Alan takes refuge in France. Also on board their vessel, the Hispaniola, is the villainous, one-legged sea-cook, Long John Silver, who takes over the vessel. Without it, we would never have had Pirates of the Caribbean. Then on his last voyage he meets the Houyhnhnms, virtuous and perfectly rational talking horses, and his pride collapses into misanthropy and self-loathing.
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He and we are just Yahoos, the malevolent, cunning, libidinous beasts with whom the Houyhnhnms are fated to share their land. Its dispassionate eye follows peasants, emperors, soldiers, and priests through decades, taking in life and death in all its forms. This is no heroic tale of good versus evil, of strategies and battle formations, but a vivid depiction of the banality, tedium and senselessness of war. Its everyman hero, Pierre played unforgettably on TV by Anthony Hopkins , blunders along, struggling to find meaning in his life, and each of the dozen or so central characters battle their own demons, searching for truth and peace.
Their struggles are timeless, as is the unforgettable love story at its heart. Imogen Tilden Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Huck escapes, and drifts by raft down the Mississippi, with a runaway slave, Jim. After various adventures and reunion with Tom all comes well. At the end, the two young heroes intend to light out to the Indian territory — a sequel Twain never wrote. Master of the voyage imaginaire , Verne also revealed himself adept at mingling high adventure with Thomas Cook-style tourism. Fogg, having read of a new railway link in the Indian subcontinent, wagers his fellow Reform Club members that he can circumnavigate the world in 80 days.
The itinerary is meticulously chronicled. Fogg arrives back to foggy London, as he thinks, a day late — but he has forgotten that he has crossed the date line. He makes it to the club with seconds to spare. A williwaw is a snow-laden hurricane, and 50 years before The Perfect Storm was a bestseller, Vidal showed us how it should be done. Our fresh-faced hero embarks on his picaresque journey across Europe and Latin America, which sees Enlightenment optimism sorely tested by — among other delights — rape, murder, syphilis, cannibalism, the wanton destructiveness of natural forces and the human cost of the western addiction to sugar.
He is, perhaps, mad. Or, as he believes, he has been given the power of clairvoyance and time travel by extraterrestrial Tralfamadorians, whose prisoner he is. The Tralfamadorians have destroyed the universe by their bombing error but can enjoy the good moments of their previous existences.
Italian Hours, by Henry James
The narrative recoils from graphic description of wartime atrocity to fanciful space opera. As Konnegut records, it was an immensely painful novel to write and, for all its incidental comedy and literary skill, remains painful to read. But necessary, none the less. Basil Seal, posh and feckless, has been a leader writer on the Daily Beast, a champagne salesman, a tour guide, a secret policeman in Bolivia, and an adviser on modernisation to the emperor of Azania — all way relationship between a young southern writer, a Polish Auschwitz survivor and a Jewish New Yorker interweaves a host of complex themes survivor guilt, ancestral guilt, madness and betrayal.
The movie was Oscar-nominated; the book was banned in libraries across the States. But this is not just about provocative comparisons.
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Guy Crouchback is the last of an ancient English Catholic family — miserable, childless, divorced and forbidden by his religion to remarry. Under his Darwinian scalpel, animals are raised to quasi-humanity. Moreau is killed by a puma he is tormenting and rebellion breaks out.
The animals revert to their natural animalism. After their school takes a hit during an air-raid, McGill and his friends make use of the free time to wage their own war against the enemy. The Machine Gunners, which was adapted into a BBC television serial in , brilliantly evokes Tyneside in the second world war and the disruption to ordinary family life, while capturing the complicated relationships that exist between children and adults. James Smart Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
Voss, a German explorer, sets out in to cross the uncharted Australian desert. Before leaving, he meets Laura Trevelyan, a young Englishwoman newly arrived in the colony, and they fall in love.
This book has all the freshness of a literary pioneer. Jean Macquart, earthy and pragmatic, wins the respect of the intellectual and mercurial Maurice Levasseur. Andrew Pulver Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Set aboard a vast generation starship millennia after blast-off, the novel follows Roy Complain on a voyage of discovery from ignorance of his surroundings to some understanding of his small place in the universe. Complain is spiteful and small-minded but grows in humanity as his trek through the ship brings him into contact with giant humans, mutated rats and, ultimately, a wondrous view of space beyond the ship.
Eric Brown Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Hari Seldon invents the science of psychohistory with which to combat the fall into barbarianism of the Human Empire, and sets up the Foundation to foster art, science and technology. Wish-fulfilment of the highest order, the novels are a landmark in the history of science fiction.
EB Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. On planet Zycron, tyrannical Snilfards subjugate poor Ygnirods, providing intercoital entertainment for a radical socialist and his lover. We assume she is Laura Chase, daughter of an Ontario industrialist, who records their sex and sci-fi stories in a novel, The Blind Assassin.
Hank Janson,The pulp fiction writer who taught a generation about sex
Iris is 83 in the cantankerous present-day narrative, and ready to set the story straight about the suspicious deaths of her sister, husband and daughter. In this Booker prize-winning novel about novels, Atwood bends genre and traps time, toying brilliantly with the roles of writing and reading.
Natalie Cate Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Anna Blume, 19, arrives in a city to look for her brother. She finds a ruin, where buildings collapse on scavenging citizens.
List of fictional books
All production has stopped. Nobody can leave, except as a corpse collected for fuel. Suicide clubs flourish. Anna buys a trolley and wanders the city, salvaging objects and information. She records horrific scenes, but also a deep capacity for love. This small hope flickers in a world where no apocalyptic event is specified. NC Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Consider Phlebas introduced the first of many misguided or untrustworthy heroes — Horza, who can change his body just by thinking about it — and a typically Banksian collision involving two giant trains in an subterranean station.
PD Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. A magic carpet is the last refuge of a people known as the Seerkind, who for centuries have been hunted by both humans and the Scourge, a mysterious being that seems determined to live up to its name.
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Nicola Barker has been accused of obscurity, but this Booker-shortlisted comic epic has a new lightness of touch and an almost soapy compulsiveness. A jumble of voices and typefaces, mortal fear and sarky laughter, the novel is as true as it is truly odd, and beautifully written to boot. He sends him back to the far future in an attempt to save the Eloi woman Weena, only to find himself in a future timeline diverging from the one he left.
Bear combines intelligence, humour and the wonder of scientific discovery in a techno-thriller about a threat to the future of humanity. A retro-viral plague sweeps the world, infecting women via their sexual partners and aborting their embryos. Somehow surviving, he swiftly gets down to it.
Those who stumble across it are inevitably surprised to find it was written half a century ago. Along the way he joins up with a group of vampires, finds his true family and discovers what he really values, amid much blood, sex, drugs and drink. Keith Brooke Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
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