Unreal Fiction

Word count: 304                                                                                                          Reading time: 2 mins

Some books aren’t meant to depict reality. Yet the characters that populate fantasy, sci fi or futuristic worlds are often compelling to the point where everyday dramas pale in comparison.

In Cory Doctorow’s book Little Brother Marcus Yarrow is swept up in a Department of Homeland Security dragnet and taken to Treasure Island for interrogation. When teenaged Marcus is released from prison he discovers that in a mania of paranoia and electronic surveillance every citizen is now a terrorism suspect. His dangerous response to this threat propels the reader on a heart-racing chase through the streets of San Francisco. At every point of the way the characters are three-dimensional and completely persuasive.   

I burned through book two (Catching Fire) of the Hunger Games trilogy in three days. What a buzz! Reading it was like white water rafting, one breathless turn after another. Suzanne Collins’s alternate world feels allegorical even if it wasn’t intended that way. The Capitol of Panem has ruthlessly destroyed the middle class and now uses its hapless citizens as fodder to be violently murdered for mass entertainment. Is there a parallel universe where capital markets destroy jobs, ruin futures, and threaten to further erode the shrinking middle class? Both worlds – Panem and ours – have ruling classes that show little mercy to those unlucky enough not to shelter behind their golden gates. 

The next book in my stack is Tender Morsels by Australian writer Margo Lanagan. I have her collection of short stores Black Juice and I know the different worlds she creates and the riveting characters she delivers. Tender Morsels is a YA fantasy. I will start reading it tonight. It’s likely to give me nightmares though, because she is that convincing.

What books have haunted you? What images linger years after you've closed the covers?