The Ferryman

by Justin Cronin

A utopian dystopia (dystopian utopia—and aren’t they all?) starts unraveling when Proctor Bennett starts dreaming.

On the one hand, it’s a much-used formula. On the other hand it’s a pretty good formula as long as you haven’t read The Giver or The Hunger Games or Red Rising or watched Elysium or Æon Flux or Pleasantville or played BioShock too recently. And as long as the formula comes with a good twist, which The Ferryman does. I could hardly put it down.

The Actual Star

by Monica Byrne

Three parallel timelines: (1) the collapse of the ancient Mayan empire, (2) a native American girl trying to find herself and the underworld in Belize, (3) the far-future hermaphrodite vagabonds who structured their society around her life and death(?). That sounds weird—and it is weird—but it also makes for a compelling novel. I’ve thought about this book quite a lot since I finished it—so much that I’ve thought about re-reading it already.

I’m sure it will be a polarizing book for many readers. Byrne explores what our future could look like if humans embraced things like sex and body positivity, gender neutrality (or irrelevance), environmentalism, mysticism, and more. Her present-day characters talk about whiteness, colonialism, capitalism, and patriarchy. I found it thought-provoking, not heavy-handed, but I’m sure some readers will have the opposite reaction.

If you are at all curious, give it a try. I think it’s one of the best books I have read this year and I’m looking forward to reading it again.