Book picks similar to
The Gradual by Christopher Priest


science-fiction
fiction
fantasy
time-travel

Litany of the Long Sun


Gene Wolfe - 1994
    This great work is set on a huge generation starship in the same future as the classic Book of the New Sun (also available in two volumes from Orb).Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun tetralogy ranks as one of the greatest literary achievements of 20th-century science fiction. Litany of the Long Sun, comprising the first two books in the series, is suffused with looming transcendence and theophany. Wolfe takes familiar speculative fiction tropes and embeds them in a tale so complex and wonderful that readers may find themselves wondering whether what they're reading is science fiction, fantasy, or something different altogether. Or whether it matters.The story of Patera Silk, a devout priest whose destiny is wrapped up with the gods he serves, takes place within the Whorl, a vast, cylindrical starship that has traveled for generations and is crumbling into disrepair. Through a strange and amazing series of events, Silk finds himself descending to base thievery, running afoul of a notorious crime lord, befriending a cyborg soldier, and encountering at least one of the gods of Mainframe.But when Silk encounters the Outsider, who may be a God of a very different sort, all his beliefs are shaken to the core, and his life swiftly takes a messianic turn. In a rousing climax, Silk becomes the reluctant leader of a political rebellion against the corrupt Ayuntamiento, who rule the city-state of Viron.It is not necessary to have read Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series, which takes place many centuries earlier, to enjoy the Long Sun novels, but keen-eyed readers will find many clues as to the origin of the Whorl and its gods in those stories. Further, although Wolfe's reputation for literary precision and trickery is well deserved, the Long Sun series (which continues in Epiphany of the Long Sun) is one of the more accessible places to start appreciating the author's treasures. --Therese Littleton

The Unteleported Man


Philip K. Dick - 1983
    It took only 15 minutes to get there by instant teleportation, but it was strictly a one-way journey. If you wanted to return, it was always possible to go the long way round - 18 years each way by conventional spacecraft. No one relished that, of course. Then one man decided to try it, and encountered some very powerful opposition.

Macroscope


Piers Anthony - 1969
    But although they may have longed for it, not even the most brilliant minds could conceive of a device as infinitely powerful or as immeasurably precise as the macroscope, until the twenty-first century. By analyzing information carried on macrons, this unbelievable tool brought the whole universe of wonders to man's doorstep. The macroscope was seen by many as the salvation of the human race. But in the hands of the wrong man, the macroscope could be immensely destructive-infinitely more dangerous than the nuclear bomb. By searching to know too much, man could destroy the very essence of his mind. This is the powerful story of man's struggle with technology, and also the story of his human struggle with himself. This novel takes us across the breathtaking ranges of space as well as through the most touching places in the human heart. It is a story of coming of age, of sacrifice, and of love. It is the story of man's desperate search for a compromise between his mind and his heart, between knowledge and humanity.

Arc d'X


Steve Erickson - 1996
    Thomas Jefferson's love for, and enslavement of, his mistress, Sally Hemings, forms the center of an exploration of the American spirit.

Version Control


Dexter Palmer - 2016
    She spends her days working in customer support for the internet dating site where she first met her husband. But she has a strange, persistent sense that everything around her is somewhat off-kilter: she constantly feels as if she has walked into a room and forgotten what she intended to do there; on TV, the President seems to be the wrong person in the wrong place; her dreams are full of disquiet. Meanwhile, her husband's decade-long dedication to his invention, the causality violation device (which he would greatly prefer you not call a “time machine”) has effectively stalled his career and made him a laughingstock in the physics community. But he may be closer to success than either of them knows or can possibly imagine.Version Control is about a possible near future, but it’s also about the way we live now. It’s about smart phones and self-driving cars and what we believe about the people we meet on the Internet. It’s about a couple, Rebecca and Philip, who have experienced a tragedy, and about how they help — and fail to help — each other through it.

Re: Colonised Planet 5, Shikasta


Doris Lessing - 1979
    Presented as a compilation of documents, reports, letters, speeches and journal entries, this purports to be a general study of the planet Shikasta, clearly the planet Earth, to be used by history students of the higher planet Canopus and to be stored in the Canopian archives. For eons, galactic empires have struggled against one another, and Shikasta is one of the main battlegrounds. Johar, an emissary from Canopus and the primary contributor to the archives, visits Shikasta over the millennia from the time of the giants and the biblical great flood up to the present. With every visit he tries to distract Shikastans from the evil influences of the planet Shammat but notes with dismay the ever-growing chaos and destruction of Shikasta as its people hurl themselves towards World War III and annihilation.

The Fourth Circle


Zoran Živković - 1993
    The Fourth Circle takes the reader on an amazing journey from frescoed medieval monasteries to Buddhist temples to different planets to a paralyzed scientist's bedroom in London to the edge of black hole at the far reaches of the universe to a place not all the dissimilar from 221 B Baker Street. Živkovic’s masterful voice cradles the reader safely from one place to the next and in the end deposits the reader carefully at the singular spot in which all the storylines coincide.The Ministry of Whimsy edition of The Fourth Circle concludes with an afterword by Živkovic about the travails of writing his first novel, translating it into English, and then finding a publisher for it. All while war in Živkovic’s native Serbia surrounded him."In its rich tapestry of prose and compositional skills, as well as in its imaginative leaps and intellectual sophistication, The Fourth Circle must be considered, so far, as the author's masterpiece, an acclamation that extends well beyond a mere appreciation of Živkovic's own and singular work."--SF Site.com“Zoran Živkovic is a subtle, intelligent, wonderfully inventive writer who brings a fresh point of view, an idiosyncratic angle of attack, to everything he produces. He is one of the finest writers currently at work in the ‘New Europe.’ Read him and celebrate.”

Manifold: Time


Stephen Baxter - 1999
    More than a century of ecological damage, industrial and technological expansion, and unchecked population growth has left the Earth on the brink of devastation. As the world’s governments turn inward, one man dares to envision a bolder, brighter future. That man, Reid Malenfant, has a very different solution to the problems plaguing the planet: the exploration and colonization of space. Now Malenfant gambles the very existence of time on a single desperate throw of the dice. Battling national sabotage and international outcry, as apocalyptic riots sweep the globe, he builds a spacecraft and launches it into deep space. The odds are a trillion to one against him. Or are they?

What Entropy Means to Me


George Alec Effinger - 1972
    Initially defending himself with a torch, the Doctor searched frantically for a new method of defense. The crimson mass is lunging forward using long, tentacle-like attachments: what is that thing? Slowly the subhuman blob comes in to focus, and Dore realizes . . . it's a colossal radish! This is a monster never before wrestled with; what are they going to do? After reading this vegetative tale, you won't look at your garden the same way again..

Side Life


Steve Toutonghi - 2018
    DickVin, a down-on-his-luck young tech entrepreneur forced out of the software company he started, takes a job house-sitting an ultra-modern Seattle mansion whose owner has gone missing. There he discovers a secret basement lab with an array of computers and three large, smooth caskets. Inside one he finds a woman in a state of suspended animation. There is also a dog-eared notebook filled with circuit diagrams, beautiful and intricate drawings of body parts, and pages of code. When Vin decides to climb into one of the caskets to see what happens, his reality begins to unravel, and he finds himself on a terrifying journey that asks fundamental questions about reality, free will, and the meaning of a human life.

Light from Other Stars


Erika Swyler - 2019
    In 1986 in Easter, a small Florida Space Coast town, her dreams seem almost within reach—if she can just grow up fast enough. Theo, the scientist father she idolizes, is consumed by his own obsessions. Laid off from his job at NASA and still reeling from the loss of Nedda’s newborn brother several years before, Theo turns to the dangerous dream of extending his living daughter's childhood just a little longer. The result is an invention that alters the fabric of time.Amidst the chaos that erupts, Nedda must confront her father and his secrets, the ramifications of which will irrevocably change her life, her community, and the entire world. But she finds an unexpected ally in Betheen, the mother she’s never quite understood, who surprises Nedda by seeing her more clearly than anyone else. Decades later, Nedda has achieved her long-held dream, and as she floats in antigravity, far from earth, she and her crewmates face a serious crisis. Nedda may hold the key to the solution, if she can come to terms with her past and the future that awaits her. Light from Other Stars is about fathers and daughters, women and the forces that hold them back, and the cost of meaningful work. It questions how our lives have changed, what progress looks like, and what it really means to sacrifice for the greater good.

The Unlimited Dream Company


J.G. Ballard - 2013
    Within hours everything in the dormitory suburb is transformed. Vultures invade rooftops, luxuriant tropical vegetation overruns the quiet avenues, and the local inhabitants are propelled by the young man’s urgent visions through ecstatic sexual celebrations toward an apocalyptic climax. In this characteristically inventive novel Ballard displays to devastating effect the extraordinary imagination that has established him as one of the twentieth century’s most visionary writers.

Oh Pure and Radiant Heart


Lydia Millet - 2006
    He located the remote on the bedside table, where it sat beside the enigmatic telephone with its sheet of intricate numeric instructions, and eventually by pressing the button marked power discovered its function. -from OH PURE AND RADIANT HEARTIn Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, the three dead geniuses who invented the atomic bomb-Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and Enrico Fermi-mysteriously appear in Sante Fe, New Mexico, in 2003, nearly sixty years after they watched history's first mushroom cloud rise over the New Mexico desert in 1945. One by one, they are discovered by a shy librarian, who takes them in and devotes herself to them. Faced with the evidence of their nuclear legacy, the scientists embark on a global disarmament campaign that takes them from Hiroshima to Nevada to the United Nations. Along the way, they acquire a billionaire pothead benefactor and a growing convoy of RVs carrying groupies, drifters, activists, former Deadheads, New Age freeloaders, and religious fanatics.In this heroically mischievous, sweeping tour de force, Lydia Millet brings us an apocalyptic fable that marries the personal to the political, confronts the longing for immortality with the desire for redemption, and evokes both the beauty and the tragedy of the nuclear sublime.

The Epiphany Machine


David Burr Gerrard - 2017
    At that point, Adam is already hosting regular salon nights in his tiny New York City apartment, where his guests can offer up their forearms to his junky old contraption and receive important, personal revelations in the form of a tattoo.Over the decades, Adam’s apparatus teaches John Lennon to love The Beatles, takes early blame for the spread of HIV, and predicts several violent crimes. But most significant to Adam may be the days on which he marks the arm of Venter Lowood’s mother, and then his father, and then Venter himself.It’s Venter, a bright but lost young man, who becomes Adam’s protégé. It’s Venter who records the testimonials from epiphany machine users, who studies another writer’s history of the machine. And it’s Venter who reads Adam’s pamphlet, distributed into the 90s and aughts, that adds to his original oath:There are absolutely no circumstances under which your epiphanies or any other personal information will be shared with law enforcement.It’s Venter who will be forced to reconcile himself to this important caveat, when the government begins asking questions about a very specific tattoo that marks the arm of his best friend.

The Bones of Time


Kathleen Ann Goonan - 1996
    For the young mathematician, Cen, they are the key to travel in time and between alternate universes. For the native Hawaiian Resistance movement, they are a symbol of independence but also the source of genetic material from which the great king may be cloned and rise again. Cen's mathematics and Akamu, the boy who might be king, become hidden treasures in the most amazing plot in contemporary SF.