Inauguration Day (And Beyond!) Reading Suggestions

I will not be watching today's inauguration of our forty-fifth president, a thin-skinned nutjob with authoritarian ambition, and instead will be reading and writing. I'll catch the follow-ups on his inauguration speech (which I suspect will be ridiculously self-congratulatory, filled with crackpot lies and plenty of gloating, with a big side of ranting about all the "losers" and traitors that didn't vote for him, before he takes the weekend off) in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

If you, too, are hoping to avoid the spectacle of Cheeto Hitler, and are looking for some works to help keep you fired up and fighting against the kleptocracy and the theocratic kooks in Congress, here's some books you can enjoy today, as well as over the next four years (or until he's, hopefully, impeached).

Some of these titles I've read, and some I haven't but they are on my radar and I plan on checking them out in an effort to maintain some kind of sanity throughout this national nightmare.

  • Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis (author) and Darick Robertson (illustrator). 

From Book 1: DC's new editions of TRANSMETROPOLITAN begin here, with this volume collecting issues #1-6 of the acclaimed Vertigo series from writer Warren Ellis and artist Darick Robertson! After years of selfimposed exile from a civilization rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job he hates and a city he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd century surroundings. 

In this first volume, Spider ventures into the dangerous Angels 8 district, home of the Transients — humans who have decided to become aliens through cosmetic surgery. But Spider's interview with the Transients' leader gets him a scoop he didn't bargain for. And don't miss Spider's first confrontation with the President of the United States . . . in a men's room.

[Amazon]

  • Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi

Dispatches from the 2016 election that provide an eerily prescient take on our democracy’s uncertain future, by the country’s most perceptive and fearless political journalist.

The 2016 presidential contest as told by Matt Taibbi, from its tragicomic beginnings to its apocalyptic conclusion, is in fact the story of Western civilization’s very own train wreck. Years before the clown car of candidates was fully loaded, Taibbi grasped the essential themes of the story: the power of spectacle over substance, or even truth; the absence of a shared reality; the nihilistic rebellion of the white working class; the death of the political establishment; and the emergence of a new, explicit form of white nationalism that would destroy what was left of the Kingian dream of a successful pluralistic society.

Taibbi captures, with dead-on, real-time analysis, the failures of the right and the left, from the thwarted Bernie Sanders insurgency to the flawed and aimless Hillary Clinton campaign; the rise of the “dangerously bright” alt-right with its wall-loving identity politics and its rapturous view of the “Racial Holy War” to come; and the giant fail of a flailing, reactive political media that fed a ravenous news cycle not with reporting on political ideology, but with undigested propaganda served straight from the campaign bubble. At the center of it all stands Donald J. Trump, leading a historic revolt against his own party, “bloviating and farting his way” through the campaign, “saying outrageous things, acting like Hitler one minute and Andrew Dice Clay the next.” For Taibbi, the stunning rise of Trump marks the apotheosis of the new postfactual movement.

Taibbi frames the reporting with original essays that explore the seismic shift in how we perceive our national institutions, the democratic process, and the future of the country. Insane Clown President is not just a postmortem on the collapse and failure of American democracy. It offers the riveting, surreal, unique, and essential experience of seeing the future in hindsight.

Praise for Matt Taibbi

“Matt Taibbi is one of the few journalists in America who speaks truth to power.”—Senator Bernie Sanders

[Amazon]

  • The President's Brain Is MIssing by John Scalzi

The question is, how can you tell the President's brain is missing? And are we sure we need it back?

[Amazon]

  • Fighting Back the Right by David Niose

The political scene is changing rapidly in America. The religious right is on the defensive, acceptance of gay rights is at an all-time high, social conservatives are struggling for relevance, and more Americans than ever identify as nonreligious. What does this mean for the country and the future? With these demographic shifts, can truly progressive, reason-based public policy finally gain traction? Or will America continue to carry a reputation as anti-intellectual and plutocratic, eager to cater to large corporate interests but reluctant to provide universal health care to all its citizens? Fighting Back the Right reveals a new alliance in the making, a progressive coalition committed to fighting for rational public policy in America and reversing the damage inflicted by decades of conservative dominance. David Niose, Legal Director of the American Humanist Association (AHA), examines this exciting new dynamic, covering not only the rapidly evolving culture wars but also the twists and turns of American history and politics that led to this point, and why this new alliance could potentially move the country in a direction of sanity, fairness, and human-centered public policy.

[Amazon]

  • American Fascists by Chris Hedges

Twenty-five years ago, when Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists first spoke of the United States becoming a Christian nation that would build a global Christian empire, it was hard to take such hyperbolic rhetoric seriously. Today, such language no longer sounds like hyperbole but poses, instead, a very real threat to our freedom and our way of life. In American Fascists, Chris Hedges, veteran journalist and author of the National Book Award finalist War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, challenges the Christian Right's religious legitimacy and argues that at its core it is a mass movement fueled by unbridled nationalism and a hatred for the open society. 

Hedges, who grew up in rural parishes in upstate New York where his father was a Presbyterian pastor, attacks the movement as someone steeped in the Bible and Christian tradition. He points to the hundreds of senators and members of Congress who have earned between 80 and 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups as one of many signs that the movement is burrowing deep inside the American government to subvert it. The movement's call to dismantle the wall between church and state and the intolerance it preaches against all who do not conform to its warped vision of a Christian America are pumped into tens of millions of American homes through Christian television and radio stations, as well as reinforced through the curriculum in Christian schools. The movement's yearning for apocalyptic violence and its assault on dispassionate, intellectual inquiry are laying the foundation for a new, frightening America. 

American Fascists, which includes interviews and coverage of events such as pro-life rallies and weeklong classes on conversion techniques, examines the movement's origins, its driving motivations and its dark ideological underpinnings. Hedges argues that the movement currently resembles the young fascist movements in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s, movements that often masked the full extent of their drive for totalitarianism and were willing to make concessions until they achieved unrivaled power. The Christian Right, like these early fascist movements, does not openly call for dictatorship, nor does it use physical violence to suppress opposition. In short, the movement is not yet revolutionary. But the ideological architecture of a Christian fascism is being cemented in place. The movement has roused its followers to a fever pitch of despair and fury. All it will take, Hedges writes, is one more national crisis on the order of September 11 for the Christian Right to make a concerted drive to destroy American democracy. The movement awaits a crisis. At that moment they will reveal themselves for what they truly are -- the American heirs to fascism. Hedges issues a potent, impassioned warning. We face an imminent threat. His book reminds us of the dangers liberal, democratic societies face when they tolerate the intolerant.

[Amazon]

  • American War by Omar El Akkad

An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

Release date: April 4, 2017

[Amazon]

  • Tropic of Kansas by Christopher Brown

“Futurist as provocateur! The world is sheer batshit genius . . . a truly hallucinatorily envisioned environment.”—William Gibson, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author

“Timely, dark, and ultimately hopeful: it might not ‘make America great again,’ but then again, it just might.”—Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling and award winning author of Homeland

Acclaimed short story writer and editor of the World Fantasy Award-nominee Three Messages and a Warning eerily envisions an American society unraveling and our borders closed off—from the other side—in this haunting and provocative novel that combines Max Barry’s Jennifer Government, Philip K. Dick’s classic Man in the High Castle, and China Mieville’s The City & the City

The United States of America is no more. Broken into warring territories, its center has become a wasteland DMZ known as “the Tropic of Kansas.” Though this gaping geographic hole has no clear boundaries, everyone knows it's out there—that once-bountiful part of the heartland, broken by greed and exploitation, where neglect now breeds unrest. Two travelers appear in this arid American wilderness: Sig, the fugitive orphan of political dissidents, and his foster sister Tania, a government investigator whose search for Sig leads her into her own past—and towards an unexpected future.

Sig promised those he loves that he would make it to the revolutionary redoubt of occupied New Orleans. But first he must survive the wild edgelands of a barren mid-America policed by citizen militias and autonomous drones, where one wrong move can mean capture . . . or death. One step behind, undercover in the underground, is Tania. Her infiltration of clandestine networks made of old technology and new politics soon transforms her into the hunted one, and gives her a shot at being the agent of real change—if she is willing to give up the explosive government secrets she has sworn to protect.

As brother and sister traverse these vast and dangerous badlands, their paths will eventually intersect on the front lines of a revolution whose fuse they are about to light.

Release date: July 11, 2017

[Amazon]

  • Infomacracy (The Centenal Cycle) by Malka Older

Read Infomocracy, the first book in Malka Older's groundbreaking cyberpunk political thriller series The Centenal Cycle and the novel NPR called "Kinetic and gripping."

• The book The Huffington Post called "one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history"
• One of Kirkus' "Best Fiction of 2016"
• One of The Washington Post's "Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016"
• One of Book Riot's "Best Books of 2016 So Far"

It's been twenty years and two election cycles since Information, a powerful search engine monopoly, pioneered the switch from warring nation-states to global micro-democracy. The corporate coalition party Heritage has won the last two elections. With another election on the horizon, the Supermajority is in tight contention, and everything's on the line.

With power comes corruption. For Ken, this is his chance to do right by the idealistic Policy1st party and get a steady job in the big leagues. For Domaine, the election represents another staging ground in his ongoing struggle against the pax democratica. For Mishima, a dangerous Information operative, the whole situation is a puzzle: how do you keep the wheels running on the biggest political experiment of all time, when so many have so much to gain?

Infomocracy is Malka Older's debut novel.

PRAISE FOR INFOMOCRACY

“A fast-paced, post-cyberpunk political thriller... If you always wanted to put The West Wing in a particle accelerator with Snow Crash to see what would happen, read this book.” —Max Gladstone, author of Last First Snow

"Smart, ambitious, bursting with provocative extrapolations, Infomocracy is the big-data-big-ideas-techno-analytical-microdemoglobal-post-everything political thriller we've been waiting for." —Ken Liu, author of The Grace of Kings

"In the mid-21st century, your biggest threat isn’t Artificial Intelligence—it’s other people. Yet the passionate, partisan, political and ultimately fallible men and women fighting for their beliefs are also Infomocracy’s greatest hope. An inspiring book about what we frail humans could still achieve, if we learn to work together." —Karl Schroeder, author of Lockstep and the Virga saga

[Amazon]

  • Null States (The Centenal Cycle) by Malka Older

"Kinetic and gripping" ―NPR on Infomocracy

Null States continues the Centenal Cycle, the series beginning with Infomocracy

• The book The Huffington Post called "one of the greatest literary debuts in recent history"
• One of The Washington Post's "Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of 2016"
• One of Kirkus' "Best Fiction of 2016"
• One of Book Riot's "Best Books of 2016"

The future of democracy is about to implode.

After the last controversial global election, the global infomocracy that has ensured thirty years of world peace is fraying at the edges. As the new Supermajority government struggles to establish its legitimacy, agents of Information across the globe strive to keep the peace and maintain the flows of data that feed the new world order.

In the newly-incorporated DarFur, a governor dies in a fiery explosion. In Geneva, a superpower hatches plans to bring microdemocracy to its knees. In Central Asia, a sprawling war among archaic states threatens to explode into a global crisis. And across the world, a shadowy plot is growing, threatening to strangle Information with the reins of power.

Release date: Sept. 19, 2017

[Amazon]

What books do you plan on reading to help you survive and keep your brain in check?

Michael Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.


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