You read the news, and it’s almost like there’s a lot of fodder these days for fiction writers. Probably too much! And I have to wonder: as writers, do we mine those things as a form of therapy? Do we do it to warn people about the terrors we see on the horizon? Does the reality make our jobs harder because the news has a distinct tinge of stranger-than-fiction?
Probably all three of those things!
The Warehouse was driven by my fear of late-stage capitalism, and how large corporations are turning employees into a disposable product. But I was also driven by books that dared me to dream a little bigger, that utilize all those fears plugging up our social media feeds. Here are five books that mold our current state of constant anxiety into thoughtful, timely, terrifying fiction. Books that stick with you for a long time after you read them. At least, they stuck with me. And they’re all rooted in the idea that the things that are supposed to make us great—justice, capitalism, democracy—are actually the things constructing our downfall.
Unamerica by Cody Goodfellow
A dystopian fever dream about a city buried beneath the desert at the US-Mexico border, where excess is the name of the game. Goodfellow offers madcap satire of capitalism, religion, and drug culture. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. It’s fiction you grind up and freebase directly into your cerebral cortex.
There are bonus points to be had here too, because the publisher, King Shot Press, a punk rock indie press from Portland. They do daring work—books to light the revolution by. Unamerica isn’t even available as an eBook yet! That’s okay though. Nothing beats the feel of a real book.
Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Adjustment Day sees Palahniuk reunited with W.W. Norton, the original publisher of Fight Club. And it’s pretty apropos. This book is like what would happen if Project Mayhem went global. The world standing on the brink of war, the draft re-introduced, and the working class prepared to overthrow the elites. And then our fracturing nation actually fractures…
It goes about as well as you would expect. It’s a spiritual sequel to Fight Club, a bigger exploration of ideas he’d first proposed in that book more than 20 years ago, and it proves that Palahniuk has still got it, offering provocative satire of media, masculinity, and race, just to name a few of his targets.
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
It’s a hell of a hook: A bunch of people, seemingly at random, just get up and start walking toward some unknown destination. There’s also violent militias and technology run amok and a whole bunch of other relevant real-world stuff it’d be spoilery to give away. It’s like Wendig took everything you see on Twitter that keeps you awake at night, balled them up, and—somehow, some way—reformed them into a coherent, ripping narrative.
What’s even more impressive is: This thing is a beast, at more than 800 pages, and yet, I read it in three days. Wendig is like a magician, weaving a gripping narrative that is deeply and intensely human. It’s the kind of book that will make you afraid of so many things, but then it’ll give you hope… just to take it away again! Damn you, Wendig!
Infomocracy by Malka Older
Remember when we thought our elections were fair and free of interference by hostile nations? Oh what a world that was. It could be worse, like in Infomocracy, about an attempt to streamline the process by creating micro-democracies with the help of a search engine monopoly.
Older brings an extensive resume as an academic and international aid worker to this whip-smart debut that examines and challenges the core concepts of democracy. And it reinforces some disturbing truths—like the way technology is supposed to make things better and usually makes it worse, and the way information, in the wrong hands, can be used to manipulate rather than inform.
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
The planet has been ravaged by war and greed and environmental collapse—haha like that would ever happen right?—and the wealthy have retreated to a floating space station called CIEL. The hairless, sexless humans, decorated with skin grafts, are siphoning what they can from the Earth before it’s dead.
Through Yuknavitch’s trademark ethereal prose, she tells a story of art, protest, bodies, humanity… all through a futuristic re-imagining of the story of Joan of Arc. The Book of Joan is a fantastic fusion of genres with a slippery, dizzying narrative that rewards the careful reader. It is wholly and completely unique—just like everything Yuknavitch writes.
Rob Hart is the author of the Ash McKenna crime series and the short-story collection Take-Out. He also co-wrote Scott Free with James Patterson. His novel The Warehouse publishes August 20th with Crown/Archetype. He’s worked as a book publisher, a political reporter, and a communications director for a politician and was a commissioner for the city of New York. He lives on Staten Island with his wife and daughter. Preorder The Warehouse here.