Stranger Days #12: More Reads

Estimated Reading Time: 3.5 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

Last week, I shared with you some books that I had recently enjoyed. It's been another week or so and I've read three more books that I figured I would share with folks--especially if you are looking for some good reading to occupy your time.  And by good, I mean books that resonate with the sense of being in a strange place and time. Last week's books had a time-theme that came out pretty strongly. These books, I'm not sure there is as strong a theme across all of them, but again, in reading them, it's hard not to draw parallels to what is going on now.  So rather than traditional reviews that I write on this blog, I'll cap it at a sentence or two about plot and then talk about what in the book resonates to these times.  

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

An alternate history where technology accelerated at faster levels as a result of Alan Turing and realistic robots have become a reality by the 1980s. Charlie Friend purchases the recent and limited model that is supposed to be as close to human as possible.  The backdrop of the novel includes the rise of machines, a populist leader, and mass unemployment creating significant changes in society.  I can't help but think about how what is happening right now, might actually increase the use of robots and artificial intelligence in a variety of environments and leave many folks without jobs to return to.  So while the book was about a world that doesn't exist (though to be fair, all books written are about this world somehow, no?), there are elements that stand out particularly strong.

Supernova Era by Liu Cixin

First off, if you're not reading Liu Cixin, go get your hands on The Three-Body Problem and enjoy the hell out of that amazing and mind-warping trilogy.  When you're done, if you want something a bit lighter but intriguing for these times, consider this one.  The basic set up: a supernova radiation blast affects all adults but not children; the adults have a limited amount of time to get the children ready to run the world by themselves.  The novel moves from the preparing for the pre-Supernova Era (before adults die off) to the Supernova Era (when children are in charge) to briefly the post-Supernova Era when the new world order is firmly established.  Cixin's exploration of a world of abandoned spaces and practices, coupled with people (children) stuck on how to fill their days or feeling some level of monotony with the work they have to do will resonate with people currently working and spending a dreadful amount of hours in Zoom and video-conferencing spaces.  It also evokes the feeling of being in an in-between space of what has happened before and what the future will look like while trying to understand how life operates nowadays.
Book Cover - Nnedi Okorafor - Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

In this Afrofuturist world, Onyesonwu navigates town life as an ewu, a child born from two races that are largely shunned and mistreated. But Onye is also coming into her right as a powerful sorcerer who must travel across desert lands and confront her father, an even more powerful sorcerer who is leading a genocidal war against the Okeke, including many of Onye's friends and her mother. That plot seems simple and straightforward, but I assure you--nothing Nnedi Okorafor does is simple and straightforward.  While the previous two are enjoyable and thoughtful books, Okorafor's is an emotional powderkeg that will be felt deep within readers.  I think it's a bit harder to connect the novel to the current circumstances other than feeling like we're in an in-between space of life and there's a resonance of that with the characters in the book at different times.  

So those are the books that I've been reading of late during these times.  How abot you?  Anything fun?  Anything that you're finding are helping you through these strange times?  Tell me all about them in the comments!

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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