There are books we want that may never exist. A climactic Culture novel. A series set in The Fourth Age of The Wheel of Time. An Amber Universe anthology. Salmons! (…ones of doubt.)
For the holidays, we asked our staff and contributors what impossible (or perhaps just improbable) books they’d like to receive as gifts. We received quite a range, from the doubly impossible to the weird to the “holy crap how has this not happened yet it’s RIGHT THERE.”
What might you want to read…if you could?
I really super desperately need the third book in Yoon Ha Lee’s Hexarchate series. My need for this book is about equal to the mad desire I had for Ann Leckie’s third Ancillary book and for about the same reasons. As far as I’m concerned, some characters about whom I care very deeply have been left in limbo, and only by my reading their story can they be rescued… or at least put out of their misery. And I really need to find out more about how calendrical heresies happen, ok? For… reasons. Totally benign reasons. —Alexandra Pierce
Dishonored 2 meets Killjoys in book form. But queerer, obviously, because I always want more ladies who like each other like that. A fantasy novel with Dishonored’s gritty industrial-with-decadent-parts feel, in which a dispossessed assassin-queen makes a bargain with eldritch powers for revenge, but decides that revenge isn’t as much fun as being a pirate/bounty-hunter on the whale-filled seas with a snarky team. (And acknowledges she wasn’t doing a great job as a ruler in the first place.) But eldritch powers don’t take kindly to having their bargains renegotiated on the fly, so the consequences should be interesting.
I should probably not admit to be trying to write this for myself, should I? —Liz Bourke
It’s been four and a half years since Iain M. Banks sublimated, leaving behind such an enormous body of work that it seems churlish to wish that there was more. Still, over the last year in particular, I keep coming back to something he said in his last interview with The Guardian:
“If I’d known it was going to be my last book, I’d have been quite disappointed that I’m going out with a relatively minor piece; whereas something like Transition, a wild splurge of fantasy, sci-fi and mad reality frothed up together … now that would have been the kind of book to go out on. I’m still very proud of The Quarry but … let’s face it; in the end the real best way to sign off would have been with a great big rollicking Culture novel.”
And that’s my Christmas wish. Perhaps it takes the form of a near-complete manuscript, found unexpectedly in the back of a drawer, of that imaginary last Culture novel. One of Banks’s trusted friends—Ken McLeod?—does a final polish. It gives the novella The State of the Art an almost-sequel the way that Consider Phlebas has Look to Windward and Excession has The Hydrogen Sonata. The State of the Art is where the Culture visits Earth in the 1970s, and maybe this last Culture hurrah returns to Earth at some point in our future—and the challenge of contacting our poor benighted world is the cornerstone of a great controversy within the Culture. It’d encompass a cross-section from ordinary Orbital citizens to jaded SC agents to the most powerful GSV Minds, and would mix the epic and personal and grim and funny and warm and satirical in the way that only Banks could have done. —Karin Kross
My wish has the notable quality of remaining unfulfilled even if author Robert Jordan was still writing: A fantasy series chronicling The Fourth Age in The Wheel of Time. Jordan was never planning on exploring other Ages in his epic world (with the sort-of exception of an “outrigger” novel detailing Mat’s subsequent adventures in Seanchan) so even if he were still here and writing, this isn’t something I’d ever be able to read. But I still want it! What would it be like to really dig into another Age’s interpretation of a story that we, the reader, know the truth of? What primal conflict, or change, could define the Fourth Age? What could our world be like in an Age that is roughly on the opposite of the Wheel as our own? I’ll always wonder. —Chris Lough
One book I would love to get my hands on this Hannukah season would be an English version of E-Doll by Francesco Verso (Mondadori, 2009). Winner of the 2008 Urania Award (a prestigious Italian science fiction prize), E-Doll imagines a world in which sophisticated androids/”replicants” have given humanity the answer to unrestrained sexuality. The story follows two characters who are inverses of each other: one is a teen-aged girl who poses as an e-Doll to feel loved, while the other is a hermaphroditic e-Doll who wants to become human. When they finally meet, their interaction helps bring both individuals closer to their goals. This work of sci-fi noir engages us in the never-ending debate about the limits of “human nature.” I would love to translate this book, but even if I had the time right now to do it, it would take me a while, since I’m a pretty slow translator. And I want this book NOW NOW NOW NOW (can you tell that I’m impatient?). Anyway, if Hannukah Harry or whatever could go “poof!” and translate E-Doll into English yesterday, I would be very happy. —Rachel S. Cordasco
The first thing that came to mind is, of course, the third Dirk Gently book Douglas Adams was writing when he died in 2001. We were lucky to be graced with the first ten chapters of The Salmon of Doubt in a posthumously published collection of Adams’ shorter works, but still. The other book I dream of having was inspired by a recent conversation with a friend who recently finally caved and watched the series finale of Hannibal. I would give anything for a season 4 book. Before its untimely cancellation, Bryan Fuller had planned on setting the season two years after the fall with a Cuban food theme. I need more Hannigram, Fuller. I HAVE A MIGHTY NEED. —Alex Brown
All I want for Christmas is a time travel novel that moves between different periods of revolutionary history—from 1789 to 1953 to today. And who better to write a painfully deliberate book about how new societies attempt to erase the memories of the old than Kazuo Ishiguro? Now that Ishiguro is a Nobel laureate, I like to think he’ll be able to lean into his genre flirtations a little more, and take his literary train on a spin through space/time. The only thing that could go wrong is that he’ll find new, innovative ways to emotionally suckerpunch his audience. We could all do with a jolt of feeling in the winter months, though, right? Right? —Emily Nordling
My wish stems from my love of the work of Roger Zelazny, and in particular his world of Amber. My wish would be for an anthology of stories set in the Amber Universe, from new and different points of view than Corwin and Merlin, the ones we get in the novels. Aliette de Bodard writing Houses of Chaos scheming and squabbling. Scott Lynch writing heists in the down and gritty portions of the City of Amber. Elizabeth Bear’s take on what Deirdre really thought of Corwin. Jen Williams having a band of adventurers trying to break into the Castle Amber Dungeons. Max Gladstone writing about a pair of Amberites negotiating a treaty in a powerful-magic rich shadow, intrigue afoot. And lots more of my favorite authors too. —Paul Weimer
I’m writing this just hours before seeing The Last Jedi, so I’ve got Star Wars on the brain—and hence, I want another Claudia Gray Leia novel. I know we’re not getting any more Leia in films, and it breaks my heart. But Bloodline is fantastic, and it leaves room for more pre-The Force Awakens Leia stories. When that book ends, a lot of things have changed for our beloved leader, and we know they’re going to change even more over the next few years. I want details. I want Leia meeting Poe, and I want more of the characters Gray introduces, and I want to see the moment when Leia has to face her son after he’s learned—and not from her—who his grandfather is. Gray is a deft writer (her Leia, Princess of Alderaan is also a delight) and her Leia characterization is wonderful. Maybe … a whole Bloodline trilogy? —Molly Templeton
For whatever serendipitous reason, 2017 saw not one but two novels written in the 1970s about surreal happenings in Italian cities published in English translations for the first time. One was Giorgio De Maria’s The Twenty Days of Turin (ominous demonic activity, plus fascism); the other was Nicola Pugliese’s Malacqua (sinister dolls, flooding, a breakdown of the social order). The former was, as the title suggests, set in Turin; the latter was set in Naples. Both novels are fantastic, and if I’m going to hold out hope for more imaginary works, how about an abundance of more lost classics from the 1970s about bizarre and uncanny activities in other Italian cities? I’d say there could be one about vampires in Venice, but that’s already been a Doctor Who episode. —Tobias Carroll
If I could will into existence a perfect gift for myself and the world in book form, it might be a handsomely packaged, freshly in-print box set of Sarah Monette’s Doctrine of Labyrinths quartet. It’s not often I’m convinced that if a set of novels had been released, oh, a decade later the reception would’ve been wildly different—but these in particular strike that chord, and also I adore them to hell and back. It burdens my soul that the full quartet isn’t still in print.
Otherwise: the first of Maggie Stiefvater’s upcoming Ronan Lynch-oriented trilogy. I need it. —Brit Mandelo