Review: Attemptations, by Kim Clark

>>Published: September 2011

>>Finally got around to it: January 2012

The shot startles me. I turn automatically. Start running back. I’m thinking, if she isn’t dead, the second blast could be for me, for what I have that she doesn’t.

I wish I had not gone back. I wish I could remember her the way she was when I first laid eyes on her, sitting in the spring sun, thin straps, bathed in yellow. She was waiting for me, the first blast a fading echo as I rounded the shed. She placed the pistol in her mouth. Slowly squeezed the trigger. Everything out of sight and out of reach.

***

Attemptations, the first book of short fiction from BC’s Kim Clark, is a darkly comic collection of nine economical and often melancholy stories. Using a loose, length-driven hierarchy, Attemptations quickly builds from short stories of only a few pages, to a pair of almost novella-length narratives to close out the collection.

With a punctuated style and tone similar to Carolyn Black’s The Odious Child, Kim Clark’s stories offer up a darker slice of individuality. Her characters are universally flawed, often with physical manifestations to their idiosyncrasies. Often times employing an extraneous narrative mechanic (barbeque instructions, medical terminology, and repetitive—and manipulative—nomenclature), the stories in Attemptations are quite deliberately structured; Clark’s writing is organized and neat, leaving little to chance, as noted in the lovely play on words detailed in the final sentence of the passage quoted at the start of this review—taken from the third tale in the collection, “Mr. Everything.”

Though Attemptations starts strong (the aforementioned “Mr. Everything” is an early standout), it stumbles a bit in its middle section with a trio of stories—“Lucky Strike”, “Flickering”, and “Tangled Threads”—that are unfortunately bereft of strong characters or intriguing premises.

Following the slower-than-desired mid-section, the collection rebounds with “Aphylaxis”, and then hits its stride with the two longest pieces: “Solitaire” and “Six Degrees of Altered Sensation.” The latter, in particular, is the last strongest piece in the collection. The protagonist, Mel, who is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, is witty, acerbic, and at times manically focused around the number six—six being her placement on the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale, the number of fingers on one hand of Marvin, a man she’s attracted to, and the number of orgasms she’s expected to have before she loses all sensation to her disability. In Mel’s own words:

Again, I ready myself—get a little dolled up. Between hair and makeup, I text the mystery texter with three quick before-I-change-my-mind messages, allowing for slightly more honesty than I can muster with friends, acquaintances, or medical professionals.

  • recruiting volunteers to have sex with hot disabled chick
  • position open immediately
  • sliding pay scale

Attemptations is a strong first collection for Kim Clark. Though some of the stories lack the polish of the first few and of the two novella-length narratives, the quality of this collection is readily apparent.

Review: The Gargoyle, by Andrew Davidson

>>Published: August 2008

>>Finally got around to it: January 2012

It was interesting: this was her first humorous comment regarding her own mental state. I thought it might be the opening I’d been waiting for, and I asked her—pointing out that she had already discussed my burns with my doctors—with what condition she had been diagnosed. She shut down the topic by stating that the doctors simply didn’t understand her particular brand of charm.

She reached into her rucksack and pulled out a small leather-bound book. She wanted to start reading it aloud to me, she said. The Inferno, by Dante. An interesting choice for the burn ward, I commented, and added that despite my love of literature, this was one classic that I had never read.

She smiled as if she knew something that I did not. She had a very strong feeling, she said, that I would find the story not only to my liking, but very familiar.

***

A cocaine buzz, a bottle of bourbon, and a Good Friday near-death experience (complete with the flaming wreckage of a car). So begins Andrew Davidson’s #1 National Bestseller The Gargoyle, a love story seven hundred years in the making—or a textbook case of schizophrenia, substance abuse, and severe art therapy.

The unnamed narrator—a porn star with a dark past—crashes his car in the book’s opening, nearly burning to death in the process. As he endures endless procedures and months of slow, agonizing rehabilitation (the pleasure-through-pain metre spikes into torture porn on more than one occasion throughout the narrative), he comes to befriend a number of the hospital’s personalities, including a psych ward patient named Marianne Engel. Marianne is a sculptor of gargoyles and grotesques, and she has a secret: the unnamed narrator and her are lovers, entwined for seven hundred years. How does she know this? Because she has been alive all that time, waiting patiently for his inevitable return.

The Gargoyle doesn’t do anything particularly new, nor does it do anything particularly well. This is a standard, airport-novel love story masquerading as high concept historical fiction. Star-crossed lovers, loads of strife, coming together in miraculous ways… Through its ambitious multi-century plot, The Gargoyle seeks a larger mindshare than its narrative is able to achieve. While the unnamed hero and Marianne are interesting enough as redemption-seeking archetypes—he, dealing with a metaphorical abuse-slinging snake trapped in his spine, calling him a loser, telling him what a waste of life he is; her, withering to skin and bone as her need to sculpt and satisfy her three ethereal masters literally eats away at her body and mind—it’s the narrative and how it binds them that fails to deliver.

As Marianne slowly divulges the secret of the past she’s shared with the narrator, she peppers their history with tangents—of other great loves and sacrifices throughout history, their similarities at once unsettling and encouraging. While these stories are interesting, they do little to advance the notion of there being a great, pre-existing love between Marianne and the charred husk of a man she claims to have known for longer than he will ever remember. These stories feel inconsequential, save for a single chapter near the end where we are returned to them through a forced and unnecessarily lengthy head-trip, a cause of the protagonist’s rather sudden drug withdrawal.

The main show is Marianne’s recollection of the great love of her life. While at first intriguing, this story quickly becomes infuriating—the resolution of this tale, and the Deus ex Machina that saves her from death (and gives forced structure to the main narrative and the hearts she gives away in each and every statue she’s created) are without weight, as the three spirit masters that enter her life are devoid of narrative-established real world context. In essence, hers is the sole supernaturally spared life in existence—how she survives carries no meaning beyond a device to serve the narrative.

Had the side stories been different versions of these two, reincarnated throughout time and always ending in tragedy, I might have felt more of a connection to their great love. Had those seven hundred years Marianne spent alive and alone been documented in more than a passing manner, this novel might have had a leg to stand on. Had the resolution of their love been more than a suicidal slap in the face, I might have felt their journey was worthwhile. Sadly, the book’s only truly interesting narrative thread is to do with a lost, thought to be impossible early German translation of Dante’s The Inferno. Unfortunately, this single plot line is not strong enough to distract from the book’s many problems.

The more I contemplate this book, the angrier I get—not at poor writing or insufficient tone, but at missed opportunities and narrative convenience. The Gargoyle has an interesting premise, but unfortunately remains only a premise with too little meat on its slightly roasted carcass.

Review: Mindscan, by Robert J. Sawyer

>>Published: December 2005

>>Finally got around to it: January 2012

“You know,” said Sugiyama, “there used to be a lot of debate about this, but it’s all evaporated in the last few years. The simplest interpretation turned out to be the correct one: the human mind is nothing but software running on the hardware we call the brain. Well, when your old computer hardware wears out, you don’t think twice about junking it, buying a new machine, and reloading all your old software. What we at Immortex do is the same: the software that is you starts running on a new, better hardware platform.”

“It’s still not the real you,” grumbled someone in front of me.

If he heard the comment, Sugiyama was undaunted. “Here’s an old poser from philosophy class. Your father gives you an ax. After a few years of good service, the wooden handle breaks, and so you replace it. Is it still the ax your father gave you? Sure, why not? But then a few years after that, the metal head breaks, and you replace that. Now nothing of the original is left—it wasn’t replaced all at once, but rather piece-by-piece. Is it still your father’s ax? Before you answer too quickly, consider the fact that the atoms that make up your own body are completely replaced every seven years: there’s not one bit of the you who was once a baby that still exists; it’s all been replaced. Are you still you? Of course you are: the body doesn’t matter, the physical instantiation doesn’t matter. What matters is the continuity of being: the ax traces its existence back to being a gift from your father; it is still that gift. And—” he underscored his next words with a pointing finger “—anyone who can remember having been you before is you now.”

***

Jake Sullivan’s brain is a clock counting down to zero: inevitably, like his now-vegetative father before him, Jake will succumb to a rare arteriovenous malformation called Katerinsky’s syndrome; the arteries and veins in his brain are tangled in such a way that they will one day burst—not quite killing him, but leaving him in a permanent catatonic state. In Toronto, in the year 2045, a lingering threat such as this is dealt with not through surgery, but with a Mindscan—a new and very expensive process that maps every connection in the brain, from basic memories, thoughts, and feelings to the ideas and intangibles that are so frequently identified as being human-only traits.

Though not yet a legal procedure in the United States, where abortion laws have been turned back to once again restrict women’s rights by redefining what is and isn’t considered the earliest state of recognized life (Roe v. Wade was overturned by Littler v. Carvey), the Mindscan process allows for a mind to be replicated and placed in a synthetic body double. Though not so perfectly human in design as to seamlessly blend into the populace, the synthetic bodies offer durability and adaptability, so that the mind and memories they host can, barring some tragic form of destruction, live forever. Meanwhile, the original blueprint—the flesh and blood human—is shuttled off to a paradise hospice on the far side of the moon called High Eden, where they will live out their remaining days as human in being, but no longer on Earth, where their Mindscan doppelganger has accepted control of the life the original had once led.

Robert J. Sawyer’s Mindscan follows two iterations of Jake: the original, organic model that opts to undergo the Mindscan process to extend his life beyond the few remaining years he imagines Katerinsky’s syndrome will give him; and his synthetic counterpart, a not-so-flesh-and-blood man with Jake’s mind, his memories, and his mannerisms, as he struggles to fit in to the life he remembers having led as a human.

It’s clear that Sawyer has a deep interest in what defines a human as “Human.” In an earlier book, The Terminal Experiment, he posited a world in which science discovered the existence of the soul as a wave of energy that abandons the body upon death. With Mindscan, he’s taken this a step further to ask: if we could duplicate our minds, would the second mind be the same? Could it ever be considered the same? Or is something intangible and impossible to define lost the very moment an organic life ends?

The question addressed in Mindscan is not what is it that moves on, rather what is it that’s left behind. Is a duplicated mind still a human mind? Because even though the memories have been replicated, they have not been transferred wholesale—meaning that the original model, the organic man that has copied his consciousness into a synthetic body to ensure that he will go on to experience a life beyond his first, will still have to face death and what, if anything, lies beyond. He won’t live forever—a version of himself that he will never truly know will in fact be the one who lives forever. And neither shall ever experience the ultimate ends of the other.

Instead of travelling down this philosophical rabbit hole (Does the soul exist? If so, does it depart with the original body? Or does it jump ship and move into the synthetic?), Sawyer looks almost exclusively at the legal ramifications to the Mindscan procedure, should something like this ever come to pass. Granted certain philosophical concepts enter into the proceedings, but the bulk of the synthetic Jake’s storyline revolves around a courtroom drama to answer the question of whether or not an individual’s rights to personhood can be transferred to something not deemed entirely human. And from that jumping off point, what is and isn’t human, and what defines the earliest and final forms of life. Meanwhile, in High Eden, the organic Jake has been unexpectedly cured of the syndrome that was expected to take his life, and has taken hostages in an effort to circumvent the contract he signed with Immortex, the company responsible for the Mindscan procedure, to coerce them into contacting his synthetic counterpart on the Earth below. Because the organic Jake has been cured, he sees High Eden not as a final destination, but as a prison he must escape, to resume the life he thought he had been forced to preemptively give up.

Mindscan is a lot of fun, but its philosophical and legal conceits mask what is in essence a very thin story. As intriguing as the court case is, it usurps control from the more personal stories that we were given only glimpses of—of watching Jake and his lover, Karen (also a Mindscan replicant) fumble their way through friends and family that may or may not accept them; of witnessing the public at large reacting to synthetic humans in their midst; of seeing, beyond the boundaries of the courtroom, actual public expressions of religious and political response to the growing reality of humanity duplicated and extended beyond boundaries that had existed since the dawn of time.

A similar problem of scope existed within The Terminal Experiment: Sawyer is full of grand ideas, but focuses in on them through a very narrow lens. These narratives feel as if they’re taking place on a world the size of an island, where sweeping change crosses a city and not a country or continent. Though I respect the desire to represent Jake and Karen’s synthetic lives through a more personal scope, the limited worldview actually hampers this in that they feel as two unique people amongst a very small populace, not two people on the cusp of change that might affect the entire planet.

Additionally, Sawyer struggles to build an effective futurescape by peppering small social and historical details throughout the story in somewhat clumsy ways. For example:

Deshawn pulled a golden disk out of his pocket. “What’s this, Karen?”

“A Reagan.”

“By which you mean a ten-dollar United States coin, correct? With the American eagle on one side and former president Ronald Reagan on the other, is that right?”

Similar instances occur with name-dropping possible future presidents, court cases that may or may not have happened, social change and historical events, etc. They don’t do any extensive damage to the story, but their obviousness and lack of subtle explanation does hinder the illusion of a genuine future world.

Robert J. Sawyer has some big ideas, and he is an engaging storyteller, but his narratives seem consistently affected by an overall lack of creative subtlety. One can’t help but feel that he wants to take these ideas further than he’s seemingly capable of doing, either mechanically through his writing or stylistically in his construction of character and narrative. It’s as if the ideas are there, but he’s afraid to cut the cord and let all the craziness out. That being said, Mindscan shows a great deal of intelligence—scientific and philosophical—and stylistic growth over his earlier works. Should he continue in this way, science fiction will be the beneficiary.

Review: Ohmhole, by Tyler Hayden

>>Published: November 2011

>>Finally got around to it: January 2012

His eyes tightened up with the fat of violence. “They contain the uncells that cure the world’s most deadly diseases, notably HIV and cancer,” he mumbled. “They are all young. I engineered them myself and they are more beneficial than any treatment approved by the medical profession since it no longer exists. You remember the death of that stray dog? I killed him in a fit of joy after discovering the cure for HIV that I engineered actually works. If that cure were once introduced into North America, it would spread so rapidly that in eight to ten business days, the continent would be repopulated.”

“I’m stupid. I don’t understand what you mean by cures. How is it possible for a man to invent a cure?”

“I keep forgetting you’re stupid. Lie down on the floor,”—he sat down on the toilet and I stretched out on the bathroom floor,—“Certain cures are produced by certain cells or uncells that have had their DNA tinkered with by certain bioengineers who reprogram the information within them to turn them into organic machines to hunt down the diseases. Reverse engineering is easier than actual.”

***

I’m the first to admit that I do in fact judge books by their covers. More often than not, my fine arts-oriented brain is drawn to an unknown title sporting a very pretty jacket. So let’s shake things up a bit and start with that: design wise, Tyler Hayden’s Ohmhole is a beautiful book. Simple, minimalist aesthetics go a long way with me. The second positive mark on the list: genuinely intriguing cover copy. A dystopian future where the populace lies dying of AIDS, and the only rumoured cure is believed to be exchanged through our bodily fluids? Definitely atypical of your average governmental/corporation-controlled authoritarian future speculative work.

However, despite my strong initial intrigue, I find myself fighting for the words to describe Ohmhole. Curious? Absolutely. Ambitious. Unrestrained.

Unfortunately, I would also describe it as needlessly abrasive, immature, vulgar, and lacking an emotional core.

If pressed for an A meets B reduction of the narrative, I’d classify Ohmhole as Peter Darbyshire and Douglas Coupland meets Daniel Allen Cox and Tao Lin, minus any sort of attention to character or the construction of a coherent narrative: society run selfishly amuck through a disaffected, repetitive, come-soaked fuckscape. Ohmhole feels hamstrung by its dystopian influences, but lacks the creativity, imagery, and emotional pull of others who’ve travelled a similar ideological path. Instead of an original examination of the themes outlined in the book’s synopsis, we’re treated to an Idiocracy-like approach to sexual terminology, beaten to death through aggravating, white noise-like repetition of language and action. What results is something altogether inane that borders on infantile—Hayden wields sexuality as if he were a child discovering curse words for the first time, overusing them to ineffectiveness.

My criticisms are largely technical: Hayden’s language did nothing to paint this world as anything more than a simplistic—though potentially controversial—two-dimensional conceit. Though I suspect there are much larger ideas at stake in this work—issues to do with the prevalence of sexual criticism; the nature of unnecessary criticism towards an individual’s rights to sex, sexuality and privacy; and the need, in such matters, for social and governmental responsibility without oppression—they are buried beneath a shock-for-shock’s sake treatment of language that left me with little desire to unearth his ultimate intent.

While there is likely academic or educational merit to dissecting Hayden’s work, as a novel Ohmhole fails to inspire further conversation. Instead, the book’s exciting premise is sadly extinguished by its overcooked and ineffective technique, and obsessively high school-level diction.

Review: Memoirs of an Addicted Brain, by Marc Lewis, Ph.D.

>>Published: October 2011

>>Finally got around to it: January 2012

I am a little boy rummaging, drawer after drawer. And there are drugs here. So many. Sure enough, drawers full of boxes, piled high, free samples. Must be. And ohhhh, there’s the Demerol. Multidose glass vial: 50 milligrams per millilitre! That’s the strong stuff. Almost full. Now, the apparatus. Drawer full of syringes and needles, each cozy in its wrapper. I am literally chuckling with glee. I am pretending to be Mr. Hyde, or I’m not pretending. You’re fucked, I tell myself. But I’m still smiling. The accusatory voice has no power now. No mother, no father, anywhere. And look, a nice folded plastic bag. I start to stuff it. Halloween in Drugland. My mood is off the charts. Intense excitement, glee, power, triumph, and anticipation of the… oh yeah… shooting Demerol is just so nice. There is nothing like it. I once read that if there’s anything nicer in the universe, God saved it for himself.

***

That Marc Lewis is still alive, and has the remaining brain cells to accomplish all he has as a neuroscientist, is nothing short of a miracle. From his miserable teenage years interned in a New England boarding school, through university life during Berkley’s drug-addled 1970s, and crossing continents to Malay and Calcutta, Memoirs of an Addicted Brain is an engrossing first-hand examination of addiction—an account of its power, its ability to rewire the brain through perceived physical necessity, and its very unforgiving nature.

Marc Lewis writes about drugs with a split personality; he approaches his life and his various travels into and out of the world of drugs with both a scientist’s respect for knowledge and fact, and a child’s wonderment and eagerness to experiment with everything he can get his hands on. His memoirs, as it were, are part psychedelic travelogue, part detailed-yet-accessible breakdown of each drug’s effect on the human body and mind.

The appeal of drugs, as Lewis describes, is at once mythic and chemical. The dangerous proposition of removing oneself from the frustrations and difficulties of a less than ideal existence, spiking dopamine levels past risk and into reward, is effectively broken down and explained:

Dopamine—the fuel of desire—is only one of four major neuromodulators. Each of the neuromodulators fuels the brain operations in its own particular way. But all four of them share two properties. First, they get released and used up all over the brain, not at specific locales. Second, each is produced by one specialized organ, a brain part designed to manufacture that one potent chemical. Instead of watering the flowers one by one, neuromodulator release is like a sprinkler system. That’s why neuromodulators initiate changes that are global, not local. Dopamine fuels attraction, focus, approach, and especially wanting and doing. Norepinephrine fuels perceptual alertness, arousal, excitement, and attention to sensory detail. Acetylcholine energizes all mental operations, consciousness, and thought itself. But the final neuromodulator, serotonin, is more complicated in its action. Serotonin does a lot of different things in a lot of different places, because there are many kinds of serotonin receptors, and they inhabit a great variety of neural nooks, staking out an intricate network.

In four parts, chronicling his first steps into drug use and abuse, through world travel, failed relationships and marital missteps, and ultimately a minor (but still deplorable) life of crime to fuel his ever-expanding narcotics addiction, Lewis’ approach is honest and without apology. He acknowledges his failings without sugar coating them; instead, he offers insight and analysis few who have struggled with the same demons would ever find themselves in a position to provide.

Memoirs of an Addicted Brain is an uncomfortable, but still captivating exploration into a life most of us would fear for reasons of health, safety, and the sake of family and friends. Experiencing Lewis’ life, knowing he comes out on top in the end, doesn’t negate the nervousness and uncertainty one feels reading his exploits and the risks taken for that one extra hit of whatever he was pumping into his veins at any given moment. His eventual success with career and family doesn’t make his breaking and entering and failing our of grad school any less disheartening, or the many times he falls off the wagon any less demoralizing.

There’s an element of “taking one for the team” that permeates Lewis’ work—an almost indescribable fascination one feels reading the combination of science and gratification devoid of reason, and the knowledge that such an experience could only come from a mind wired for the darkest trips into self satisfaction and pleasure seeking. That he manages to walk away from his past with only a scarred brain, but still a high-functioning brain, is incredible.

Review: The Inquisitor, by Mark Allen Smith

>>Published: January 2012

Geiger’s mind was sent reeling away from the dark forest, defying the vision’s gravity and seeking refuge beyond it. But what came before him was a floating curtain, and then, as the curtain parted, it revealed the long shelf carrying all his session books: the black binders, the hundreds of Joneses, the thousands of pages filled with strategies and methods, reactions and conclusions. Geiger could see the faces of his subjects, he could hear every epithet and plea ever uttered, every sound a human can make in fear or pain. Confronting him was a compendium of the darkest of man’s arts—and a garish portrait of a monster that now, for the first time, he recognized as himself.

***

Geiger: Information Retrieval specialist. Interrogator. A torturer of a kind; a man with a strict moral code—something that cannot necessarily be said of his contemporaries. Mark Allen Smith’s first novel, The Inquisitor is a brisk thriller that hedges its success on an unconventional protagonist with a mysterious past.

In the off-the-books world of information retrieval, Geiger is a known quantity on a very short list. He’s efficient. He gets what he needs, and he does it without bringing extensive physical harm to his subjects. Mental anguish however… that’s an issue for another day. Geiger gets the call when the Jones—the individual he is hired to withdraw information from—needs to be broken without leaving bodily evidence to be mopped up in the aftermath. He lives a restricted, Spartan lifestyle, and adheres to a personal code of ethics. His past is a mystery, even to himself, but his talents are without question. When a not-entirely-on-the-level case is offered to him, Geiger is forced to decide whether or not to deviate from his code and interrogate a child—a young pre-teen named Ezra. Should he refuse, the information retrieval will fall to another in his line of work—a notoriously blunt instrument named Dalton.

The Inquisitor doesn’t try to hide its hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold roots: Geiger, though violent and at times highly unstable, is our man on the inside, the good guy with the shady past whose sins—dark though they may be—are not beyond absolution. Smith isn’t interested in challenging us with a thoroughly detestable main character; he wants us to sympathize with and, in time, understand Geiger’s behaviour. His past, his motivation, and his abilities create a wholly sympathetic social outcast with precious few confidants in his closed-off world. Yes, he has certain unscrupulous connections and has done some unforgivable things in his career, but his code, which removes him from his role as interrogator and installs him as Ezra’s protector, is noble and unshakable.

While Geiger is certainly an intriguing, Jason Bourne-esque personality, the book’s remaining characters run the gamut from the hard-on-his-luck “best friend” and accomplice, to by-the-numbers mobsters and are-they-or-aren’t-they government agents, and one very off-kilter sister, whose presence provides the narrative with a certain amount of pathos. The most fascinating of the side characters, interestingly enough, is Geiger’s vile counterpart, Dalton. The pairing of the two in the book’s third act offers the story’s strongest character development. Dalton is what Geiger could be, were he to completely discard his code of ethics.

The Inquisitor is at times an uneven experience. While I appreciated the lean and energized narrative (with its obvious allusions to Wikileaks), the quick character turns—the willingness to abandon a career so dramatically when ethically challenged—left me feeling winded. It was as if an earlier novel developing Geiger’s modes and methods of operation had been written and discarded in favour of what at times feels more like the second chapter of a series, and not an introduction. Though his interaction with Ezra works to humanize Geiger, it feels as though we’ve missed out on an opportunity to further explore his interactions with other Information Retrieval specialists. Granted this could be done in the future with prequels or flashbacks, should Geiger become the star of his own series, but as a singular instalment I found myself more fascinated with the implications and details of his dark industry than with any late-in-the-game character revelations.

In spite of these reservations and a forced, Friday the 13th hand-out-of-the-water climax that falls into slightly comic territory, The Inquisitor is still an exciting page turner, and I’d love to know where Smith takes the character from here. I just hope the road to Geiger’s salvation is a little rockier and more challenging from here on out.

2012: The Year I Read Myself Into Oblivion

1. Amulet – Roberto Bolano
2. The Inquisitor – Mark Allen Smith
3. Memoirs of an Addicted Brain – Marc Lewis, Ph.D.
4. Ohmhole – Tyler Hayden
5. Mindscan – Robert J. Sawyer
6. The Gargoyle – Andrew Davidson
7. Attemptations – Kim Clark
8. Beyond Good and Evil – Friedrich Nietzsche
9. 10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights – Ryu Mitsuse
10. The Flame Alphabet – Ben Marcus
11. Three A.M. – Steven John
12. Big Questions – Anders Nilsen
13. The Maladjusted – Derek Hayes
14. Mr g – Alan Lightman
15. Scored – Lauren McLaughlin
16. The Most Human Human – Brian Christian
17. Temperance – Cathy Malkasian
18. Immobility – Brian Evenson
19. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
20. Machine Man – Max Barry
21. The Shore Girl Clippings – Fran Kimmel
22. Revitalizing the Rural West – Elizabeth McLauchlin
23. The Age of Spiritual Machines – Ray Kurzweil
24. Swallow – Theanna Bischoff
25. Heartsnatcher – Boris Vian
26. Martini with a Twist – Clem Martini
27. Rainbows End – Vernor Vinge
28. I Am Me – Ram Sundaram
29. Little Stalker – Jennifer Belle
30. Those Who Know: 20th Anniversary Edition – Dianne Meili
31. Briarpatch – Tim Pratt
32. Pontypool Changes Everything – Tony Burgess
33. Lost Everything – Brian Francis Slattery
34. Piercing – Ryu Murakami
35. Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City – Guy Delisle
36. Small Stunted Ways – Cynara Geissler
37. Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan
38. The Juliet Stories – Carrie Snyder
39. Broken Angels – Richard Morgan
40. Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories – Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
41. Planetary: The Fourth Man – Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
42. Planetary: Leaving the Twentieth Century – Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
43. Planetary: Spacetime Archaeology – Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
44. Hark! A Vagrant – Kate Beaton
45. Mad Hope – Heather Birrell
46. Blackbirds – Garry Ryan
47. The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin – Walter Mosley
48. Woken Furies – Richard Morgan
49. Goliath – Tom Gauld
50. Basement of Wolves – Daniel Allen Cox
51. Mr. Fox – Helen Oyeyemi
52. Nonnonba – Shigeru Mizuki
53. Scar – Ryan Frawley
54. Grow Up – Ben Brooks
55. Utopia – Sir Thomas More
56. The Epic of Gilgamesh – Andrew George (translator)
57. The Broken Universe – Paul Melko
58. Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are – Sebastian Seung
59. The Art of War – Sun-Tzu
60. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
61. Maidenhead – Tamara Faith Berger
62. Immortality – Stephen Cave
63. The Tibetan Book of the Dead – Various
64. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
65. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
66. Alys, Always – Harriet Lane
67. The Torah: The Five Books of Moses – Various
68. The Satanic Bible – Anton Szandor LaVey
69. Redshirts – John Scalzi
70. Pride of Baghdad – Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
71. The Qur’an – Abdullah Yusuf Ali (translator)
72. The Hollow City – Dan Wells
73. Zombie Spaceship Wasteland – Patton Oswalt
74. Luminarium – Alex Shakar
75. Bird By Bird – Anne Lamott
76. Grimus – Salman Rushdie
77. The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee – Sarah Silverman
78. The Prestige – Christopher Priest
79. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
80. Mid-Life – Joe Ollmann
81. Bullettime – Nick Mamatas
82. The Girls Who Saw Everything – Sean Dixon
83. The Name of the World – Denis Johnson
84. The Art of Immersion – Frank Rose
85. Fallen Words – Yoshihiro Tatsumi
86. The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
87. The Invention of Morel – Adolfo Bioy Casares
88. Origin – Jessica Khoury
89. Goldfish Tears – Curtis Ackie
90. vN – Madeline Ashby
91. The Nice Old Man and the Pretty Girl – Italo Svevo
92. The People of Forever Are Not Afraid – Shani Boianjiu
93. Sorry Please Thank You – Charles Yu
94. Life is About Losing Everything – Lynn Crosbie
95. The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
96. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
97. Astonishing X-Men: Book 1 – Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
98. Astonishing X-Men: Book 2 – Joss Whedon & John Cassaday
99. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 9: Freefall – Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, and Georges Jeanty
100. Sleeping Funny – Miranda Hill
101. Raising Hell: Ken Russell and the Unmaking of the Devils – Richard Crouse
102. Janus – John Park
103. The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
104. 03 – Jean-Christophe Valtat
105. The Lava In My Bones – Barry Webster
106. The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success – Kevin Dutton
107. No Alternative – William Dickerson
108. Why Not a Spider Monkey Jesus? – A.G. Pasquella
109. Beautiful Creatures – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (re-read)
110. Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks
111. Beautiful Darkness – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (re-read)
112. Bull Head – John Vigna
113. Beautiful Chaos – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (re-read)
114. Beautiful Redemption – Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
115. Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye – Paul Tremblay
116. The Rapture of the Nerds – Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross
117. Imperfections – Bradley Somer
118. The Big Time – Fritz Leiber
119. Four Past Midnight – Stephen King
120. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin