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Every reader of SF comes across a title now and then that intrigues you, infuriates you, confuses you and/or enervates you. It leaves you with such a strong impression that you just have to share the impressions it left with others. It is so different from other books you have read. You recommend it, you pass along copies because you want to see if it is just you or that the book is really as interesting, you mention it constantly. Time passes and the book becomes harder to find. It is slipping out of print. How can you keep spreading the word about this fascinating book that you see as a overlooked odd speculative fiction classic?

This is another in a periodic list of such titles. Once you are finished with this list, have a look at the others in the series of Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics.

Ten Overlooked Odd Speculative Fiction Classics
by Eric Walker

Why is any "classic" speculative-fiction book ever overlooked? Sometimes it's because its author has produced some other work or works whose fame shadows it: there are three of those here. Sometimes it's because the author is not commonly thought of as a "speculative-fiction" writer: there are four of those here. And sometimes it's just a matter of the book or the author never having been noticed as it or he or she ought to be -- and there are three of those here.


 
The Unholy City The Unholy City
Charles G. Finney
The surreal adventures of Captain Butch Malahide of Abalone, Arizona, and his chance-met companion Vicq Ruiz in the city of Heilar-Wey, a tongue-in-cheek sarcastic funny-house mirror reflecting modern morals and mores. Charles G. Finney's Circus of Dr. Lao has long obscured this equally bizarre -- and ultimately profound -- gem.


Mr. Pye Mr. Pye
Mervyn Peake
This elegant little pastel work is radically different from Gormenghast. Set in modern times on the curious isle of Sark (where Mervyn Peake had lived), it is a witty, satisfying parable in which well-intentioned Mr. Pye discovers the wisdom of cleaving to The Golden Mean as he passes from angel to devil and back, while much hilarity ensues.


Rain in the Doorway Rain in the Doorway
Thorne Smith
Thorne Smith wrote a lot more than Topper. This, his most fantastic tale, has the flavor of a madcap R.A. Lafferty tale, as Mr. Hector Owen passes through a peculiar doorway into a Marx Brothers world in which, amid non-stop shenanigans, he learns certain important lessons. Chapter XVIII: The Partners Purchase A Whale. It's like that.


The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr
E.T.A. Hoffmann
E.T.A. Hoffmann, best known for his numerous Tales, also produced two novels. In this remarkably modern and stylistically sophisticated tale, he alternates the vain, bourgeois memoirs of the tomcat Murr -- whose peculiar literacy is simply a given -- against the disjointed notes of his owner, the musician Kreisler.


Three to See the King Three to See the King
Magnus Mills
Magnus Mills's sparse, taut prose tells a surreal tale of people living in tin houses scattered about a windy, dusty plain. Their eventless lives are disturbingly altered when a charismatic "king" initiates a vast communal endeavor drawing ever more of them into it; the anonymous narrator finally is himself drawn in; but shortly thereafter, things change dramatically.


 
The Stirk of Stirk The Stirk of Stirk
Peter Tinniswood
In this work, one with no clear parallel, Peter Tinniswood gives us a strange, skewed view of the world of Robin Hood -- a view that swings between screamingly funny (but dry) humor and a weird sense of mysticism. As in most true medieval tales, the strangeness never really has a cause or makes sense; but the Stirk, stoic supreme, remains ever himself throughout.


Descent into Hell Descent into Hell
Charles Williams
This powerful modern fantasy portrays, with surgical exactness, the decay of a soul. Steadily, willingly, blindly, Lawrence Wentworth commits evils -- not supernatural but pedestrian -- each stripping more of his personhood, till we arrive at a freezing vision of figurative (or literal?) Hell.


A Billion Days of Earth A Billion Days of Earth
Doris Piserchia
Doris Piserchia urgently needs and much deserves a revival. In this dry, wry tale of the far future, humanity has become "the Gods," and the role of humans is played -- very well -- by evolved rats. When the mysterious and unstoppable Sheen arrives on Earth, only Rik cares enough to resist his dominion. Witty, amusing, thought-provoking, and ultimately quite moving -- this is a book to savor.


Quin's Shanghai Circus Quin's Shanghai Circus
Edward Whittemore
There is little of the overt fantastic in this great, bloody sprawl of a novel, in which tortured souls follow twisting paths through WWII Shanghai; rather, there is a gradual stretching of the ordinary to the extraordinary. And eventually all those twisted paths converge at the final, dreadful performance of Quin's Shanghai Circus.


Jog Rummage Jog Rummage
Grahame Wright
Not often can one say of a book, without hyperbole, that there is nothing else quite like it. One cannot say much about this sadly neglected wonder without spoiling some of its effect -- the bleak, weird world of the jogs is not what it seems to be -- but it is densely full of all the emotions that count, that frame for us what it means to be human.



Copyright © 2006 The Owlcroft Company

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