Check It Out Category: Fantasy & Sci-Fi

Audiobook: The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

Strange Library audiobook cover

For most of us, the prospect of being imprisoned in a library seems more dream than nightmare, but in the hands of Haruki Murakami, we might have to think twice. The Strange Library, a surreal tale full of tentative wonder and vague dread, is an experience that lasts only a single hour. Narrator Kirby Heyborne plays the odd characters with just the right touch of near-caricature appropriate for this fable, which adds to the distorted fun house experience. This light introduction into Japanese magical realism may be the right portion to tempt fans of the series Twin Peaks.

Fiction: Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

Arabella of Mars book cover

What if we took the action of a swashbuckling sea adventure, the interpersonal drama of a Jane Austen-like Regency, and the setting of a fantasy space opera? Mix those elements in perfect proportion, and we’ll find ourselves with the unbelievably fun Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine.

When Arabella’s family is threatened, she eagerly takes on the hero role. This means disguising herself as a boy and finding work on a Mars Trading Company ship, but that’s no problem for someone who prefers her early life on a Martian plantation and who has a knack for navigation. The voyage won’t be easy, but it will certainly be preferable to the correct Earth society life her mother keeps pushing. Set sail for grand adventures galore, and look for even more of our new favorite heroine in the July release of Arabella and the Battle of Venus.

Fiction: Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

Lovecraft Country book cover

If you count yourself a fan of the movie Get Out, we have just the book for you! Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff offers a similar mash-up of horror, suspense, and social commentary that results in fantastic entertainment. It begins when the car of Korean War vet Atticus Turner breaks down, and finding help via the the Safe Negro Travel Guide stirs up additional trouble. From there the characters encounter secret societies, sorcerers, tentacled creatures, cursed dolls, and other worlds. As scary as these things are, they aren’t nearly as chilling as the racism of 1950s Jim Crow America, so prepare yourself for what’s to come.

Equally appealing to those who enjoy the thought-provoking, the weird, the page-turning, or the subversive, this is one homage that you’ll have to experience for yourself.

Graphic Novel: The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

Professors Daughter book cover

Few couples are as star-crossed as a 19th-century gentlewoman and a mummified Pharoah, but their story is one of the most charming romps you’ll find. From their opening stroll in a London park to an unwitting murder and a daring prison break, the tale of Lillian and Imhotep IV is one filled with drama and adventure. The Professor’s Daughter, created by French masters Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert, also tantalizes with beautifully rendered art panels made up of delicate illustrations, period sepia tones, and fine watercolor washes. Readers new to graphic novels as well as those with more studied appreciation will be tickled by this delightful, fast-paced confection.

Audiobook: Morgue Drawer Four by Jutta Profijt

Morgue Drawer Four audiobook cover

As a finalist for one of Germany’s most prestigious crime novel awards, Morgue Drawer Four could have been…stiff. Dear listeners, it isn’t. Instead we have mild-mannered Martin who likes the solitude of his work as a coroner. One day he performs his customarily precise autopsy on car thief Pascha — and then begins hearing the man’s ghost. First smart-alecky and then downright obnoxious, Pascha wants Martin to get to the bottom of the ‘accident’ that claimed his life.

Reader MacLeod Andrews effectively plays up Pascha’s wry, self-absorbed narration as well as the tension of Martin’s out-of-character escapades. Written by Jutta Profijt and translated from German by Eric J. Macki, this odd-couple pairing of reluctant detective and annoyed ghost is a promising pick for those who like action-driven mysteries with a decidedly sarcastic bent.