Let me get this out of the way first: Prolific non-fiction author and eminent Judaic scholar David Halperin’s debut novel Journal of a UFO Investigator (Viking, Blackstone Audio) is not properly science fiction. It is, however, a wonderful book, and Sean Runnette’s narration brings it wonderfully to life, and it is, to quote Bull Spec reviewer Richard Dansky, “a novel about what science fiction is for and about—not aliens or rocketships, but rather the ability to cast real problems in an unreal context, and by doing so, get a handle on them”.
OK, on to the publisher summary:
This sparkling debut novel, set against the backdrop of the troubled 1960s, is a coming-of-age story that weaves together a compelling psychological drama and vivid outer-space fantasy.
Danny Shapiro is an isolated teenager living with a dying mother, a hostile father, and no friends. To cope with these circumstances, Danny forges a reality of his own, which includes the sinister “Three Men in Black,” mysterious lake creatures with insect-like carapaces, a beautiful young seductress and thief, with whom Danny falls in love, and an alien-human love child who—if only Danny can keep her alive—will redeem the planet. Danny’s fictional world blends so seamlessly with his day-to-day life that profound questions about what is real and what is not, what is possible and what is imagined, begin to arise. As the hero in his alien landscape, he finds the strength to deal with his own life and to stand up to demons both real and imagined. Told with heart and intellect, Journal of a UFO Investigator calls to mind the works of Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem.
“What’s in this book? What isn’t? History, mystery—even aliens, for God’s sake. The most compelling and original coming-of-age story I’ve read in a long time.” (Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish)
I can’t really add much more than again quoting Dansky: “Journal of a UFO Investigator is one of those rare reads that takes advantage of the wildest things science fiction can do in order to tell a human, mundane—and wonderful—story.” Well, OK, I will try. Runnette’s narration does not have the benefit of the book’s layout and typesetting. We don’t have clues like indentation, italics, and so on to help denote “this is a dream sequence” or “this is a journal entry” and so in audio the lines between reality and fantasy blur even further. For me this was a wonderful effect, and I, again, can’t recommend this one enough.
ALSO IN FEBRUARY:
- Swamplandia! by Karen Russell is another that is squirrelly-hard to push into genre boundaries, and an excellent production from Random House Audio
- The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds (2008), narrated by John Lee (Tantor Audio)
- A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness gets ridden a bit for being romance with witch clothing stitched on, but hey, if that’s what you want…
- Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova (Blackstone Audio) and Venus are part of Bova’s The Grand Tour Series
- Dandelion Wine: A Novel by Ray Bradbury (1957) gets a nice narration from Paul Michael Garcia courtesy of Blackstone Audio
- Audible Frontiers was busy this month with: H. Beam Piper’s The Cosmic Computer, Four-Day Planet, and Uller Uprising; John W. Campbell’s The Black Star Passes and Invaders from the Infinite; and Alan E. Nourse’s Star Surgeon
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver (YA)
- Deep State
- The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, The Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick narrated by Alan Sklar
- Book of Shadows: The Sweep Series, Book 1 by arrated by
SEEN BUT NOT HEARD:
Note: this post is back-dated from June 22, 2011, for sort order purposes.