Joe M. Staff Picks

Well, I guess this list of recommendations is shaping up to be a lot of science fiction. I much prefer the weirder, wilder sci-fi stories (though I love elegant, understated works, too). I'll only recommend books that I've truly enjoyed AND think others (even non-sci-fi fans) will too.


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Exhalation: Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101947883
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Knopf - May 7th, 2019

This new collection of stories shows yet again why Ted Chiang is a modern Calvino or Borges. While ostensibly scifi tales, they're more sublime than that genre label might imply. As in his previous collection, some of these stories are fun explorations of "what if?" -- but others are almost modern parables that I could easily see being passed down amongst the generations, to warn and to teach. I'm rather surprised there's only one award winning film based on his works, so far.

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R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) Cover Image
By Karel Capek, Claudia Novack-Jones (Translated by), Ivan Klima (Introduction by)
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ISBN: 9780141182087
Availability: Backordered - Please call or email for more details
Published: Penguin Classics - March 30th, 2004

Before reading this, I had known for a long time that this Czech play was the source of the word "robot". I also knew that it's referenced in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse TV show, but that's about all I knew. Now that I've read it, though, I notice it's influence all over the place, at least in the world of science fiction! And while the gender dynamics and portrayals are rather symptomatic of this play's 1920 origin, the "science" and the plot are surprisingly modern (or perhaps: timeless?). The story explores humanity and inhumanity (both biologically and philosophically) in ways that are instantly recognizable. I think this should be required reading for all sci-fi fans.

-- Joe

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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316246620
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Orbit - October 1st, 2013

When a giant spaceship's artificial intelligence also controls its reanimated soldiers, the concept of 'self' can cover an individual, a group of individuals, a ship, and all of the above. This is one of the ideas expertly explored in this story, as we follow the last remaining "part" of one of these ancient, nearly-invincible ships as it unravels the mysteries surrounding its demise and fulfills its final mission.

-- Joe

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Dark Eden: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780804138680
Availability: Not in Stock - Available for special order
Published: Broadway Books - April 1st, 2014

Have you ever wondered how a small group of humans might fare on a sunless planet that's still full of flora and fauna? Have you ever considered what it would take to populate a new world? Have you ever wondered how culture and language would evolve and devolve under such circumstances? I'm not sure that all of these have crossed my mind before, but I'm glad they're explored in this fun novel.

-- Joe

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The City & The City: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780345497529
Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory.
Published: Del Rey - April 27th, 2010

In the simplest terms, this is a noir-detective story... But the unique symbiosis of two separate cities (in two separate countries) that happen to occupy the same physical space adds a complexity (both practical and allegorical) that the hard-boiled gumshoes of yore could never manage.

-- Joe