Kids Love the Kaiser (An Autumn Reading List)

Here in North America, the leaves are brightly colored and there’s a chill in the air. What better time to stay inside, make a warm pot of tea, and curl up with a good book? Our panel has many suggestions for excellent books to read if you or a friend is looking for a good science fiction or fantasy novel.


Terrifying Fear of Clouds

Beloved (yet creepy?) children’s author Roald Dahl is in our spotlight this week, as we talk about some of our favorite books by Dahl, including “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “James and the Giant Peach”, “Danny, the Champion of the World”, and “Matilda.” We also discuss film adaptations and all the uncomfortable bits that have been cut out of new editions of Dahl over the years. Look for the golden ticket inside this podcast!


Just Give Me 35 Years

It took thousands of pages over seven novels, but eventually Stephen King finished his genre-busting series, The Dark Tower—and eventually we finished it too! Join four faithful readers who have taken the journey with Roland and his Ka-Tet and are ready to report back. We’ve got 30 minutes of non-spoiler discussion for prospective readers, followed by a lightning-round palaver about all seven main-sequence books, and how they link with other parts of King’s work.


I Tried to Quit This Book Twice

Looking for a good science fiction or fantasy book to read? Have we got a list for you. Our intrepid panel read all the novels nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards this year—eight in total—and has returned with the results. No spoilers, but we’ll share our feelings about all eight books. With any luck, you’ll come out with one, or four, or eight books to add to your reading list.


Go to the Moon

Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss the works of novelist N.K. Jemisin, specifically her most recent books, “The Fifth Season” and “The Obelisk Gate.” We also discuss the Inheritance Trilogy, which started with “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.” Plus, what are we reading now?


Metaphors All the Way Down

Tape plastic wrap to your windows and wear a heavy jacket, because we’re revisiting Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel “American Gods” (and its not-a-sequel, 2005’s “Anansi Boys”) before these books make it to TV screens. We appreciate Gaiman’s writing style and the tightrope he walks to tell the story he wants to tell, but have some questions about invisible gods, tall tales, roadside landmarks, and the rules of this world.


Burned Like Books

The Incomparable’s Book Club reconvenes to discuss two books from the past about future dystopias: Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Is Bradbury just angry about reality TV? Does Orwell just want you to read his essay about language? Can we read these famous books without bringing along our preconceived notions of what they’re supposed to mean? At what temperature do Kindles burn? Don’t worry—in the end this entire episode is going down the Memory Hole.


Just Add Jesuits!

After 20 years, we revisit Mary Doria Russell’s first-contact classic “The Sparrow.” It’s a story about aliens, spirituality, and why God allows terrible things to happen to good people. And boy, do terrible things happen to people in this book. (Content advisory: One of those things is sexual assault of humans by aliens.)


All the Best Words

It’s time for our annual survey of some of the best science fiction and fantasy novels of the year, as we read all seven of the nominees for the Nebula Award. If you’re looking for some new books to read, check out our discussion—we tread lightly on the spoilers.


I Like Complicated Books, Glenn

Our Book Club returns to read two recent, highly praised science fiction novels. From Kim Stanley Robinson comes “Aurora,” the story of a spaceship sent from Earth to a far-off star in a trip that will take generations. And from Ian McDonald comes “Luna: New Moon,” a sort of “Dallas” (or is it “The Godfather”?) set on and under the surface of the moon. Plus, what else are we reading?


Laid a Lot of Foundations

We have seen tens of thousands of years into the future, and our best psychohistorians think the Galactic Empire will once again reign supreme… so long as there aren’t any surprise mutants or aliens. In this episode, we discuss Isaac Asimov’s classic “Foundation” trilogy. From the perspective of 2015, what still works, and what seems out of date? Plus: What else are we reading?


267

I Read It All

Our Book Club reconvenes to cover two books that are both sort of about the end of the world: Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Water Knife” and Neal Stephenson’s “Seveneves.” Regional apocalypses versus worldwide apocalypses! Plus, what else are we reading?


256

Space Bureaucracy

It’s time for our annual dive into the Hugo Awards, focused mostly on the five nominated novels, but also touching on short fiction, comics, films, and TV episodes, as well as this year’s big Hugo controversy.


251

Tea, Sandwiches, and Mushrooms

Time for our annual review of the Nebula Award nominees for the best SF or Fantasy novel of the year, with podcasters from Skiffy and Fanty, SF Signal, and The Three Hoarsemen! We’ll cover (in a spoiler-light fashion) books about space stations, alien invasions, empires, mushrooms, and tea ceremonies. There’s even a deadly incident involving a Zeppelin!


246

The Shmoop Index

This episode is all about assigned reading from our school days. Stuff we loved and, more importantly, stuff we hated. Does Jason hate all French literature, or just Emma Bovary? Whose teachers assigned Ursula LeGuin and Kurt Vonnegut? And will Charles Dickens tear our friendly group of podcasters apart? Be sure to do the reading—there might be a quiz tomorrow.


239

The Colour Blue

In honor of Sir Terry Pratchett, who died a week ago, four voracious Pratchett readers discuss what made Pratchett great, their favorite Pratchett works, and recommend places for newcomers to Terry Pratchett to get started.


231

Eat Pray Love Die Survive

The end of the world is here, or in the near future, or in the far future, or maybe all three? Our Book Club reconvenes to talk about three somewhat apocalyptic novels: “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel, “The Peripheral” by William Gibson, and “Slow Apocalypse” by John Varley.


225

A Very Different Idea of Fun

It’s your usual detective story, with a guy obsessed with a mystery, a femme fatale, and… an asteroid that’s about to kill most of the living things on the earth? That’s the premise for “The Last Policeman” by Ben Winters. We liked the book (and its two sequels) quite a lot, though that comes with a big caveat based on what your definition of “fun” is, and apparently if you’re a soulless monster or not. Plus: What are we reading?


216

Maps of London

London is a thriving modern metropolis, but beneath its streets and behind its doors are ancient, magical secrets. In this episode, a group of (North) Americans discuss some of our favorite London-based urban fantasy novels. This is a spoiler-light episode, so listen in and get ready to add a whole bunch of books to your to-read list. Plus, what are we reading?


214

Fun is Underrated

Space detectives! Pathologically honest spaceship captains! Murderous alien molecules! Solar-system-wide diplomacy! You’ll find all this and more in “The Expanse,” a sci-fi novel series by James S.A. Corey that’s soon to become a SyFy channel series. The members of our Book Club highly recommend it. Also: What are we reading?


210

You Ain’t No Nice Guy

Take your flu medication, head west out of the abandoned cities, and join us for our discussion of Stephen King’s classic novel “The Stand.” We discuss why we enjoy (literary) apocalypses, question King’s setting of the revised edition in 1990, and join forces with an impossibly wise Yoda figure to plan the ultimate battle between the forces of good and the forces of Vegas. Baby, can you dig your man?

Post-show: Our own personal apocalypse plans, revisited.


202

The Partial Monty

Bury your dead in a Zeppelin and call your interplanetary accountant—it’s time for our annual read of the Hugo Award nominees. We cover this year’s award nominees, plus the “retro Hugos” from 1939, both of which will be awarded in August in London. Also, someone defends Mira Grant.


196

Golem and Jinni Detective Agency

Every year Scott and Jason read all the Hugo Award-nominated novels, which supposedly show off the best science fiction has to offer. That hasn’t always gone well, so this year they’ve read the eight novels nominated for the Nebula Awards—and recruited three other SF podcasters to join them in the fun. We discuss all eight novels with extremely light-to-no spoilers, so it’s safe to listen. And the good news? All eight of these novels are pretty good!


187

Man versus Mars

Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss “The Martian” by Andy Weir. It’s a nuts-and-bolts adventure about a stranded astronaut who uses his botany and engineering skills to stay alive on Mars. Did we mention botany? And engineering? There’s a lot of both. Also, we tell you what we’re reading.


179

Thief-Based Economy

Our book club returns with discussion of two books! First we talk Scott Lynch’s “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” a fantasy book about a gang of thieves that are even outlaws to other thieves (spoiler horn at 12:00). Then it’s Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice,” a space opera about AIs and ships and empires and corpse soldiers that brings Iain M. Banks to mind (starts at 28:48, spoilers at 33:22). Confusingly long prologues! Fun with gendered pronouns! Questionable burrito metaphors! Plus: What are we reading (starts at 68:13)?


171

Pirate Politics (A Winter Reading List)

Winter’s here and it’s time to light a fire, get under a blanket, and curl up with a good book. Our panelists are well read and of exquisite taste, so we’ve got a boatload of suggestions for you. From funny to serious, there’s a book in our list that will hit the spot the next time you’re looking for something to read.


166

I Assume Everyone is Awful

Awful people can make great art. Nice people can write bad books. Can you separate the creator from the art? We struggle with Orson Scott Card and his (rightfully) classic novel “Ender’s Game” and go on to list other writers and series who we’ve hand to break up with. To make things not entirely disappointing, we also talk about authors and series that have never let us down.


163

What If Galactus Was Made of Jello?

The winner of our iTunes review contest had us read John Birmingham’s “Weapons of Choice,” which our Book Club used as a jumping-off point to talk about alt-history novels, time travel, military SF, and a whole lot more. You don’t need to read the book to appreciate the episode! Plus: What are we reading?


155

The Cat Who Listened to Podcasts

A boy with no name travels to the end of the lane and discovers how a pond can be an ocean in Neil Gaiman’s brief and wonderful novel “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” Also Dan explains Jason’s perfect vacation, there’s lots of talk about cats, why David has issues with Old Yeller, and we talk about other Neil Gaiman works that we like.


151

Not Technically Incest

Put on your red shirt, renew your blogging license, and swallow some alien bacteria! It’s time for our annual read of the five Hugo Award nominees for best novel. We liked some of them, we hated some of them, but we talked about all of them! But beware: The diabolical eyes of the Centers for Disease Control are watching us all.


147

Space Fish

Though we were tempted to release this episode in eight 10-minute installments, we refrained. Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss John Scalzi’s novel “The Human Division,” which was initially released as a serial and later as a single-volume novel. Does the serialized format help or hurt? Is Scalzi’s return to his “Old Man’s War” universe a triumph? PLUS! We discuss all the short fiction nominated for the Hugo Award this year.


139

Flying Horse Angel People

We delve into the children’s literary classic “A Wrinkle In Time,” by Madeline L’Engle, as well as its recent graphic-novel adaptation by Hope Larson. Why is there a brain on that table? What are the pros and cons of cooking dinner on a Bunsen burner for the average Super-Cool Science Family? Come for the Cold War allegories about communism, stay to talk religion with a bunch of nerds!


134

Obligatory Cannibalism

Load your shotgun and gather your platonic apocalypse friends around you! It’s time for us to discuss two books about the end of the world, Peter Heller’s “The Dog Stars” and Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” Do names matter when the world has ended? We also revisit John Siracusa’s doomsday plans (a moat is involved), Lex offers a depressing death plan, Jason extolls the virtue of dirty apocalypses, and Scott laughs it up from his apartment full of canned food.


128

Bureaucracy Is Her Superpower

Cut off your thumb and send it to a friend just to see what grows! In this episode of our Book Club, we talk about Daniel O’Malley’s modern supernatural fantasy novel, “The Rook.” (We liked it a lot!) It’s sort of about a supernatural version of Britain’s MI-5, written by an American-educated Australian civil servant. Also: What are Scott, Dan, and Jason reading?


117

Intergalactic FedEx

We follow up on our previous episode to ask Serenity Caldwell how she uses her iPhone to read books (and discover her shocking method of scanning pages). Then there’s a discussion of Lois McMaster Bujold’s latest Vorkosigan novel, “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance.” Finally (at 65 minutes in if you’re skipping ahead), Jason asks Scott to recommend which unread book on his Kindle he should dive into next.


116

Very Well-Read Hobos

We talk a lot about what we read, but how do we read? Join our Book Club as we talk about ebooks, paper books, and libraries, and how we like to read today. Plus, we tell you some of the books we’re reading right now.


109

Evil, Surfing Ronald McDonald

Soon to be a major motion picture you probably shouldn’t see, David Mitchell’s 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas” is in our sights. This novel consists of six separate stories set in different genres and timeframes from the 1850s to a post-apocalyptic future, and yet they’re all interlinked. Somehow. It’s fun, weird, and challenging, but what does it all mean? Read it now before every character in it becomes Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.


105

That Mr. Hitler Seems Nice

Our Book Club reconvenes to discuss Jo Walton’s Small Change trilogy of novels, “Farthing,” “Ha’Penny,” and “Half a Crown.” (We fire off the spoiler horn before each novel.) These novels explore an alternate-history in which Britain makes peace with Nazi Germany, and focus on a detective who just wants to do his job—but his job keeps changing in increasingly awful ways.


99

Convenience Store Clerk of Dune (A Summer Reading List)

Summer’s here and it’s time to get to the beach with a good sci-fi novel. Our panelists are well read and of exquisite taste, so we’ve got a boatload of suggestions for you. From funny to serious, there’s a book in our list that will hit the spot the next time you’re looking for something to read.


96

Space Fedora

The 2012 Hugo Award Nominees. Of all the sci-fi novels published in the last year, these are five of them! (And four aren’t actually sci-fi.) But that hasn’t stopped us from reading them and giving you our opinions. Join our book club as we talk about five books and pick our favorites. Plus: Vomit Zombies! A unique novel-sponsorship opportunity for Coca-Cola! Our near-unconditional love of author Jo Walton! And what the locusts are reading this year!


93

Monstor

Our book club takes a dive into the world of Paolo Bacigalupi, covering his award-winning novel “Ship Breaker” as well as its recently-released follow-up, “The Drowned Cities.” These books are apparently considered YA (or Young Adult) fiction, leading us to discuss what that label means, if anything. We also talk about Bacigalupi’s particular brand of eco-apocalypse, his use of science fiction to make us reconsider what’s going on today in the world, and how to pronounce his name. And of course, we coin a new word: it’s half monster, half mentor, all Scott McNulty.


91

The Hungry Tributes of Catan

From despotic rulers to lethal hummingbirds, it’s time for us to address the cultural phenomenon of “The Hunger Games.” Join us as we discuss the movie and original book, as well as (following carefully placed Spoiler Horns) the other two books in the trilogy. Why do all households in Panem get the Bravo network? Should “1984” be a Little Golden Book? And why does Lisa know which district of Panem is in charge of making lumber? This episode has the odds ever in its favor.


87

Where Do the Dragons Go to the Bathroom?

Here be dragons! Special guest hosts Glenn Fleishman and Lisa Schmeiser discuss books featuring winged and scaly creatures, from Anne McCaffrey to George R.R. Martin. Glenn and Lisa are joined by special guest stars Dori Smith and Sarah Barbour, who are also knowledgeable in the ways of the dragon.


86

Like “Catcher in the Rye,” Except Crappier

Get out your magic wands, prepare your incantations, and prepare for a battle of wills involving ancient powers and callow youths. We discuss two recent novels with magic at the fore: Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians” and Erin Morgenstern’s “The Night Circus.” One of them we liked a lot… the other, not so much! Prepare yourself for a magical podcast.


66

Regular People Like Us

Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is a sci-fi novel that’s chock full of references to 1980s culture. But is it a good book, or are the references all that it’s got going for it? What will John Hughes movies be like in the future? And what do Cline, P.G. Wodehouse, and Umberto Eco have in common?


63

Like a Good Book Exploded

Is Patrick Rothfuss’s “The Wise Man’s Fear” a rich fantasy novel about storytelling and myth-making, or is it a collection of good story elements scattered across an overlong plot? Could it be both? Ninjas! Off-camera shipwrecks! Board games! Sexism! Off-camera courtroom drama! Discursions within digressions within framing sequences! Join us as we discuss yet another 1000-page fantasy novel, the sequel to “The Name of the Wind.”


62

The Pig is Chekhov’s Gun

We discuss “A Dance With Dragons,” the latest 1000-page installment in George R.R. Martin’s bestselling “Song of Ice and Fire” fantasy series. Is this series going to end well? Which parts of this book were good, and which just treaded water? Would adding Klingons have helped? Why are trees the Westeros equivalent of security cameras? These are the sorts of questions you ask deep in the middle of a long fantasy series.


35

The Only Way to Win the Game of Thrones is Not to Play

Everybody wants to rule the world, er, the kingdom of Westeros. As the “Game of Thrones” series continues on HBO, we discuss the source material: George R.R. Martin’s bestselling “Song of Ice and Fire” books. If you haven’t read the books, you will be spoiled! We’ll post the climactic resolution of this podcast in about five years, so invest your time wisely.


34

The Wrath of James Caan

Based on the best-selling novel! Inspired by HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” in this episode we discuss the translation of books to the screen. Should movies be faithful to the book? Is it better if filmmmakers take liberties? And what books do we wish would be made into movies? If you don’t want to listen to this episode, just buy the novelization.


32

The Story of Ted Chiang and Others

Stories by science-fiction writer Ted Chiang, including the anthology “The Story of Your Life and Others.” Plus, enough recommendations to get you through every bathroom break and bus ride for the next three years.


29

Magic Fridge

A hero with an unpronounceable name, magic that doesn’t actually do much, cardboard female characters, a story where nothing really happens, and the first and inconclusive part of a longer series? Sounds like an acclaimed fantasy novel to us! “The Name of the Wind” on this week’s Incomparable Podcast.


27

Coal Mound Sex Scene

Turn on your perpetual-motion machine, man your Zeppelin, and fly away for our next edition of the Incomparable Book Club. We discuss "The Dream of Perpetual Motion" by Dexter Palmer, as well as answer the question, "What are you reading?"

24

My Word as Vorkosigan

Dive through a wormhole to defend the honor of the Imperium! We discuss Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series of novels, which we really can’t recommend highly enough. It’s swashbuckling Sci-Fi adventure with some great characters and a big canvas. And you can read most of them for free!


19

This Podcast Never Existed

Hop in your time machine and listen to our latest Book Club installment—and then be sure to travel back and prevent the podcast from having ever been recorded, because time travel is tricky like that. We discuss “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” and other time travel books we have liked.


11

To Be Continued?

Three Hugo winners enter our Book Club. “Spin” by Robert Charles Wilson, “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, and “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” by Michael Chabon. Also: Why sequels suck. And we’ll work you like a ham!


5

Shakespeare is a Hack!

Our Book Club reconvenes, to discuss Nick Harkaway, Cherie Priest, William Gibson, favorite prose stylists (Shakespeare? Please!), and multiple Shatners. Also in this episode, we introduce listeners to two new inanimate-yet-Incomparable characters: the Spoiler Horn and its good friend, the All-Clear Bell.


1

We’ll Always Have Zeppelins

In the very first episode ever of The Incomparable, recorded before we even knew what we were going to be called, we talk about a whole bunch of novels, including China Mieville’s “The City and The City,” Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Windup Girl,” and Cory Doctorow’s “For the Win.” We mispronounce some of their names, float an idea for books that burn themselves, and ask the most important question a reader should ask: Are there Zeppelins?