with this effect are classified as science fiction. However, I would like to suggest that Audrey Niffenegger's super-popular 2003 novel, The Time Traveler's Wife, counts, too. Yes, it is a literary love story, but its premise (of a time-traveling man who encounters his wife-to-be on a series of occasions, beginning early in her childhood) carries a lot of mind-boggling questions: how many times has this time-loop repeated? Is it endless? What if Henry didn't tell Clare they would get married? What if... Luckily, we have a Caboodle Book Club Kit of this novel, so if your book club would like to discuss this temporal tangle, your library has you covered! You can also check out my more mystery-oriented list from a couple weeks ago of read-alikes for Gone Girl.

Finally, I'll leave you with an invitation to China Miéville's The City & The City. Its Kafka-esque Eastern European country shares the same space as another country that its residents must all pretend (on pain of jail or death) not to see. Much like The Mirage's Arab Homeland Security narrator, this book's hero works for the police, and gets drawn into a tangled web he is simultaneously trying to evade during his investigation, and also enforce.

If you're itching for another book that'll push your Inception button, here are a few more authors who won't let you down: Jonathan Lethem, Italo Calvino, William Gibson, Jorge Luis BorgesCory Doctorow, John Scalzi, Kurt Vonnegut, and Neil Stephenson. And a few bonus titles: 1Q84 (by bestselling Japanese literary fiction author Haruki Murakami), Ready Player One (extra geek points for checking out the audio book, narrated by none other than Wil Wheaton), and Bones of the Earth (dinosaurs!).

See you down the rabbit hole!

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