Feb 10, 2010

Speculative Fiction for you and your valentine...

Only 5 days until Valentine’s Day. I don’t know much about you but from the fact you’re here, you have at least a passing interest in the speculative genre. You might also have a special someone in your life. And that someone may or may not share your passion for reading or genre fiction. And if you’re anything like me you might not have any idea what you’re getting that person for Valentine’s Day.

In my experience, one of the most successful gifts I’ve given my girlfriend is a pair of books. (She’s now my fiancé, how’s that for success?) Not two different books, mind you, two of the same book. While this might aggravate the frugal book buyer, I’ve found it makes a fairly inexpensive, heartfelt gift. The idea is that you want to share an experience with them. Whether it’s lying on the couch turning pages side by side or discussing plot points over a late dinner in your favorite date restaurant, a shared book can be a much more romantic gesture than it appears on paper.

So assuming you are looking for a gift a little more personal than a box of chocolates and your significant other would be interested in reading something both romantic and speculative, here are 5 books that I’ve found work on both sides of the genre fence.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
This book deals with a love that transcends time. Henry time travels randomly into Clare’s (his wife) future and past. While she experiences her life linearly, her relationship with Henry is anything but. The first time Henry meets Clare, she has already interacted with other future Henrys to the point that she knows they are destined to be together. Not only is the story very personal and intimate, the causality inherent in their time-crossed relationships will have your mind in knots even if you thought Primer was straight forward. How many marriages do you know that never have a first date? This is probably the best time-travel book I’ve ever read and one of the finest science fiction novels to come out in the last decade.

Replay - Ken Grimwood

This is another book dealing with two people drawn together by extraordinary circumstances. Replay works from the same premise of Groundhog’s Day but instead of one day, Jeff Winston continually relives the last 25 years of his life. With each subsequent replay, Jeff continually adapts his life in an effort to find happiness and meaning in a life without conclusion. Eventually he meets someone who suffers from the same bizarre situation that he does and their lives are linked together for better worse. A World Fantasy Award winner, Replay is a simple concept executed perfectly.

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon

Yet another time-travel romance, Outlander mixes historical fiction with fantasy as Claire Randall is teleported back in time to a Scotland 200 years in the past. She soon becomes conflicted between a husband in one time and a lover in the other. Despite the Harlequin-esque sales pitch it’s not trashy (although there is some passionate sex) and Gabaldon puts a lot of effort into historical detail and developing an intriguing plot.

The Host - Stephanie Meyer

This book is a step in the right direction for the unfortunate Twilight fan. (Centuries old vampire stalks confused teen, that’s a healthy relationship…) While Meyer’s other books might be annoyingly terrible and annoying popular, The Host is a fast read concerning what happens when the Brain Slugs learn to love. The majority of the human race has been possessed by Souls (parasitic aliens who infest and control your mind) and only a few pockets of free humans remain. When one of the resistance members is taken over by a Soul but refuses to fade quietly away, they form an unexpected and unwelcome pair. In the Host, Meyer raises questions of love, identity, and what it means to be human in one of the strangest love triangles you’ll ever encounter.

Little, Big - John Crowley

This book is very hit or miss but if you and your other are the type of people who enjoy dense challenging novels than Little, Big might be perfect for you. Crowley constructs a meandering story that is almost impossible to describe (my best attempt would be a family’s history with fairies) that changes locations and time frames but remains profoundly moving. If you like your fantasy more literary than pulp than Crowley’s masterpiece is worth a second look. Like Replay, Little, Big also won the World Fantasy Award.

So there you have it just in time for a last minute Valentine’s Day gift. 5 books that are both romantic and speculative and worth checking out whether it’s February 13th or August 22nd.

Feel free to recommend any books you feel would fit this list in the comments. I still need to find a gift…


  1. That's a great idea, although my wife can't stand anything genre, I guess I can concede (like usual). :D

  2. Good post, and Replay is an amazing book! The description above is a bit off, though (he doesn't keep reliving the last 25 years of his life).

  3. Definitely concur re: Outlander (or Cross Stitch as it is here in the UK) and The Time Traveler's Wife - two very beautiful books.

  4. Very nice list. Replay does not disappoint. I'd put Soulless by Gail Carriger up there as well. My wife loved it. I actually got her Steamed by Katie Macalister this year, but I have no idea how good it is.

  5. @Kendall - It's the core concept though. And I don't want to ruin things...

  6. High praise re: The Time Traveller's Wife. I've perhaps been guilty of turning my nose up at that one in the past, but I'll have to check it out on your recommendation, Yeti.


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