Cyberfiction pioneer Bruce Sterling is the author of Tomorrow Now and a contributing editor for Wired magazine. His latest novel, The Zenith Angle, has just been published.
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino (Harvest, $13). Makes me wonder why all science-fiction books arent a series of arch, witty jokes about the universe. This unique cultural product must have required any number of trips down to the Oulipo group to chat about cosmology. Molto pensato, dude.
Orlando Furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (Oxford, $17). It certainly takes its own sweet time, but this is Tolkien-style heroic fantasy as invented and delivered by decadent Renaissance aristocrats. The most touching part is when Ariosto thanks his audience at the end of his epic, and you realize that actual human beings have been drinking in these wacky, interlocking tales of flying hippogriffs and immortal sorceresses.
The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (Vintage, $14). Disciplined, productive, insightful, and profoundly strange, Murakami can churn out novels and journalism with impressive facility. I like him best in the short form, where his globally minded Nipponese transrealism makes its point and then allows the awe-struck reader some time to mentally recover.
A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia by Victor Pelevin (New Directions, $13). Young Russian writer Victor Pelevin hasnt always been well served by his translators, but these short stories are so irretrievably weird that they glow like the bears must glow in the woods around Chernobyl.
My Name Is Red by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage, $15). All of Pamuks books involve identity games and orgiastic, Borgesian head tripping, but My Name Is Red ups the ante by also being a 16th-century Ottoman murder mystery, an anguished romance, and an art-historical interpretation of royal miniature painting. This man deserves the Nobel.
Fantastics and Other Fancies