Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Explore Booksellers in Aspen recommends a Silicon Valley novel, a ghost story and a time-travel mix of sci-fi and satire.
By Sarah Rose Etter
From the publisher: A year into her dream job at a cutthroat Silicon Valley start-up, Cassie finds herself trapped in a corporate nightmare. Between the long hours, toxic bosses, and unethical projects, she also struggles to reconcile the glittering promise of a city where obscene wealth lives alongside abject poverty and suffering.
When she ends up unexpectedly pregnant at the same time her CEO’s demands cross into illegal territory, Cassie must decide whether the tempting fruits of Silicon Valley are really worth it. Sharp but vulnerable, unsettling yet darkly comic, “Ripe” portrays one millennial woman’s journey through our late-capitalist hellscape and offers a brilliantly incisive look at the absurdities of modern life.
From Jason Jefferies, General Manager: “Ripe” is a Silicon Valley novel, but it is not your father’s Silicon Valley novel. It is a novel about class divides in San Francisco, about how jobs can kill your soul, about drugs, pregnancy and astrophysics. It is a novel about parenting and parents and complications with relationships in the age of Tinder. It is one of the best novels of the year.
Sarah Rose Etter won the Shirley Jackson Award for her previous novel “The Book of X” (which was published by our friends at Two Dollar Radio). By all accounts it is not a novel that should have been topped, but here we are. Etter is proving to be one of the most talented novelists of her generation. Read “Ripe,” read “The Book of X” and ready yourself for the next one.
By Semanta Schweblin
From the publisher: A young woman named Amanda lies dying in a rural hospital clinic. A boy named David sits beside her. She’s not his mother. He’s not her child. Together, they tell a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, and the power and desperation of family. “Fever Dream” is a nightmare come to life, a ghost story for the real world, a love story and a cautionary tale. One of the freshest new voices to come out of the Spanish language and translated into English for the first time, Samanta Schweblin creates an aura of strange psychological menace and otherworldly reality in this absorbing, unsettling, taut novel.
From Emma Murray, Marketing Specialist: We aren’t in spooky season yet, but it’s around the corner, and “Fever Dream” will spark or rekindle anyone’s appetite for literary horror. Set in rural Argentina, the parameters of the central relationship are unclear, but together the woman and boy bring a nightmare to life — and what emerges from their room will haunt you and make you think.
Strangely psychological, this novel absorbs you; I gulped it down in two sittings, then added the rest of Schweblin’s work (she was chosen by Granta as one of the 22 best writers in Spanish under the age of 35; and last year won the Translated Literature National Book Award in 2022) to the top of my to-read list.
By Georgi Gaspodinov
From the publisher: For our narrator, time as he knows it begins when he meets Gaustine, a “vagrant in time” who has distanced his life from contemporary reality by reading old news, wearing tattered old clothes, and haunting the lost avenues of the 20th century.
In an apricot-colored building in Zurich, surrounded by curiously planted forget-me-nots, Gaustine has opened the first “clinic for the past,” an institution that offers an inspired treatment for Alzheimer’s sufferers: each floor reproduces a past decade in minute detail, allowing patients to transport themselves back in time to unlock what is left of their fading memories.
From Tony Alcantara, Inventory Manager: A mixture of sci-fi and satire, “Time Shelter” chronicles the exploits of two men who build “time shelters”: treatment clinics where people suffering from dementia can reconnect with their earlier, healthier selves. The shelters are filled with all the bric-a-brac of 1955, or 1968, or 1972, depending on the patient. The furniture they sit on, the songs playing on the radio, the newspapers delivered to the door, all of it custom tailored to create a sense of belonging to those otherwise stranded in a present they no longer understand.
The treatments are wildly successful, so much so that those not suffering from dementia start seeking the same care. Soon, the two protagonists are racing to keep up, their clinics expanding to fill entire floors, entire buildings, entire cities. What began as medical care is soon co-opted by those looking to go back to their preferred golden age, a veritable Make-Austria-Great-Again mentality, where taxi drivers in Bulgaria start wearing ancient ceremonial swords and woolen leggings. Eventually, each of the European countries, except Britain (Brexit), votes to decide the decade they will return to.
Translated from the Bulgarian, “Time Shelter” puts a humorous and thought-provoking spin on questions of memory, history, and nationalism and how they intertwine. At times hilarious, at times profoundly disturbing, this book will make you see dementia and current political trends in a whole new light.