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Fantastical Fiction: Four Unusual (and Suitably Small) Gifts for the Holidays


Editor's Note: This post missed Christmas, but there's still (barely) time for Hanukkah (or, more likely, just a plain ol' present for yourself or loved one).

Are you searching for the perfect stocking stuffer, that elusive seventh- or eighth-day Hanukkah gift, or just in general need an unusual little book to surprise someone and tickle their fancy this holiday season? One of four recent releases, all slim, smartly designed fictions, might just do the trick….

The Ravickians by Renee Gladman—This account of a novelist’s explorations of an imaginary city continues Gladman’s Ravicka trilogy, with each book standing alone. Allied with the fiction of Italo Calvino, Doris Lessing, and others, The Ravickians is entertaining, thoughtful, and a quick read. As with everything published by the Dorothy Project, it’s also a lovely little book to hold in your hand. Opening lines: “To say you have been born in Ravicka in any other language than Ravic is to say you have been hungry. That is why this story must not be translated.”


In the Time of the Blue Ball by Manuela Draeger—Translated from French by noted writer Brian Evenson, these tales intended for teens and adults offer a musical dog, an angry noodle, mystery, romance, and maritime adventure. China Mieville describes the collection as “Humane, impossible, homely and alien…as close to dreams as fiction can be.” Opening lines: “The man who invented fire was a woman, actually. He invented fire and tamed it. He was a woman named Lili Soutchane. A brunette, wearing a red scarf around her neck and nothing else.”


The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow—This novella-with-extras chronicles the high-velocity adventures of a trans-human teenager in a Disney-dominated Tomorrow, ‘battling wireheads and wumpuses” until an encounter with the “meat girl” of his dreams changes his life. Published by PM Press in their “Outspoken Authors” series, the book also includes two somewhat related nonfiction pieces by Doctorow: “Creativity vs. Copyright” and an interview. As Kelly Link has said, “[he] doesn’t just write about the future—I think he lives there.” Opening lines: “I piloted the mecha through the streets of Detroit, hunting wumpuses. The mecha was a relic of the Mecha Wars, when the nation tore itself to shreds with lethal robots…”

Lehn cover

The Last Letter by Fiona Lehn—This story of a biologist’s attempt to stop the advance of a strange and voracious parasite in a protected forest perfectly balances the personal and the scientific, working as both a character study and a fascinatingly odd encounter with a foreign ecosystem. As always, Aqueduct Press has done a lovely job of bringing another new author to readers. Opening lines: “The famous biologist Helmut Janvy stooped to collect the mail from his foyer floor below the mail slot, as he did each day. But on this particular morning, amidst the damp leaking in from the winter outside, he detected a scent he had known well years ago…”


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