Christopher Moore - The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove
Reading a Christopher Moore novel is a little like eating a potato chip--it's hard to stop at just one. And you don't have to look beyond the titles to understand the allure; who could pass up a book called Practical Demonkeeping or Island of the Sequined Love Nun? Each of Moore's tales skewers a particular literary genre. In Coyote Blue he nailed New Age fascination with Native American religion; in Blood-Sucking Fiends: A Love Story he put a new twist on the classic vampire tale. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove is a companion piece to his first novel, the hilariously twisted horror story Practical Demonkeeping, and readers of that book will recognize the setting, Pine Cove, California. In addition, Moore includes plenty of his patented weird sex, occasional gross-out death, several off-kilter but nonetheless affecting love stories, and some fabulous secondary characters.
In a nutshell, the plot revolves around a gigantic prehistoric lizard whose slumber deep beneath the ocean surface is interrupted by a radioactive leak from a nearby power plant. At the same time, a woman in Pine Cove hangs herself; the local psychiatrist (who has been prescribing antidepressants to everyone in town with gay abandon) decides the suicide was her fault and yanks everyone's medication; and an elderly black blues singer named Catfish Jefferson arrives to perform at the Head of the Slug saloon. Into this already strange brew mix one schizoid former B-movie starlet, a pot-head town constable, a bereaved local artist, a biologist tracking anomalous behavior in rats, a crooked sheriff, and a pharmacist with a bizarre sexual fixation on sea mammals, and you have a recipe for the kind of madness Moore does so well
Christopher Moore - Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story
Here's something different: a vampire novel that's light, funny, and not at all hackneyed. Between scenes of punks bowling frozen turkeys on the graveyard shift in a supermarket, or snapping turtles loose in a loft and gnawing on designer shoes, this novel has comic charm to spare. But it also packs an appealingly downbeat message about the consumer culture. Jody never asked to become a vampire. But when she wakes up under an alley dumpster with a badly burned arm, an aching neck, superhuman strength, and a distinctly Nosferatuan thirst, she realizes the decision has been made for her. Making the transition from the nine-to-five grind to an eternity of nocturnal prowlings is going to take some doing, however, and that's where C. Thomas Flood fits in. A would-be Kerouac from Incontinence, lndiana, Tommy (to his fiends) is biding his time night-clerking and frozen turkey bowling in a San Francisco Safeway. But all that changes when a beautiful, undead redhead walks through the door ... and proceeds to rock Tommy's life -- and afterlife -- in ways he never imagined possible
Vernor Vinge - A fire upon the deep
In this Hugo-winning 1991 SF novel, Vernor Vinge gives us a wild new cosmology, a galaxy-spanning "Net of a Million Lies," some finely imagined aliens, and much nail-biting suspense. Faster-than-light travel remains impossible near Earth, deep in the galaxy's Slow Zone--but physical laws relax in the surrounding Beyond. Outside that again is the Transcend, full of unguessable, godlike "Powers." When human meddling wakes an old Power, the Blight, this spreads like a wildfire mind virus that turns whole civilizations into its unthinking tools. And the half-mythical Countermeasure, if it exists, is lost with two human children on primitive Tines World.
Serious complications follow. One paranoid alien alliance blames humanity for the Blight and launches a genocidal strike. Pham Nuwen, the man who knows about Countermeasure, escapes this ruin in the spacecraft Out of Band--heading for more violence and treachery, with 500 warships soon in hot pursuit. On his destination world, the fascinating Tines are intelligent only in combination: named "individuals" are small packs of the doglike aliens. Primitive doesn't mean stupid, and opposed Tine leaders wheedle the young castaways for information about guns and radios. Low-tech war looms, with elaborately nested betrayals and schemes to seize Out of Band if it ever arrives. The tension becomes extreme... while half the Beyond debates the issues on galactic Usenet.
Vinge's climax is suitably mindboggling. This epic combines the flash and dazzle of old-style space opera with modern, polished thoughtfulness. Pham Nuwen also appears in the nifty prequel set 30,000 years earlier, A Deepness in the Sky. Both novels are highly recommended, as this is some of the most original material I've read in years.
Richard Morgan - Altered carbon
In the 25th century, it's difficult to die a final death. Humans are issued a cortical stack, implanted into their bodies, into which consciousness is "digitized" and from which-unless the stack is hopelessly damaged-their consciousness can be downloaded ("resleeved") with its memory intact, into a new body. While the Vatican is trying to make resleeving (at least of Catholics) illegal, centuries-old aristocrat Laurens Bancroft brings Takeshi Kovacs (an Envoy, a specially trained soldier used to being resleeved and trained to soak up clues from new environments) to Earth, where Kovacs is resleeved into a cop's body to investigate Bancroft's first mysterious, stack-damaging death. To solve the case, Kovacs must destroy his former Envoy enemies; outwit Bancroft's seductive, wily wife; dabble in United Nations politics; trust an AI that projects itself in the form of Jimi Hendrix; and deal with his growing physical and emotional attachment to Kristin Ortega, the police lieutenant who used to love the body he's been given. Kovacs rockets from the seediest hellholes on Earth, through virtual reality torture, into several gory firefights, and on to some exotic sexual escapades. Morgan's 25th-century Earth is convincing, while the questions he poses about how much Self is tied to body chemistry and how the rich believe themselves above the law are especially timely.