I love reading science-fiction – reading these books is like entering an exciting parallel universe where your imagination fires up (for example, see this list of My 10 Favourite Science-Fiction/Dystopian Books or my reviews of the work of Philip K. Dick – A Scanner Darkly, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch & A Maze of Death). However, for some reason, when I started reading (read) the sci-fi books below I either did not get far or did not particularly like them after I finished them. I realise that some of the books below are very popular and beloved by many and, therefore, I want to give them a second chance – either to re-read them or pick up where I left off and finish them.
I. Station Eleven  by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven is a very popular dystopian book, but I did not progress far in it. The book’s beginning did not pull me in (and only made me want to re-watch Soderbergh’s film Contagion ). However, I realise it has much to offer, and I want to start it again. The synopsis to this book reads that it is “set in the days of civilisation’s collapse“…and “tells the story of a Hollywood star, his would-be saviour, and a nomadic group of actors“. The beginning is about the death of a Hollywood actor on stage, after which the story moves “back and forth in time“, becoming “a suspenseful, elegiac and spellbinding novel” (Goodreads).
Emily St. John Mandel has another novel coming in 2020 titled The Glass Hotel, and I am looking forward to reading it. The Glass Hotel is described as “a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York…” (Goodreads).
II. The Drowned World  by J. G. Ballard
J. G. Ballard’s The Drowned World has been compared to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but it failed to impress me. Perhaps, I still have to get used to Ballard’s writing style before I can fully appreciate this book. The Drowned World tells the tale of London existing under water – “London is a swamp…and solar radiation have melted the ice caps, sending the planet into a new Triassic Age of unendurable heat”. Among all this chaos is “Dr Robert Kerans, who comes to accept the submarine city and finds himself strangely resistant to the idea of saving it” (Amazon).
Other books by Ballard I want to read are Concrete Island  and High Rise .
III. Hard to Be a God  by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
Hard to Be a God is considered to be the finest literary achievement of the brothers Strugatsky. The story here is thought-provoking with philosophical depth to it, as the main character in the story also undergoes inner psychological change. An undercover cop (Anton) from the future planet Earth is on another alien planet where people still live in the Middle Ages. Anton is forbidden to interfere with the events happening on the alien planet even though he possesses more advanced knowledge of everything than people around him. Part of the reason why I abandoned my reading of this book may be due to the poor translation – I picked up an older version of this book. Now I realise there is a newer translation available, and I may give this novel another try (even though, I suppose, I can also read it in the original language).
There is also a great Russian movie which came out in 2013 based on the novel.
IV. The Kraken Wakes  by John Wyndham
John Wyndham is a tricky author for me. I liked his bizarre-premised book The Midwich Cuckoos, but appreciated his The Day of the Triffids more because of its ideas rather than because of its plot or characters. I am not sure I liked The Kraken Wakes all that much, and because I read it some time ago, I want to re-read it. The Kraken Wakes is said to be “a brilliant novel of how humankind responds to the threat of its own extinction…and asks what we are prepared to do in order to survive” (Amazon). In this story, sea levels rise and fireballs rain down from the sky. Moreover, ships mysteriously sink, hinting that there is perhaps another force working, besides mere natural calamity.
I also want to read Wyndham’s The Chrysalids. This one is about a dystopian world where there are mutations, infertility, deviancies, telepathy, etc. Some say the story is an allegory for social change in the UK in the 1950s.
V. The Book of M  by Peng Shepherd
This debut book possibly draws inspiration from Peter Pan and Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea since, in it, people around the world start to lose their shadows permanently, and those who lose their shadows also lose their memory. At the centre is a married couple Maxine and Orlando who find themselves in a remote hotel in Virginia. It is Maxine who starts to lose her shadow and decides to leave. I do not know a lot about this book because I decides to DNF it after just a couple of pages, but I am now considering returning to it. The Books of M is said to be “a breathtakingly imaginative, timeless story that explores fundamental questions about memory and love―the price of forgetting, the power of connection, and what it means to be human when your world is turned upside down” (Amazon).
Have you read any of the above books or other books by the authors listed above? What were your thoughts on them?