Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Order [book in series=yearoffirstbook.book# (eg 2014.01), stand-alone or one-author collection=3333.pubyear, multi-author anthology=5555.pubyear, SFM/MM=5000, interview=1111]: 1987


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Misery: Imprisoned in Nurse Ratched’s guest bedroom

Misery by Stephen King

If you’ve read one Stephen King novel, you’ve read nearly all of them. And yet people keep coming back for more. Published in 1987, Misery explores King’s relationship with his most obsessive readers while also wrestling with his own addictions.

Misery‘s plot is pretty straightforward: Paul Sheldon is an author of best-selling novels who one night drunkenly drives into a blizzard and crashes. When he wakes up, he has been (not rescued, but) kidnapped by Nurse Ratched,


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Strange Toys: An odd, creepy novel

Strange Toys by Patricia Geary

Strange Toys is an odd, creepy novel. It won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1987, though apparently Patricia Geary hadn’t actually intended it as science fiction at all. I found it while exploring the labyrinthine basement of a local used bookstore, but it was reprinted in electronic form in 2018.

The heroine, nicknamed Pet, is the baby of her family. (We never learn her real name.) She is nine years old as the book begins,


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Norwegian Wood: Murakami’s breakthrough novel

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

Toru Watanabe is just another kid studying drama at university when he falls for his friend Naoko, who is in a relationship with another of Toru’s friends, Kizuki — until Kizuki commits suicide. Emotionally confused because she feels “split in two and playing tag with myself,” Naoko escapes to a mountain retreat, though not before sleeping with Toru. Watanabe pines for Naoko as he passes time in Tokyo with his friend Nagasawa. Nagasawa likes The Great Gatsby, and he has no trouble finding women to sleep with him — and with Toru,


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Batman: Year One: Worth reading and rereading

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) completely reinvented Batman as an angry and bitter older man coming out of retirement to stem a rising tide of crime in Gotham City alongside Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. This was a dark vision of a complex and troubled soul driven to fight crime to avenge his parent’s senseless death, and it resonated with a new generation of readers and gained comics greater credibility among mainstream readers. Just one year later Miller produced a four-part story arc called Batman: Year One (1987).


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The Jaguar Hunter: Powerful, hallucinatory stories in exotic locales

The Jaguar Hunter by Lucius Shepard

I try to avoid excessive praise unless it is truly deserved, but I can say this without hesitation — Lucius Shepard was one of the best SF short story writers of the 1980s. His prose, imagery, themes, and style are so powerful, dynamic, and vivid that it’s a real crime that he didn’t gain a wider readership when he was alive, though he did win many awards.

He burst on the scene with his short story collection The Jaguar Hunter,


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Land of Dreams: Strong echoes of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes

Land of Dreams by James P. Blaylock

James P. Blaylock is a fabulist, a teller of magic realist tales that reframe our everyday world in more colorful, fanciful, sinister, and whimsical ways. His style and themes often overlap with the works of Tim Powers and they have collaborated on several stories and even have shared the character William Ashbless, which is no surprise since they met as students at Cal State Fullerton. There they also befriended author K.W. Jeter (who coined the term “steampunk” and wrote perhaps the earliest full-length example,


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Watchmen by Alan Moore (writer) & Dave Gibbons (Artist)

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

What if superheroes were real? I mean really “real”: what if they grew old and got fat, had spouses and families, carried emotional baggage (sometimes a serious psychosis), and just generally had to deal with everyday life? These super-heroes aren’t inherently all good, either. Just like public servants — police, politicians, doctors, etc. — many begin with the best intentions, but some become jaded and others are only motivated by self-interest from the start. In other words, if superheroes were real, they would be just like us,


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Feral Cell: Performance-art-fantasy

Feral Cell  by Richard Bowes

Richard Bowes published Feral Cell in 1986. It’s set in 1999, the last year of the second millennium, in New York City, which is starting, to “go bad” as many other cities before it have. It’s not clear exactly what is making the city go bad. Is it the strange weather, as summers grow hotter and winters grow shorter and drier? Is it the selfishness and complacency of the wealthy and the desperation of the young people? Is it the use of more and different drugs?


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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: On the Edge

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.

Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World begins in Murakami’s “hard-boiled wonderland.” This wonderland is postmodern territory: our disaffected hero is in an elevator that is moving so slowly that “all sense of direction simply vanished.” Murakami finds a nexus between the detective story,


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Sphere: Crichton elevates his use of character

Sphere by Michael Crichton

[In our Edge of the Universe column, we review mainstream authors that incorporate elements of speculative fiction into their “literary” work. However you want to label them, we hope you’ll enjoy discussing these books with us.]

In Sphere, the follow up to Congo, Michael Crichton asks the question: how do you top a techno-thriller that pits a team of parachuting scientists against extremely intelligent apes that protect a remote area of jungle in Congo?


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Next SFF Author: Ben Aaronovitch

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