Help with some fiction recommendations?


#1

Hello fine folks of discourse dot zone,

Something I’ve felt bad about for several years now is that I’ve dropped off of reading books almost entirely, and for this year I wanted to finish at least one book but given that the last book I finished was the final Harry Potter book like seven years ago, I’d appreciate some direction.

I realize this is a very broad question, but to hopefully narrow down I’d be interested in stories with either airplanes, cyberpunk / dieselpunk, or stories about music?

Over the years the media I’ve taken in has largely been music and games, some film and very little TV, but I’d like to broaden my horizons, so to speak.

:heart:

-A


#2

This is a great topic, I look forward to seeing some recommendations.
I’ll give you one that is tangentially music related: The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel, which is kind of a light-hearted thriller, but also kind of a love letter to vinyl and old records.


#3

Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami might fit your bill. It has both some muscial and cyberpunk themes!

It’s a Japanese novel published in 1980. It follows the lives of two boys who were independently left inside coin lockers in a railway station by their mothers, only a few days after birth. Thanks to the summer heat and their wailing, both do miraculously survive, and are taken in by an orphanage, but the event sets the trajectory of their lives, and imprints itself on their psyche.

From this moment, the story becomes an exploration of being marginalised, alone and confused in the Japanese 80s. It is a journey through through trauma, queerness, drug usage, psychiatric institutions, the pop culture industry, and much more. It is very psychological, crude and often violent, but also worth it!

And yes, music is a core theme, and the cyberpunk/sci-fi aspect exists and progresses alongside the main narrative.


#4

I’ve been interested in reading this for a while (am I right in thinking it was an influence on one of the Silent Hill games).

I could conceivably recommend the other big Murakami here; Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World might be up your street; a particularly imaginative and surreal spin on a cyberpunk setting (which isn’t really an adequate description), and, it being Murakami, there’s plenty of attention paid to music.

I’d also recommend Neuromancer by William Gibson. I haven’t read it in a while, myself, but I remember it being particularly breezy to read and it, of course, is a definitive part of the cyberpunk canon.

As for stories about music, I mentioned Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad in another thread, which you might find interesting. If it’s been ages since you read a novel, then the fact that it’s more inter-connected short stories than a larger-spanning narrative might be a good way “back in”. The arc running through all these stories relates to music (San Francisco punk, to be exact) and nostalgia / memory, with a couple of excursions into (satirical, Black Mirror-ish, I suppose) science-fiction as well.


#5

(Oh wow, apparently it really was! Thanks for the information, I’ll have to look into this game.)


#6

When it comes to Cyberpunk you might wanna check out Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
The book was written by a famous and very “out there” sci-fi writer (let’s just say he took a bunch of hallucogenic drugs during his time) called Phillip K. Dick.

You may have heard about the film based on the book called Blade Runner. The book is a bit more all over the place and it is one of the more known pre-cyberpunk books out there. It’s definetly worth a read!


#7

I haven’t actually read it yet, but if you’re after a novel with some musical themes, you may want to check out Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. It won the Booker Prize a few years back and is about the aftermath of a failed assassination attempt on Bob Marley.

I’d be interested to hear what other Waypointers think about it before I jump in.


#8

In regards to Haruki Murakami’s books, is it best to read the stories/authors the titles refer to first?


#9

Definitely read William Gibson and definitely don’t read William Gibson’s twitter. He’s living proof that death of the author is real, since all of his fiction that I’ve read has better politics than he does personally. Neuromancer is great, the short story collection Burning Chrome is good as well.

PK Dick was very much one of the precursors of a lot of the ideas cyberpunk picked up on, you can see it especially in Ubik and A Scanner Darkly imo. He was really shitty about women characters to the point of “wow this is so bad it’s looped back to hilarious”, though, so caveat lector.

As far as music goes, the last thing I can recall reading that’s relevant is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, a collection of stories connected by the theme of music as well as a faint sense of regret, disappointment or failure. It’s lighter reading than I make it sound.

As far as airplanes… uhh… I guess Heller’s Catch-22? I expect I would not find that it’s aged super well if I came back to it now. It’s an exaggeratedly absurd account of the US invasion of Italy during WW2 from the perspective of US bomber crews. I kind of think of it as baby’s first antiwar book now (it probably was mine, anyway, no disrespect intended).


#10

When it comes to cyberpunk I usually reccomend one of my favorite sci fi books, Schismatrix Plus, by Bruce Sterling.
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Narratively it’s a very approachable story, but conceptually it blew my mind, there are so many amazing ideas here about the possibilities for humanity and technology.
It’s a collection of short stories, some of them are stand alone like the excellent Swarm, but most follow the journeys of Alebard Lindsay (hope i remember that name right) across the strange, rapidly evolving human universe.


#11

If you don’t mind a bit of gore and darkness, Madeleine Ashby’s vN and Company Town (two unrelated books, not same-series) are sort of cyberpunky. The former is more robot-y while the latter goes perhaps more expected territory of body mods/cyborging, VR, etc.

Malka Older’s Infomocracy and Null States, on the other hand, take a far more detached tone: omnipresent technological connectivity through the lens of global politics.

To switch tacks, you might be interested in Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection Conservation of Shadows. He’s pretty interested in musicology/composition himself, and it shows in his stories, even the ones that aren’t directly about music. (Which at least one of them very much is, as I recall.)

If you can get your hands on Naomi Kritzer’s Fires of the Faithful, it’s literally about revolution and heresy through the medium of music! But it’s fantasy.


#12

I really enjoyed Altered Carbon which is a cyberpunk noir set in a world where no one ever really dies as your mind is backed up on what they call the cortical stack and you just have to then be resleeved into a new body. Netflix is putting out a 10 episode series based on it later this year and the trailer does a better job of setting up the plot then I can.


#13

Interesting!
Liked the book, didn’t know this was being made!


#14

Y’all are an amazing and smart bunch and I love you all. Thanks so much for all these suggestions.

I’d actually love to go through all of the books recommended here this year, even though I know that might not be a feasible task for me, but these are all going on a list and I will try to read all of them at some point.

There’s a few I’d love to check out first (Particularly Coin Locker Babies and Visit from the Goon Squad) but again, thank y’all for the recommendations. The Waypoint fam is amazing.