Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review - Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis

Crooked Little Vein
Warren Ellis
eBook Version
300 pages (portrait view)
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: July 24, 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0060723934


If you’re easily offended by rude or ribald language, unconventional sexual fetishes, or buckets of blood* you may want to steer clear of both Crooked Little Vein and this review. Just sayin’… fair warnin’.

Like a violent criminal with a reputation to uphold Crooked Little Vein forced me into a secluded, dark alley and proceeded to cave my head in with the claw end of a one-pound hammer (and silly me enjoyed every second of it.) There’s nothing soft or fuzzy about this debut novel from comic book writer Warren Ellis. On the contrary, it is a blunt force instrument waiting for an audience to beat. And, thankfully, it found me. While prepping for this review (using Google and other implements of mass time annihilation) I conducted a bit of research regarding this novel. It appears that there are only two opinions pertaining to Crooked Little Vein on the Internet. Either the reviewer thoroughly hated it or totally enjoyed it. On a certain level (you know the one – where your parents taught you to be polite and “If you can’t say something nice….”) I can see why some may have disliked it. To paraphrase - Those are not the reviews you’re looking for. There’s a lot of rough, rude, randy, and rash language in Crooked Little Vein, and fetishes that reside a million miles south of main-stream wife-swapping suburbia. In addition, the central character and his beautiful side-kick experience some terribly far-fetched adventures on their way to retrieve a powerful book which contains a secret version of the United States Constitution. The tome is sought after by the White House Chief of Staff who just happens to be a functioning heroin addict with a bottomless checkbook. And he’s willing to pay big money to get the book back. Along the way, the protagonist, down-and-out P.I. Mike McGill, gets into some of the funniest, raciest, counter-cultured situations ever encountered in fiction. In my own twisted assessment all the odd circumstances, bizarre characters, and unusual events are so outlandishly creative that they make this particular work of fiction one of the most remarkable and interesting stories I’ve read in a very long time. Some might call Crooked Little Vein irreverent. Others vulgar. But there’s always room for a story that provides something innovative and curious. And boy, does this deliver. Here’s the strange thing – the principle idea – the detective or P.I. story – is a very old one yet Ellis’ concoction of urban fantasy, unrefined emotion, offensive language, bizarre situations, and out-right crappy luck suffered by the main character and his assistant is enough for me to call this one brilliant piece of neo-noir fiction.

Ellis has a solid grasp of what’s interesting, and cringe-worthy, about the steamy under-belly of America and his sharp, machine-gun style of writing fits this story perfectly. His prose is brutal, honest, tight, and lacks useless frill and decoration. A feat every author should strive to achieve. And although his characters are thrust into some of the strangest situations in modern fiction they are, by far, some of the most emotionally real characters I’ve ever encountered. Their feelings are never hidden, always worn on the sleeve, and they’re by no means afraid to say what they’re thinking or feeling. Surprisingly, beneath the surface of this extraordinary story lies a tender, albeit unorthodox, love story. Perhaps that’s what I found most interesting about the book. It has all the elements of a murder mystery quest, it forces you to realize that there is more to America than baseball, hot dogs and apple pie, and the characters are brutally honest and unexpectedly real. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and if you are one of those readers not easily offended by crude language and bizarre circumstances, or like the works of Richard Kadrey, Carlton Mellick III, or Chuck Palahniuk or agree with the majority of my book-review ratings you’ll probably take pleasure in it, as well.

4 ½ stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Official Author Site

Crooked Little Vein Wiki Page

Crooked Little Vein Chapter One

Crooked Little Vein Chapter Sixteen

Entertainment Weekly Review

* Okay, I know, my review has nothing in the way of ribald language, controversial sexual fetishes, or blood and gore and I apologize for that but I’m willing to bet my opening statement got you to read this far… and for those of you that did, here’s the payoff.

Q. Lewd language, fetish, and bloodshed?

A. Fertilizer, cuttlefish, bazooka.

I’ll let you determine which is which…


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review - The Subterrene War 01 - Germline by T. C. McCarthy

The Subterrene War 01 - Germline
T. C. McCarthy
Orbit Books
373 pages
Publication date: August 1, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-12818-6


Germline, the first installment of The Subterrene War, by T. C. McCarthy is a cautionary urban-warfare epic of enormous scope. Take the HBO series Generation Kill, the blockbuster movie The Terminator, all of World War I & II, and the novel Embedded and blend them together with bio-cyberpunk-genetics, trench/tunnel warfare, and enhanced, futuristic weaponry and you have Science Fiction written for a new generation. In the very near future rare and precious metals are so expensive, so integral to technology, and so isolated by location that they are worth going to war over. In a world running low on natural resources and torn by conflict an embedded journalist from the Stars and Stripes, with heady dreams of winning the Pulitzer Prize, learns first-hand the brutality of war when he’s picked to accompany a military unit to the front lines. Once there he discovers that the war is being fought not only by normal soldiers but by genetically enhanced teen-age girls wearing smart armor and carrying weapons of beautiful design and incredible stopping power. Forced by circumstance to pick up a flechette rifle he transforms from an impartial observer to an unwilling combatant in a matter of seconds. And he knows instantly that no one will come out of this war unaffected by the death and devastation they’re about to experience.

Oscar Wendall, an embedded journalist with hopes that this assignment will propel him to prominence, becomes a combatant when a shortage of soldiers in the moments before an eminent attack leaves him no choice but to pick up a weapon and fight. But Oscar is having trouble writing about the war and his dream seems to be falling further and further from his grasp. The death, destruction, and overabundance of drugs he’s ingested won’t allow him the peace to write his masterpiece, either. In the process, Oscar is transformed from a journalist into a full-fledged civilian soldier with all the stigma that entails. At one point in the book I observed to myself that Oscar was just too damn lucky. Nobody goes through as many battles without suffering a wound as he does. (In reality many soldiers do make it through war without injury but at the time Oscar’s luck appeared almost too uncanny to be real.) He’s the only survivor of at least two battles and suffers no wounds during many fire-fights. But he does carry a lot of mental and emotional (even drug-related) baggage. Hell, he should have been admitted to the hospital a dozen times over. And then about three-fourths through the story Oscar is hit by plasma gas and suffers deep-tissue wounds to both legs. Fortunately, his friends are able to drag him from the front lines to a hospital. Fortunately, modern medicine has progressed enough that Oscar is able to recover from his wounds rather quickly. Unfortunately, the U.S. forces are almost surrounded by the enemy and Oscar still needs to track down the doppelganger of the genetically-engineered soldier he fell in love with on the front.

Germline is a war story, for certain, but not just any simple war story. It is a story of conflict over resources. It is a story of combat in the future and specifically of warfare between genetically enhanced super-warriors and normal soldiers. The war eventually lays waste to vast areas of the earth turning entire cities to scorched and burned ash. Overhead, droids drop shells filled with liquid plasma and below ground, tunnels (the subterrene) are injected with poisoned gas. Germline presents a solitary glimpse into an alternate future that is frighteningly realistic in scale. But, there is a universal theme here that pre-dates the earliest days of man and the first stone thrown in anger. This is a story of war and fear and mental illness and psychological stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and of drug abuse and addiction and the human condition. It is a cautionary tale of the frailty of life and it is nothing short of brilliant. McCarthy captures the emotions, complexities, and cold, hard realities of combat down in the trenches and gives the reader, though they may have never experienced war itself, an in-depth look at the harsh realities of taking life. Germline is an engaging, compelling, and quick read and I wholly recommend it to all fans of military Science Fiction, urban warfare, genetic manipulation, future combat, embedded journalism, and to those who simply wish to be entertained by an exceptional story.

Review copy provided free as part of the Amazon Vine program.

4 ½ stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

The Subterrene War Series by T. C. McCarthy
The Subterrene War 01 - Germline (2011)
The Subterrene War 02 - Exogene (TBA)

Additional Reading:

Germline Cover Information

Exogene Cover Information

Official Author Page

Lou Ander’s Blog Germline Post

The Founding Fields Review of Germline

The Mystery and the Magic (Agent Blog)


Note: I’ve heard that the Subterrene War series will follow the lives of a different character in each book and the cover of the second installment seems to indicate that Exogene will include the story of one of the genetically enhanced female soldiers we first met in Germline. I look forward to keeping up with this intriguing and exciting series.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review – Orphan’s Legacy 02 - Undercurrents by Robert Buettner

Orphan’s Legacy 02 – Undercurrents
Robert Buettner
Baen Books
Publication Date: July 1st, 2011
Trade Paperback (Uncorrected Page Proof)
291 pages
ISBN13: 978-1439134498


As stated in my review of the original Orphanage books last year, and by Buettner’s own admission*, the Orphanage and Orphan’s Legacy series are a deliberate homage to Robert A. Heinlein and two of his classic works of military Science Fiction, Starship Troopers and Have Space Suit - Will Travel. Thank you, Mr. Buettner, for acknowledging the deserving roots of your work and for continuing the tradition of brilliant, character-driven, combat-centric Science Fiction. Make no mistake; Robert Buettner’s Orphan books are by no means simple imitations or variations but significant and important additions to the genre in their own right. Without Starship Troopers there could be no Jason Wander or Jazen Parker and without the Orphans the next generation of military Science Fiction would be considerably weaker. The Orphan’s Legacy series is, therefore, a logical and necessary extension of those earlier works.

With that in mind I ask you to set aside the plot and events of Undercurrents for a moment (we’ll get back to them shortly, I promise) and concentrate on the author in general and the tone of his style and his storytelling in particular. Perhaps it’s because I grew up reading military Science Fiction novels and comics in the late-60’s and 70’s that I now find myself gravitating toward books written with that respectful and patriotic military approach. You know the type of story I mean – character-driven war stories filled with rough, weather-beaten, steely-eyed soldiers with chiseled-jaws and battle-scars who won’t take flack from anyone and who know how to survive in the harshest of environments. Undercurrents not only fits that mold but surpasses it. To call Robert Buettner a Master of Military Science Fiction is, in my opinion, an understatement. Not only are his books well-written, the characters are impossible to forget and their attitudes are flashback reminiscent of memorable characters like Captain America, G. I. Joe, and Sergeant Fury. What this does to - and for - me is difficult to express but there’s a certain feeling of nostalgia that I welcome every time I pick up one of his books. Doing so takes me back to a hot summer day in the seventies when I entered the local library and saw Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers on the shelf for the first time. I could tell by the tattered cover that it involved soldiers in space suits and I was hooked instantly (the only thing that might have made it better was if a dinosaur was on the cover as well, but that’s a different trope for a different time.) I must admit that reading Buettner’s stories takes me back to the days when I was just beginning to explore the various realms of Science Fiction and, in the process, stretching my then small but elastic mind. But I digress…

I promised to get back to reviewing the book and so, now, I will.

What happens when your covert operation turns to disaster and you’re forced to switch from battle-ready to survival-mode in less than thirty seconds? If you’re Lt. Jazen Parker you improvise. While free-falling from space Parker sees his jump-partner’s severed head and spinal column dangling from a crumpled helmet as it whizzes past. With that image burned into his memory he knows he’s been dealt a dead man’s hand. His mission? To destroy the tyrannical local government on a planet steeped in fascist politics. But all is jeopardized by two facts – his partner is now shark food and one of his ex-team members has been taken prisoner by the same government he’s been sent to destroy. And their prisoner is not just any ex-team member but one he harbors deep feelings for. Jazen must complete his mission and save his comrade before she is tortured and killed but as the details of the mission unfolds he discovers a sinister plot that might send five-hundred planetary governments into total chaos. Torn between the mission and the rescue Jazen understands that the local political leaders must be eliminated before they carry out their plan but he finds himself in charge of a broken army of rebels complete with out-dated equipment and jaded, morale-strapped soldiers. What no one realizes is just how committed Jazen is and there is no one better suited to begin or finish a war.

After reading Robert Buettner’s newest book I can only repeat, though in somewhat abbreviated form, what I’ve said before; The Orphan books display everything that’s good about exceptional military Science Fiction. Correction. They contain everything that’s good about brilliant fiction, period. Buettner writes characters that you cannot help but care for, plots that are tightly crafted, real, often gritty, dialogue that flows, and he has a true understanding of how to spin tales that are always entertaining. The guns and explosions and battle-hardened soldiers are simply a bonus for the audience. Spending a few hours with these brilliantly written works of mankind at war is time well-spent.

Orphan’s Legacy 02 - Undercurrents is available today in hardcover. Disclosure: The review copy (uncorrected page proof) used for this review was provided free as part of the Amazon Vine program.

4 ½ stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

 * See my October 2010 review of the Orphanage Series here

* Official Robert Buettner Site
(See Buettner’s website for additional details concerning his tribute to Robert A. Heinlein.)

Robert Buettner Blog Site

Robert Buettner Wiki Page

Orphan’s Legacy 01 - Overkill Baen Webscription (eBook purchase page – Sample chapters available)

Orphan’s Legacy 02 - Undercurrents Baen Webscription (eBook purchase page – Sample chapters available)

Blog Interview with Robert Buettner

Record Freefall Attempt from Space (as featured in Undercurrents)

Heinlein’s Wiki Starship Trooper Page

Heinlein’s Wiki Have Space Suit – Will Travel Page

About the Author

Robert Buettner was born July 7, 1947 in Manhattan, grew up in Cleveland and eventually slid west to Colorado. He earned a B.A. from the College of Wooster, with Honors in geology, then studied as a National Science Foundation Fellow in Paleontology at the University of Cincinnati, earning a Juris Doctorate. He worked in mining as a rig hand and prospector in the Sonora Desert of Southwest Texas and the mountains of Alaska, and worked his way through law school as a petroleum geologist. He practiced natural resources law while serving out his Army Reserve Intelligence Commission as a Captain. He has been writing fiction since 1994. When not writing, he’s run marathons, climbed mountains, snowboarded and scuba'd. He currently lives in the foothills of the Blue Ridge north of Atlanta with his family and more bikes than a grownup needs.

Orphan's Legacy Series
1. Overkill (2011) 4 ½ stars out of 5
2. Undercurrents (2011) 4 ½ stars out of 5


Speculative Fiction is much like a child. We feed it and watch it mature over the years, we recognize and teach it to overcome its weaknesses, we strive to perfect its strengths, we are surprised at how smart it is, and, in the end, we hope it becomes better than us. Most of the time, it does.
- The Alternative, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Live Music Review – Florence and the Machine, The Black Keys, Locksley, Here Come the Mummies, and Michael Franti and Spearhead

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 – Summerfest - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Florence and the Machine


Florence and the Machine opened for The Black Keys tonight and I must say that this was the most evocative and exceptional vocal performance I think I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. Flo was in near-perfect voice and when she announced early in the show that this was the last stop of their concert tour you could tell the energy was going to hit the roof. And she did not disappoint. Floating across the stage in a beautiful flowing gown and pounding a drum at center stage Florence gave the audience everything they paid for and more. Some might even say she outdid the main act (The Black Keys – review below) but I maintain that the two are so different from each other that it didn’t matter. Anyway, her crisp, clear, haunting vocals make Florence and the Machine the best thing to hit the airwaves in years. So very glad I was able to see them live again.

Florence and the Machine
5 out of 5 stars

The Black Keys


The Black Keys put on a brilliant, sound-charged, and power-fused blues performance this evening before a sold out house. Drummer Patrick Carney exercised his amazing ability to create back- and off- beat fills like no other drummer I’ve ever seen and Guitarist/Vocalist (notice the capital letters here) Dan Auerbach may just be the most talented musician on the entire planet. His guitar work, both nebulous and loaded with fuzzy energy, featured bass riffs, rhythm guitar, and lead runs, often at the same time, plus (and here’s what really blows me away) he’s the singer for cryin’ out loud. They are by far the fullest and most interesting sounding blues duo in rock music today. Noteworthy and memorable selections include: Ten Cent Pistol, Everlasting Light, and Howlin’ For You.

The Black Keys
5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, July 7th, 2011 – Summerfest – Milwaukee, Wisconsin



Locksley, hailing from Madison, Wisconsin and as close to a hometown group as you can get in Milwaukee, put on an electrifying and energetic performance this afternoon. This is the second time in a year we’ve seen this group and they simply get better with time. Self-labeled as a “doo-wop punk” band their songwriting is profoundly influenced by early British Invasion bands twisted around Buddy Holly rockabilly while their instrumental style is founded more on early American punk and modern garage rock. They, like the Fratellis, are a band that can write lyrical hooks without words (listen to The Whip and you’ll hear what I mean.) The first time we saw them was at the Verge Festival in June of 2010 and have since purchased their albums and made a concentrated effort to see them at Summerfest this year even though they were one of the TBD bands not found in the printed music guide. They performed songs from their album Be In Love and then a few songs from their newly released album Locksley (available July 12th, 2011.) All in all, a very enjoyable performance.

4 out of 5 stars

Here Come the Mummies


I must admit that before seeing them live tonight I had never heard of Here Come the Mummies. Now that I’ve experienced their live show I have only one word to say – holy-frickin’-truly-amazing-wow!!! Rude, crude, and in the groove this nine piece Rhythm & Blues band is as entertaining as any group I've ever heard or seen, living or dead (pun intended.) This is a must-see live performance because their theatricality and stage presence is almost as entertaining as the quality of the music. With songs like Libido Knievel, Attack of the Weiner Man, and Pants (can you say triple sexual innuendo?) this band will appeal to the thirteen year old in all of us but was created for a much more mature audience. The truly outstanding quality of this band, however, is not the theatrics, or their ribald lyrics, nor their costumes. It is their profound musicality. Their sound is melodious, blood-stirring, harmonious, and perfectly in time to the beat of the audience. It’s rumored that a number of Grammy award winners are members of the group but since they all dress in mummy costumes this is hard to verify. Regardless, they have an exceptional four piece horn section, a funky rhythm section, and harmonious vocals and they entertained me and the rest of the crowd from the moment they hit the stage until the curtain fell. This is a funk/R&B show you won’t want to miss. See them if you can!

P.S. My wife and I enjoyed this show/carnival/concert/presentation so much that we purchased tickets to see them at the House of Blues in Chicago on September 17th, 2011. Can’t wait!

Here Come the Mummies
6 out of 5 stars

Michael Franti and Spearhead


Blending hip hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk, and rock Michael Franti and Spearhead performed to a large audience of very lucky and highly energetic fans on the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee tonight. He brought his signature laid-back West Coast sound and his sultry voice to the Midwest without missing a beat. Full of energy, Franti bounced his way barefoot through the first few tunes and then got down to the slower folk-rock ballads he’s known for. At one point, in the middle of the concert, Franti asked a group of young children and a few sixty-something’s to join him on stage to dance to Say Hey (I Love You). The message? Music (and love) cross every barrier of age, race, or economic status. Franti also came out into the crowd at least three times - once to serenade the folks that had to stand in the back. Michael Franti and Spearhead were a perfect exclamation point to an amazing evening of music and entertainment.

Michael Franti and Spearhead
4 ½ stars out of 5

P.S.S. Oh, and if you ever find yourself in the downtown area of Milwaukee, Wisconsin stop in at Carnevor’s for dinner, great steaks, BTW and lunch at Elsa’s on Jefferson. Best hamburgers in the state, IMO.

Additional Reading:


Florence and the Machine

The Black Keys


Here Come the Mummies

Michael Franti and Spearhead

Other Bands of Interest at Summerfest (yes, I attended these concerts as well):

Cage the Elephant
3 ½ stars out of 5

The Mighty Blues Kings
4 out of 5 stars

Dan Rodriguez
4 out of 5 stars

The Air on Everest
3 ½ stars out of 5

Litmus Vinyl
3 stars out of 5

Food (Milwaukee):

Carnevor Steakhouse Moderne
5 out of 5 stars

Elsa’s on the Park
5 out of 5 stars

Summerfest (The World’s Largest Music Festival)
(11 stages – 11 days – over 700 bands)


The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review - My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist
Robert T. Jeschonek
Clarion Books
Publication Date: July 11, 2011
ARC Trade Paperback Uncorrected Proof
336 pages
ISBN: 054737027X


Robert T. Jeschonek’s My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is a somewhat peculiar, highly enjoyable, and intricate, multi-layered in-book fantasy within a tale within a story. Idea Deity (yes, that’s his name) has created an imaginary band that’s become an overnight, Internet sensation even though they haven’t released a single song to the public yet . Idea’s website includes fictional tour dates, invented member bios, and imaginary lyrics for a band he calls Youforia. In addition, Idea suffers from a rare disorder known as Deity Syndrome, a psychosomatic condition that makes him believe he’s a character created for a novel. To make matters infinitely worse, he’s convinced he’ll meet his demise in the middle of Chapter 64 which he fears is close. Okay, I know this sounds really weird but it gets better(read weirder)…

Elsewhere, introvert musician Reacher Miracle (yes, that’s his name) the actual leader of a band called Youforia can’t understand how someone could post so much inside information about his band, his life, and his songs on the Internet. Constantly on the run there’s no way anyone could gather so many details about the band. Reacher is determined to find the webmaster of this fake but viral website to find out how he knows so much about him and a band that has yet to play a single note in public. (Does Reacher also suffer from Deity Syndrome?)

In-book, both Reacher and Idea happen to be reading the same Swords and Sorcery fantasy novel called Fireskull's Revenant* and since both protagonists are equally invested in the book we get to read portions of the story along with them. The interspersed chapters from Fireskull's Revenant are presented with tattered, worn pages so you know when you’ve breached the in-novel fantasy which chronicles the tale of an epic battle between two superhuman/magical characters.

I must admit a certain curiosity pertaining to the link between the various disparate, in-book stories (which prompted a lot of quick page-turning to be sure) and how the author was going to pull it all together but the chain of events he created knit the different story lines together so well that they flowed into a brilliantly written, effortless, and epic conclusion(s). I was pleasantly surprised at the imaginative technique and singular skill Jeschonek employed to bring all the loose story arcs successfully together.

In some ways My Favorite Band Does Not Exist reminds me of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and Bradley Denton’s Wrack and Roll both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. The literary trope of jumping between books (while in-book) exits in Fforde’s work (although it’s a bit more complicated than that) and the out-of-control Rock ‘n Roll theme is prevalent in Denton’s. While My Favorite Band Does Not Exist contains elements of both it’s also rife with character paranoia, tribalism, fantasy, and the absurd which, in my opinion, makes it well worth the time spent reading it.

Naming conventions follow the Thomas Pynchon school of thought where character names contain symbolism (both subtle and obvious) and ultimately help define the attributes and personalities of the main characters. With names like Idea Deity, and his parents Vengeful Deity and Loving Deity, Reacher Mirage, Johnny Without, Lord Fireskull, and Eunice Truant this is evidently “meaningful naming” where the first, last, or full names say something primal about the character, often with multiple layers. In addition, the characters we meet are always more than they seem and symbolism is endemic in every name, occupation, and physical description.

As a debut urban-fantasy novel My Favorite Band Does Not Exist stands out as an ambitious and promising start for author Robert T. Jeschonek who is obviously a talented and creative writer. I, for one, would like to see his sophomore effort. As a reviewer I’m always interested in reading additional works of debut novelists so that I can follow their growth as writers, be it urban fantasy or not. What ever he plans to release next I’ll be tracking it closely.

File Under: Jasper Fforde meets Wrack and Roll meets Uber-urban fantasy meets metafiction meets Swords and Sorcery meets trashed hotel rooms. If you enjoy any of these individually you’ll love My Favorite Band Does Not Exist/ Fireskull's Revenant collectively.

My Favorite Band Does Not Exist is available today, July 11, 2011 in hardcover. Review copy provided free as part of the Amazon Vine program.

4 stars out of 5

The Alternative
Southeast Wisconsin

Additional Reading:

Robert Jeschonek Website

Fireskull’s Revenant Artwork

Accidental Rabbit Tracks Blog Review

IndieBound Page

Additional Books Containing Another Work of Fiction Within Itself:

The Laughing Man (Short Story) by J.D. Salinger

The Dark Tower by C. S. Lewis

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

* Note: I’m not exactly sure how or where I got this impression but I felt that the fantasy novel Fireskull's Revenant was originally written by Mr. Jeschonek as a stand-alone story that eventually got eaten whole by the Idea/Reacher/Youforia novel and churned into the three-way fantasy My Favorite Band Does Not Exist. Then again, I’ve been known to be wrong…