On the chopping block today: a recently published time travel mystery and a golden oldie about how shitty humans are and might be if they were to evolove.
Deja Vu by Ian Hocking
I have now read every Unsung Stories publication so far and can tell you with confidence that these people only publish good books. Close your eyes, throw a dart at their catalogue, and you will hit something good. I can’t wait to see what they put out next year.
Deja Vu is the least experimental of Unsung’s offerings (one a novella about strange animate fungus and gender roles, another an SF epic poem), but it tells a time travel tale complex enough to be interesting without being incomprehensible and follows the thread of a mystery you will stay to reach the end of. May contain: Time travel, memory alteration, selves within selves, memories within memories, high-powered computers, explosions, guns, motorcycles, top-secret labs, and virtual reality.
Odd John by Olaf Stapledon
I still can’t quite figure out why I found Odd John such a smooth, compelling read. There is no plot—rather a gentlemanly report on the strange case of a highly evoloved human, the homo superior Odd John. John isn’t particularly sympathetic (which is kind of the point), and yet I was happy to return to the story again and again. Was it Stapledon’s writing? (It is smooth, but nothing extraordinary.) Was it the narrator’s voice? (I’ve never been much of a fan of the gentlemenly report novel framework, and Odd John’s narrator isn’t parituclarly sympathetic etiher.) No, I think it was Stapledon’s philosophizing, his spot-on prediction of WWII, and the few choice quotes that, though written in 1935 remain incredibly relevant today.
“A nation, after all, is just a society for hating foreigners.” -Odd John by Olaf Stapledon Written in 1935. Still on point.
— Book Punks (@bookpunks) December 13, 2015
Odd John is a From Couch to Moon favorite, so I’ll give her the last word because her review of this one captures its essence very well: “A philosopher by trade, Stapledon’s tale is more thinkpiece than story of action, and he uses John’s unique position as an advanced outsider to examine everything from war to economics to human morality. Chapters often delve into John’s lengthy responses to the narrator’s questions about his observations of the world. John’s commentary is always clever, entertaining, and extremely self-aware and progressive, considering this commentary is actually coming from a White, male author of the 1930s. At the same time, Stapledon highlights many alarming aspects of the ‘superman’ attitude. …
“Call it SFilosophy, but there’s plenty to chew on in this Inter-War contemplation of superiority and morality. And the audio version is highly recommended, just because there’s just something special about having Olaf Stapledon at your ear.”