Keram's Book Report

Notes & Reflections on Books n Stuff I Have Experienced

Mind Expanding Speculative Science Fiction and Fantasy – A List of Excellence

These books represent a wide spectrum of speculative fiction, offering everything from post-apocalyptic linguistics to metaphysical explorations and beyond. Each title has been chosen for its unique contribution to the genre, pushing the boundaries of traditional storytelling and immersing readers in thoroughly original worlds!

I have linked to the books on Amazon, and if you buy them through that link, I may get a small fraction of the purchase which supports this site (please know that is not what motivates these posts – I truly want you to discover these amazing books, wherever you may find them, but I have to disclose). Please note that I have linked to the best priced and appropriate version where possible – some are Kindle for your convenience, some are paperback where Kindle isn’t available or insufficient to experience the book. Of course in some cases the Audible or Hardback version are preferable! Just be mindful of which version you are on before purchasing!

Curated Book Recommendations:

  1. “Piranesi” by Susanna Clarke – A mesmerizing tale of an infinite house filled with statues and an ocean locked inside. It’s a story about discovery, isolation, and the vast mysteries of an unknown world.
  2. “Only Forward” by Michael Marshall Smith – A genre-bending mix of science fiction, noir, and surreal humor, set in a future where society is divided into specialized neighborhoods.
  3. “If on a winter’s night a traveler” by Italo Calvino – A groundbreaking metafictional novel that plays with the structure of reading and storytelling itself, presenting a series of first chapters of other books. When I had to do a book report for this, I ended up photocopying all the pages and cutting them into a fragmented collage. It was before I really l knew what deconstruction or post moder ism was but it was a fun and uplifting introduction to that form of investigation. The desperation to elude influence and acknowledge defeat in its shadow.
  4. “The Bridge” by Iain Banks – A compelling narrative that explores the mind of a man in a coma, traversing a fantastical bridge that represents his mind, blending reality, dream, and fantasy. Banks is of another dimension and we benefit from the fact that he occasionally stops by ours for lunch, leaving books in his wake.
  5. “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski – An unconventional horror story about a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside, presented through a uniquely formatted text that challenges the way stories are told.
    Note: for this book, it is essential to get the book – the formatting and layout are essential to the experience. I have linked to the remastered full color paperback edition for your convenience, and to avoid any ambiguity about this.
  6. “Riddley Walker” by Russell Hoban – Set in a post-apocalyptic England, written in an evolved form of English, this novel presents a deep and immersive dive into humanity’s connection to its past and future. Not at all what you are expecting. An onomatopeic masterwork. It changed my life. Read it in book format if possible.
  7. “The City & The City” by China Miéville – A detective story set in two cities that occupy the same space but are perceived as ‘unseen’ by each other, exploring themes of urban existence and unseen boundaries.
  8. Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke – A classic of hard science fiction, detailing the exploration of an alien spacecraft by a human crew. Fir fans of liminal spaces and Ouamouama. Soon to be a major motion picture from Denis Villeneuve (who, if you don’t know directed Incendies, Arrival, Blade Runner 2049, and the new Dune movies).
  9. “Perdido Street Station” by China Miéville – Set in the fantastical city of New Crobuzon, this novel blends fantasy, steampunk, and horror, creating a rich and vivid world.
  10. “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky – A deeply constructed world tale that explores the aftermath of an extraterrestrial event that has left behind zones with unexplained properties. Also the source for my fave science fiction film of all the – Tarkovsky’s ‘The Stalker,’ this is one of those IPs where you must read the book, and must see the film. They are two separate entities, superimposed like the leftovers of an alien picnic in an alternate Russia.
  11. Engine Summer” by John Crowley – A beautifully written, dream-like novel that delves into themes of memory, story, and the search for truth in a post-apocalyptic setting. Crowley is the kind of writer that professional writers read like drinking milk.
  12. Shadow and Claw” by Gene Wolfe – A masterpiece blending science fiction and fantasy, rich in symbolism and with a complex narrative structure, following the journey of Severian, an apprentice in the guild of torturers. This will kick you right off on a brand new trilogy that you won’t forget. It delivers one of the early examples of science fiction that wasn’t a clinical utopian future but rather a dense nearly impossible to track anthropological burrowing through something that you may never catch but understand by virtue of what it leaves in its wake.
  13. The Dream Master” by Roger Zelazny –  Originally published as a novella under the name “He Who Shapes” this psychedelic, mind-bender from the author of “The Amber Chronicles,” delves into the realm of controlled dreams and their impact on the human mind. We follow a therapist who navigates and shapes his patients’ dreams questioning reality, identity, and the power of the subconscious. Early Zelazny showcases a mastery to weave complex themes into compelling narratives from the start and edgier (and perhaps less approachable) than his more familiar later works.
  14. VURT” by Jeff Noon – A cyberpunk marvel set in an alternate Manchester, where the boundary between reality and the virtual world of VURT is blurred. Follow Scribble and the Stash Riders as they navigate this psychedelic landscape in search of what is real and what is VURT. This novel is a razor-sharp tapestry of mind-bending concepts and speculative technology, playing multidimensional punk agitation, and the best not-VR VR book I have ever read.
    Note: Honestly, get every version of this. The Audible book narration by Dean Williamson could not be more perfect
  15. VALIS” by Philip K. Dick – Be warned – this book can actually mess with you, permanently. Technically another first in a trilogy VURT stands all on its own. An introspective journey into the gnostic visions of Horselover Fat, exploring divine madness and the quest for truth. Dick masterfully questions the nature of reality, the existence of God, and the essence of human suffering, making “VALIS” a profound exploration of spiritual awakening in a seemingly illusory world. The empire never ended.


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