Marie’s Reading: “All Our Wrong Todays” by Elan Mastai

274050062016 wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Tom knows.  He’s from the way the future is supposed to be: a techno-utopia free of want and war, where all material needs are provided for and the only industry left is entertainment.  However, his life kind of stinks.  His mother is dead and his father is a jerk, and Tom himself is a hopeless schmuck.  It’s down to his really, really stupid decision to go back to the past that history changed, the technology never materialized, and the world is what we’re used to.

And wouldn’t you know: Tom’s life in the wrong 2016 is awesome.  Much better than what he left behind.  Swiftly his dilemma becomes whether his wonderful family and life are worth the countless billions who were erased and the society that never was.

Like the best science fiction, All Our Wrong Todays has plenty of social commentary and ethical questions. But it’s such a refreshing change from dystopian fiction.  Particularly since, in this book, the reality that we know is the dystopia.  We have to kill plants and animals for food.  There’s pollution everywhere and we just keep making more.  Every technology we invent seems to do more harm than good, despite our best efforts.  Tom is shocked when he sees the conditions of our 2016.  Even though his world had problems, they were not on so grand a scale.

Tom is a great narrator, a totally directionless screw-up who seems incapable of changing.  Endlessly self-involved and self-deprecating, Tom’s emotional and personal arc over the course of the story is a rewarding one.  He finds himself cast in the role of hero by the end of the story, commenting on the fact that he suddenly  has a purpose and a duty.  Besides, he’s pretty funny, so that helps the narrative along.

I also really appreciated the optimistic ending.  The future (and the present) is what we make it.  It can be whatever we choose.  We should make sure we choose well.

All Our Wrong Todays is funny and smart, action-packed and cinematic.  It’s also a slightly mind-bending romp through alternate realities and the fabric of time and space.

The Martian by Andy Weir would be a great readalike for this, as would Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  If you like the humor and cinematic writing style, you could try The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn.  You could also try The Man In the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell, about a selfish time-traveler who has to solve his own murder.



“Horrorstor” by Grady Hendrix

Just look at this cover.

Just look.


Orsk is a furniture store that feels like a prison to many of its employees.  It’s the sort of retail hell that’s designed to never let you leave.  As the story opens we learn that merchandise is being damaged overnight.  There are Orsk company inspectors on the way, so the store manager has to get to the bottom of the mystery quickly.  So the devoted-to-the-company manager puts together a small crew to wait overnight so that they can catch whoever is responsible for messing with the inventory.

Unfortunately, weird things begin to happen once night falls.  Graffiti appears on the walls that references “the Beehive.”  Stains and mold and scratches appear on normally flawless surfaces.  Then the shadowy figures start to appear.  Turns out the store was built on the swampy remains of a notorious prison.

Horrorstör is clever, fun, and pretty darn creepy–I snorted with laughter even while being scared.  Think Shaun of the Dead style, where the gore is paired with a laugh.  Actually, there are lots of horror movie references and tropes here.   This novel is particularly cinematic in pacing and tone and, because of the catalog framing device, relies a lot on visuals.  So it’s even more like a horror movie than it might be otherwise.

The catalog device is very well done, especially in the chapter-heading ads for furniture (which morph into something altogether different as the story goes on).  The phrasing for the merchandise description is spot-on.  And so is the corporate-speak of the employee manual and the more devoted employees.

Retail, man.  It can trap you.

If you’re a fan of clever creepiness with a quick pace and a nice foreboding ending, give this one a try this month.  Here’s the book trailer:


Marie’s Reading: “Starter House” by Sonja Condit

starterhouseThis is a Saturday Afternoon Movie in prose form.   That’s not a criticism, merely the best way I can think to describe the general vibe of this novel.

It’s got a nice even pace, some creepy imagery, a couple laughs, and a few scenes to tug the heartstrings.  The characters are flawed but not too terribly complex.  There’s also enough suspense and mystery to keep you going through to the end, which boasts a reveal that’s a bit out of the ordinary.  It’s not absorbing, but it is compelling.  The structure is cinematic, going from scene to scene and character to character in a nice linear way.

That’s what I mean by a Saturday Afternoon Movie feel.  I was completely absorbed for a few hours, got my entertainment and my suitable ending, and then it was time to go do something else.  Sometimes, that’s just what you need.Read More »

Marie’s Reading: The Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant

Everyone who follows this blog knows that if a book’s cover art has that distinctive blood-spatter motif, I’ll probably give it a look.

Note the judicious use of drippage on the feed icon.

I’ve been hearing and reading about Mira Grant’s Newsflesh trilogy since the first, Feed, came out.  And due to my generally “meh” opinion on zombies, I didn’t pay all that much attention.  Until last week, when a fellow librarian mentioned how much she’d enjoyed it–specifically mentioning that it’s more about media, news reporting, and conspiracy than it is about zombies.

Just goes to show how much of a difference framing makes when you’re trying to sell a book to someone.  “Walking dead zombie threat oh no!” will leave me cold.  However, “Massive conspiracy and indictment of mainstream media, with two great main characters…also there are some zombies” is a whole different idea.

I tend to enjoy zombie books and movies where the zombies are rather incidental.  Like one recent book I loved, The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell.  That’s a Southern Gothic psychological suspense novel with zombies.  I’m also a big fan of The Zombie Autopsies, which is a medical thriller about investigating zombies.  The Passage by Justin Cronin was also very good, as it was about conspiracies and medicine and zombies (oh, I know in the book they’re called vampires, but please–they’re zombies, for all intents and purposes).

None of the titles I’ve mentioned are horror novels.  Feed and its sequels aren’t horror novels, either.  They’re political thrillers. With mummies.

Oh no, wait.  Zombies.  Political thrillers with zombies.Read More »