One of my most vivid memories from childhood– I’m sitting beneath a banyan tree outside Kailua Library, my cheek bulged around a wad of black licorice, a can of RC Cola sweating in my hand. I’ve just checked out Ray Bradybury’s collection, The Illustrated Man, and I’m reading a short story called “The Veldt”– a breeze rustles the leaves above me and scraps of light flick across the pages and my eyes ache from the oscillation of glare-shadow-glare but I don’t stop reading, eager for that weird hollowness in my chest, part relief and part melancholy, that always comes when a good story comes to its end.
Nowadays I tend to favor Otter Pops and Diet Coke but summer is still the best time to get lost in strange places with strange people, literarily if not literally, and NPR has a fun list of books for those who “seek out fare that delivers dangerous thrills and uncanny chills without forcing you to endure still another scene in which the heroine’s getting a paper cut passes for narrative tension”. China Mieville’s latest book, Kraken, is on my iPad right now– if you haven’t read Mieville’s work, you’re missing out on one of the most exciting writers at work today (get Perdido Street Station or The Scar to see what I mean). Neil Gaiman’s anthology also looks excellent, the variety of writers he’s rounded up quite intriguing.
The books below have got you covered. They feature gods, monsters, aliens, mutants, pulsating brains, sword-canes, dirigibles and derring-do. They’re enlivened, every one, by wit and wordplay, not more pale, bloodless introspection. Which is to say: They’re fun.