The Books of Summer

book, House of Leaves, Danielewski

House of Leaves page (photo: Vicki Weisfeld)

The May Wired’s guide to summer fiction leads with two 880-page doorstops: one from my fave Neal Stephenson titled Seveneves (I’ve pre-ordered!), and the other from Mark Z. Danielewski. Danielewski’s is The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May, with a planned 26 more volumes to come, BTW. If Danielewski’s name is unfamiliar, you may recognize the title of his last convention-shattering tour de force, House of Leaves (my review). He may have done it again, suggests Jonathan Russell Clark in his Literary Hub article, “Did Mark Z. Danielewski Just Reinvent the Novel?”

Also out in May is Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife, a thriller set in the near future when the water supplying Las Vegas and Phoenix runs out. “It’s just as apocalyptic as his first book (The Windup Girl, which won both Hugo and Nebula awards, among many others), more political, and though it didn’t seem possible, angrier,” says Wired reviewer Adam Rogers. “These days are coming,” thriller writer Lee Child says about the book, “and as always fiction explains them better than fact.” Bacigalupi views his books as thought experiments—by seeing where the world is headed, people can “make different decisions and vote for different politicians.” In other words, “Let’s not do this.”

In the same Wired issue, Caitlin Roper interviews Hollywood’s Damon Lindelof (Lost) and Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) about their new film, Tomorrowland starring George Clooney, and the omnipresence in entertainment media of a catastrophic future. Lindelof says, “I think one of the real reasons for all these dystopian movies, TV shows, and videogames is that it’s just easier to wreck things than it is to build something new.” Tomorrowland, he says, began with the notion of recapturing the “idea of an optimistic future, which has become completely and totally absent from the landscape.”

That’s certain true in fiction. In an NPR essay, Jason Heller says that ever since Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the dystopian literary trend has been unstoppable, if only because “the world feels more precariously perched on the lip of the abyss than ever.” Like Bacigalupi, Heller believes that “by imagining what it’s like to lose everything, we can value what we have.”

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