By Bence Pintér: There will be lists about the best science fiction, fantasy and horror books published this decade, but there won’t be any list like this one: you will read about books which you probably won’t be able to read, because they were mostly written in languages most people in the US never even heard about.
The last decade in Anglo-Saxon speculative publishing was a decade when everyone discovered stories different from the usual: stories about marginalized groups, LGBTQ people, people of colour or stories from China, to name just a few.
Now me and my fellow European fans, publishing professionals, and writers will present another set of unknown speculative stories: European stories from countries outside the Anglosphere. These stories are not just unknown to the English-speaking world, though. In Hungary, for example – but as I hear from the contributors, this is also the case elsewhere – the speculative fiction market is dominated by American and English writers in translation.
This spring I wondered: is there even any speculative fiction dealing with the future of Europe? The people of European countries? The European Union? I surveyed the English and American books and was unsatisfied. Apart from Dave Hutchinson’s superb Fractured Europe Sequence, I did not find much. Then I thought: maybe in other languages… Then I decided that it would be even better to showcase not just stories about the future of Europe, but to show the world that European speculative fiction is a thing.
So, on the one hand, this list can help American publishers and agencies to find talented authors and interesting new voices from Europe, while, on the other hand, European SFFH publishers from each country can also find valuable work to publish in their respective markets – the EU even has a fund to support literary translations. Crazy!
To create this list, I contacted fans throughout Europe. I can’t state that these were the best European speculative books in this decade, i.e. published between 2010 and 2019. I can only state that people I contacted found them remarkable. Special thanks goes to Mihaela Marija Perkovic from Croatia, who helped me to get in contact with a lot of other people who contributed to this list. I also have to thank Mike Glyer for publishing this article and providing me with contact information to contributors.
While here you will read about a lot of European countries, I could not find contributors from every country. I’m still looking for the most remarkable speculative books from this decade from Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cyprus, Iceland, Kosovo, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. Originally, I did not wanted to include books which were written in English, but now I’m willing to expand this list with books from the UK and Ireland.
[Editor’s note: WordPress will not display some special characters, therefore, with apologies, the most similar Latin character has been substituted.]
[The recommendations start after the jump.]
Let the fun begin!
Austria — by Nina Horvath
- Es ist die Schwerkraft, die uns umbringt (It Is Gravity That Kills Us) by Ulrike Schmitzer (2014)
The author is well-known among Austrians, especially for being a moderator at the public radio channel Ö1. Her novel is about a female astronaut, who is going to a mission to Mars. In between, there are absurd true stories about women in space exploration, what are certainly an unusual highlight for the readers. In case you like those little stories, I can also recommend her non-fiction book from 2018 about astronomy (written together with Martin Pesl): Houston, wir haben ein Problem.
- Der Gottbettler by Michael Markus Thurner (2013)
This novel came out at the German publishing house blanvalet, what is actually part of Random House. Seems to be a mainstream high fantasy thing at first sight, but you are going to find anti-heroes. The story is also far too brutal to be consumed by younglings. But it is definitley well-written and worth to read. Michael Markus Thurner is also a very well known author of Perry Rhodan, which actually holds the world record for the longest on-going series of science-fiction prose.
- Das Sagenbuch zum Stephansdom by Barbara Schinko (2017)
This book could be great for fannish families who visit Vienna, the capital of Austria, as they are definitly going to see the Stephansdom, the famous church in the city center. A lot of Europeans already had seen it in their purse, as it is on Austria´s 10 cent coin, which is of course valid everywhere within the Eurozone. It had been traditionally associated with ghost stories – and the author retold the stories suitable for children and made up some new ones. She won the ESFS Award for it.
- Apocalypse Marseille by Andreas Gruber (2016)
Gruber is a famous author of thrillers, but has his roots within the horror/SF-fandom. I would recommend his story collection Apocalypse Marseille, in which you will find different genres within speculative fiction, though most of them have been published before, they have been revised, and a lot of fans were quite excited about the book.
- Anything from H.W. Franke
Last, but not least: Our best known author in science fiction is certainly H.W. Franke. He is a jack of all trades, author, scientist, visual artist, co-founder of a huge museum on future technology in my hometown (the Ars Electronica in Linz) – an unversial genius like Da Vinci. He got the well-deserved „Grand Master of European Science Fiction“ Award from the Eurocon in Barcelona and I was very honored that I could take it at the ceremony on his behalf, and later hand it over in an official ceremony in Bad Tölz (Southern Germany) before a puppet play based on his books. He is over 90 years of age by now, so of course he slowed down with new projects after such a long and productive life. Currently p.machinery publishes his complete works book by book. My favorite one is Der Elfenbeinturm.
Croatia — by Mihaela Marija Perkovic
Croatia has a very lively SF scene: a total of nine annual conventions, the eldest one – SFeraKon – is over 40 years old, one dedicated literary festival (Festival of Fantastic Literature), one dedicated film festival (Fantastic Zagreb), five annual anthologies, three fanzines – two of which won the ESFS Award – and two magazines: Ubiq and Sirius B.
For a small country – which cannot reach the population of New York even in the summer months when its every nook gets infested with tourists – that is impressive. Croatian genre production has grown over the years, both in quality and in volume, despite the fact that Croatian authors who live off writing alone do not exist – everyone had a day job – or three.
Here are the five best reads in Croatian SF published between 2010 and 2019, in no particular order:
- Mletacki sokol (The Venetian Falcon) by Milena Benini (2019)
Possibly the best known Croatian genre author, as she was a finalist for the national mainstream best novel of the year award with Priestess of the Moon (2014), Milena Benini has been publishing SF since she was 14 years old. She has won numerous SFERA and Artefact awards for her novels, but her latest, The Venetian Falcon – featuring a floating Serenissima Ressurecta in a future so strange only a Croatian mind, one as weird as Milena’s, could have come up with – may be her best yet.
- Izazov krvi (The Challenge of Blood) by Vesna Kurilic (2017)
A YA novel set in a time when the railway was making its way through the Hapsburg Monarchy tells the story of living with nature and dealing with progress via two love stories: a straight one and a lesbian one, but both between a werewolf and a human. The novel has won both Croatian genre award – SFERA and Artefakt and Kurilic has deals for two sequels in Croatia.
- Futur Crni (The Black Future) ed. Ivana Delac & Tatjana Jambricak (2016)
The SFera annual anthologies kickstarted the Croatian genre writing scene back in the 90s and have become a tradition Croatians are very proud of – 25 years! For the past decade, every second year features a themed anthology and The Black Future, combining crime and genre in 13 great stories sticks out as a particularly exceptional one.
- Irbis by Aleksandar Žiljak (2012)
A former army man who is now a snow leopard on a mission in a dystopian future done the Croatian way is what Irbis is all about. Aleksandar Žiljak, Croatian illustrator, writer, editor and translator won one of his 9 SFERA Awards for it. He won another one for his story “An Evening In The City Coffeehouse, With Lydia On My Mind” which was included in The Apex Book of World SF (2009) and was Eurocon Guest of Honour in 2017. As prolific an illustrator as he is an author, Žiljak did the cover of award-winning YA The Challenge of Blood.
- Japodinine muke (The Troubles of Japodina) bye Ivana Delac (2019)
A woman wearing pants and running a factory in 19th century Croatia, a town on 4 rivers, built in the shape of a star, and a dragon crashing the party is just part of what makes this steampunk novel a real treat. A third novel for Ivana Delac, who wrote Pegazars (2016), a fantasy YA novel about bullying and unicorns and The Banished (2016), a LARP inspired genre novel featuring gay characters.
If you want to know more about Croatian SF fandom and genre literature, a Eurocon convention might be a good start! Croatia is hosting its 3rd one in Rijeka in 2020 – Futuricon – and all of the above authors and their publishers will be there in person.
Czech Republic by Julie Novákova
- Mycelium series by Vilma Kadlecková (2013-2019)
The saga is set in a world decades after humanity’s first contact with a few alien races including the Össeans, a civilization built on mycelial biotechnology and in a firm grip of an all-permeating official church whose practices seem very medieval to most humans. Kadlecková managed to write a very believable civilization combining advanced technology with deep-rooted religion, and its interplay with humanity.
Lucas, the protagonist, is battling a fatal illness as well as his father’s (who studied the Össean culture) dubious legacy in a web of intrigue that slowly unfolds around him and other characters, such as an Össean woman Kamële who became shunned and exiled to Earth, the stranger Aššád coming from a world forbidden to visit by Össean church, and many more.
- Konstantynuv efekt (Konstantyn’s Effect) by Karolina Francová (2016)
Konstantynuvefekt is an unusual story of two warring interstellar human civilizations. But if you’re expecting the standard military SF setting and type of story, you’re mistaken. It’s a very tight-woven personal story of a few people on the opposite sides of the barricade, exploring the hard choice of personal sacrifice.
A mother has locked her daughter in a boy’s body to protect her, but forever gained her hatred and defiance; a military leader sacrifices his sister in order to save himself and lead the war efforts; an old scholar becomes trapped in his queen’s betrayal and her plans to win the war and save their way of building a civilization… It’s a thoughtful, unusual space opera with original worldbuilding and great depiction and psychology of the characters.
It is 1953, two years have passed since the full Nazi victory, and the Czechs are beginning to realize that a profitable alliance did not bring what they expected from it. The war is over, but the killing machine continues to kill.
This alternate history novel follows the fate of young Walter, whose family collaborated with Germans during WWII. It’s chilling, especially in the non-speculative depictions of conformity and closing one’s eyes before evil.
- Zpráva z Hádu by Edita Dufková (2012)
The Proserpine spacecraft is almost at its destination, in the solar system of the Pavonis Delta, hoping to find a planet suitable for colonization. Thirty thousand passengers are waking up from the cryos to face a terrible discovery – their ship is on a collision course with a giant comet and the crash is inevitable.
Waco Teirange, the navigator, and of necessity, the ship’s captain, has the difficult task of saving Proserpine, the settlers, and the mission. Before they reach the dream planet, they must survive the hell of ice called Hades.
Zpráva z Hádu is a brilliant hard SF about a sleeper starship that encounters a strange comet and alien life – but the human elements are even more intriguing.
- Terra Nullius, ed. Julie Nováková (2015
As to Terra Nullius, I hesitated whether to include my own anthology, but I asked fellow readers, and their suggestions largely overlapped with mine and often included this anthology of transhumanist hard SF. Two of the stories, The Ship Whisperer and the titular Terra Nullius, also appeared in English.
Honorable mentions: Works by Lucie Lukacovicová, Pavel Rencín and Jan Kotouc. All of these authors have already appeared in English, among other places in an anthology of Czech speculative fiction in translation Dreams From Beyond.
Denmark by Lise Andreasen
- Månebase Rødhætte (Moon Base Little Red Riding Hood) by Lars Ahn (2012)
Lars Ahn is a writer, journalist, con runner, winner of several SFF awards. He arrived in Denmark from South Korea four months old in 1973. His favorite authors are Iain M. Banks and Caitlín R. Kiernan. In the title story of this short story collection werewolves are discovered when one of them steps out on the Moon, transformed. An agreement is made, and werewolves take over the Moon. Now there are regular travel between Earth and Moon. The story is told by a pilot. She regularly gets to test co-pilots, when the passengers noisily wake from their drugged state and try to leave their cells.
- Rynkekneppesygen (Wrinkle Fucking Disease) by Peter Adolphsen (2017)
A tiny alien lands on a woman. It immediately bites her and starts multiplying. Two months later she dies, the first victim of MIWD, Mite Induced Wrinkle Disease. In between she became more and more wrinkly and horny. Peter Adolphsen (1972) graduated from author school in 1995. He is inspired by Kafka and Borges, among others.
- Den danske borgerkrig 2018-24 (The Danish Civil War 2018-24) by Kaspar Colling Nielsen (2017)
2018-24. Denmark was in a state of emergency. Politicians were beheaded in the streets. Bankers might be exterminated. (They recommended debts.) Groups grew further apart. A man was 25 at the time. At age 475 he tells Geoff, best friend and very advanced dog, about those days.
Kaspar Colling Nielsen was born 1974. BA. Cand.merc.fil. at Copenhagen Business School, 2005. He is inspired by Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka, Michel Houellebecq and Jorge Luis Borges among others.
- Mount København (Mount Copenhagen) by Kaspar Colling Nielsen (2010)
Mount Copenhagen is 3500 meters tall. So, the mountain has various climate zones. Apparently the state paid for it. These are the stories of some of the people on and close to the mountain. They all dream about their future, and they don’t necessarily respect the law of gravity.
- De ansatte (The Employees) by Olga Ravn (2018)
A work environment in the 22nd century. The ship is loaded with objects from the planet below, and the employees develop deep relationships with those objects. Structured as a series of interviews. Award winner. Olga Ravn (1986) graduated from author school in 2010. First book in 2012 was poetry and also won an award.
Estonia — by Reaktor fanzin staff
- Gort Ashryn 1-3 by Leo Kunnas (2008-2010)
A military SF-trilogy taking place in interplanetary space: the story of Captain Anton Irv VIII, the eighth clone of the hero of the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920), who grew up as a human and a soldier nearly a thousand years after our time. The author, Leo Kunnas, is a retired officer, publicist and writer; Gort Ashryn is his sole work of pure SF. Each part of the trilogy has won the Estonian Stalker award.
- Mehitamata inimesed (The Unmanned People) by Maniakkide Tänav (2014)
A cyberpunk novel depicting an apocalyptic, post-nuclear-disaster Estonia. Estonia’s future after the accident at the Sosnovy Bor nuclear plant. Ida-Viru and Lääne-Viru counties have become contaminated and become unusable for people. The surrounding counties are littered with masses of refugees from the disaster area, plus Chinese and Russian immigrants who came to Estonia after the Russian-Chinese War. In a dark-toned world, a single hacker looks for his lost sweetheart.
The author, Maniakkide Tänav, writes naturalistic horror, apocalyptic SF and cyberpunk, often in local settings, especially around Jõgeva, a small town in rural Estonia. He demonstrates considerable talent in rallying up like-minded authors for writing groups as well as anthologies; he is also a co-founder and editor of the Estonian sci-fi magazine Reaktor.
- Saladuslik tsaar (The Mysterious Czar) – by multiple authors (2012)
It is the first installment in the ongoing Esto-futuristic series that depicts apocalyptic Earth after an unexpected encounter with alien asteroid, and the human populations elsewhere in the Solar System.
The first short story collection features three authors (Tänav, J. J. Metsavana, Jaagup Mahkra) and won a Stalker Award. Next book in the series, „Duumioru lood” (Tales of Doomin’ Valley, 2015), became a shared-universe anthology (Tänav co-authoring most of its content); two further sequels are novels co-authored with J. J. Metsavana (the first sequel won another Stalker award).
- Kolmevaimukivi (The Three-spirit Boulder) by Indrek Hargla (2018)
This is a short story collection combining local settings in various speculative fiction sub-genres (folk-horror, alternative history, SF, fantasy, folk-thriller).
The author, Indrek Hargla, is currently the most important Estonian speculative fiction author by all standards. Including this title, he has received twenty Stalker awards in all possible categories, exceeding other Estonian authors, and a handful of other literary awards.
- Kogu maailma valgus (Bright Light of the Whole World) by Veiko Belials (2013)
A short story collection that brought its author three Stalker awards.
The author, Veiko Belials, is a prolific poet, translator from Russian (most notably of the Strugatsky brothers), critic, editor, and the president of the Estonian Speculative Fiction Association. Belials is also an accomplished writer in various sub-genres of fantastic fiction and is capable of emulating many different writing styles.
Meaning and origins of the word ’ulme’
Did you know that in Estonia, speculative fiction is called ‘ulme’? I did not, and I got curious, so I asked the Reaktor staff to explain the origins of this world to us:
The word ’ulme’ (pronounced „ooh-el’meh”) can be traced back several decades. In 1970,
Henn-Kaarel Hellat used the novelty word for „science fiction” in a newspaper article. A year later, that newspaper (Sirp ja Vasar – „The Sickle and the Hammer”) held a contest searching new Estonian terminology, including a good replacement for „scientific fantastics” (the local equivalent to science fiction).
Semantically, ’ulme’ relates to „ulm” – a dream or an ethereal thought. It is difficult to translate directly, but it’s often mentally positioned as the opposite of ’olme’ – the everyday and the mundane – as something fantastic or utopic. In Estonian everyday-speak, ’ulme’ has become the go-to word for „unreal” or „made up”.
Finland — by Johanna Sinisalo
Titles selected by Finnish writer Johanna Sinisalo and others, summaries are copied from agencies website in some cases.
- Leväluhta (The Red Marsh) by Marko Hautala (2018)
This much is true: on the west coast of Finland lies a marsh, and on the marsh a spring. In archeological excavations, hundreds of human bones have been found in the spring, but no one knows why or how the people have died. And no one knows why people are still to this day strangely drawn to the spring.
Meeri returns to her childhood home after years have passed. Her father has died under strange circumstances, her mother has turned into a mute and frail old woman, and her brother is in a psychiatric hospital. When buried family secrets resurface, it becomes apparent that the spring is connected to everything. Yet Meeri cannot stay away from it…
Hautala is a very good modern horror writer with an unique voice, often referred as ”the Stephen King of Finland”.
- Taivas (Heaven) by Piia Leino (2018)
Heaven takes place in Helsinki, a city state, former capital of Finland, in 2058. Society has collapsed after a civil war, and a nationalist movement called Light has seized the power. Political dissidents have fled to the North. All borders are closed and contact with the outside world is non-existent. No one entertains any visions of a brighter future anymore.
Instead, Light has given its citizens Heaven: a virtual reality. The old world lives on in Heaven, more vivid and beautiful than it ever really was. Heaven is addictive, but it can only be accessed by people with enough money and standing. Common people lead their lives under oppression and misrule.
Akseli works at the university trying to find out the cause of the epidemic of apathy. People hardly leave their apartments, they don’t talk to each other, no babies are born. When Akseli is given total access to Heaven, he’s soon about to be consumed by the virtual reality – until he meets a woman called Iina. The meeting in Heaven is so powerful that they decide to meet in reality, too. After that, everything changes.
Heaven is a dystopian novel that deals with topical issues: climate change, growing inequality within a welfare state, technological inventions and their growing power, and nationalist movements. Winner of the publisher’s novel competition and the European Union Prize for Literature in 2019, Heaven has gotten glowing reviews. It has also been nominated for Helmet Literature Prize, given to a future classic by the libraries in the metropolitan area of Helsinki.
- Anaché by Maria Turtschaninoff (2012)
This novel for young adults is set in the land of Accadia, located in the same mythical universe as Turtschaninoff’s earlier novel Arra. The Accadians are nomads – with traits of the ancient indigenous peoples of Mongolia and North America – who live close to nature, in intimate contact with the spirit world. Maria Turtschaninoff cleverly uses this exotic milieu to reflect current concerns such as gender stereotypes and the relation of human beings to nature.
Against an evocative backdrop of life under harsh natural conditions, she depicts the childhood and adolescence of a young girl, Anaché, in a restricted society where men have all the power and abuse it. As a child – and as the daughter of the tribal chief – Anaché is allowed to be wild and free. She is permitted to romp around on the steppe, forever on the heels of her admired brother Huor, who secretly teaches her to hunt and ride.
But when she has passed the Accadians’ initiation into womanhood, her freedom is abruptly taken away from her and she is suddenly left to live in the shadow of her tyrannical father and the husband he has chosen for her. Anaché refuses to acquiesce in her fate and becomes embroiled in a struggle for power that involves not only herself but also her entire people.
- Ikuisesti, siskoni (My sister, forever) by Katri Alatalo (2019)
The book is an epic fantasy that uses celtic mythology as an ingredient but the imaginary world created here is definitely unique. This story is simultaneously classic and modern fantasy, beautifully written, with touches of horror here and there.
This book is the sixth of Alatalo’s (b. 1985), who has this far written an YA fantasy trilogy, a desert fantasy and a collection of short stories.
- Hukkajoki (Wolf River) by Tiina Raevaara (2012)
In the snowless winter, a few weeks before Christmas, Joona and hs dog gets lost and ends up in the Hukkajoki with Amanda and her daughter Dora. Hukkajoki is a strange place, people come there and stay there. People are lost, they have secrets, and the wilderness surrounding them has a will of its own. Both people and animals possess an inexplicable primal force. Here you can read an interview with the author of this book.
You will find a lengthy interview, information about this great author (any of her books were worth translating) and summaries of her books, including Wolf River, here.
France — by Pixel Somnium
- May le monde by Michel Jeury (2010)
May is ten. Maybe she is dying. Dr. Goldberg sent her to the round house, in the middle of the forest. This is a world that looks like ours. But which is not ours, which is prodigiously distinct and distant, on another “brane”. Where everything is subtly or violently different. Dr. Goldberg will explain that to you. This novel from a major French SF writer won the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in 2012.
Michel Jeury (1934-2015) was a French science fiction writer, renowned since the 1970s. He invented the neologism “chronolyse”: projecting the mind of a psychronaut into that of a man living in another era gives rise to an original situation translated by a play of repeated scenes which gradually give the portrait of a man and his world. This informed Chronolysis (Le Temps incertain,1973 ; English translation: 1980), and Les Singes du Temps (1974). His first major SF award, among a dozen others earned during his half-century career as an SF author was the 1960 Jules Verne award.
- Reves de Gloire (Dreams of Glory) by Roland C. Wagner (2011)
An alternate history centered on the French-Algerian Independence war and its consequences. In this reality, General de Gaulle was shot down in an attack in 1960.. In the autonomy-bound Algiers of the late ‘60s then settle the “Vautriens”, young people inspired by Timothy Leary and his new drug, here named Glory. Nowadays, a record collector there sets out in search of a particularly rare vinyl from the ‘60s… Between drug, history and rock’n’roll, there is a polyphonic and jubilant novel.
The last novel of the major French SF writer won all major French SF awards: among them, the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, the Rosny Aîné Award and the Prix Utopiales Européen. It was partly translated in English by Norman Spinrad.
The prolific and celebrated author, Roland C. Wagner, departed too soon (1960-2012), won 17 awards, with two Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and seven Rosny Aîné Awards. He wrote pure hard SF and space opera, but also “new wave”, exploring alternative stages of consciousness, with lyrical writings and experimental forms. He was also a translator, wrote reviews, was an SF erudite and also active in French SF fandom since his first convention at 13. He loved psychedelic rock, and wrote and sang in a band.
- Lum’en by Laurent Genefort (2015)
“The intelligent life on Garance appeared a hundred thousand years before the planet bears this name. This life was not human, nor even organic. Lum’en was one of a kind…” Lum’en relates to the colonization of Garance, a planet like so many others, at least in appearance…
The story of women and men about to conquer a world, the story of their struggles over generations to build a colony in the confines. The very essence of human nature: in short, the search for new horizons. Ready to miss the point … Lum’en won the 2016 Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, and the Julia Verlanger and Rosny Aîné Awards.
Laurent Genefort (1968) was twenty when his first novel was published. He studied literature at the Sorbonne, earned a PhD in SF studies from the University of Nice. Sixty novels and fifty short-stories or novellas later, with four Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and four Rosny Aîné Awards, he is one of the leading figures of present French SF and perhaps the best universe builder of our field.
- Fidèle à ton pas balancé by Sylvie Lainé (2016)
The twenty-six short stories in this collection came from a thirty-year career, crowned with a dozen prizes. They are as many paths to discover an elsewhere, and another, which have never been so familiar: aliens, artificial intelligence, enhanced dolphins, your neighbour … They tell us about journeys and encounters, and what makes us human.
Sylvie Lainé (1957) is a French SF author. Once the youngest diplomed engineer in France, she later earned a Ph.D in computer science; she is now a Professor in Information and Communication Sciences with the University of Lyon. She writes short stories, and novellas, and is one of the major voices of science fiction in France. She received many prestigious awards for her works: among them, four Rosny Aîné Awards, and two Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire.
- Toxoplasma by Sabrina Calvo (2018)
After a great uprising, the island of Montreal is besieged, its bridges are blocked by the federal army. An improbable Commune organizes itself there. With the internet gone, a new virtual “Grid” is open to hackers. Nikki Chanson, a lost-cat detective and Z-movie specialist in a drifting video club investigates rodent sacrifices… A proto-cyberpunk thriller, Toxoplasma is a poetic, burlesque and political novel.
Sabrina Calvo is a French author who lives between France and Montreal (1974, previously known as David). She is also a designer, screenwriter, and works in the video game sector. Her works often combine science-fiction, fantasy and magical realism. She has received the Julia Verlanger award in 2002 for “Wonderful”, and the 2016 Bob Morane award for “Sous la colline”, before winning the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire and the Rosny Aîné Award for Toxoplasma.
Germany — by Cora Buhlert
For many years, homegrown science fiction and fantasy had a hard time getting published in Germany, because publishers would rather translate a proven bestseller from elsewhere than take a chance on a new German author. Often, pulp magazine series such as Perry Rhodan, Geisterjäger John Sinclair, Professor Zamorra or Maddrax were the only place where German speculative fiction could find a home. However, this has changed in the past ten to fifteen years and now there is a such wide variety of science fiction, fantasy and horror written in Germany that it is difficult to narrow it down to just five books.
Nonetheless, I have accepted the challenge and present you five German SFF novels, published in the past ten years, that I like a lot and that I feel represent the scope of the genre as it currently is in Germany.
- Corpus Delicti by Juli Zeh, published in English as The Method (2009)
Corpus Delicti is set in the dystopian future of 2057. The Method is an autocratic regime whose sole aim is maintaining the health of the population by all means possible. Every citizen is required to follow the regime’s strict diet and fitness plans. Failure to do so or otherwise endangering your health is considered a serious crime in this society.
Protagonist Mia Holl is such a criminal. Not only has she neglected to fulfil her health, diet and fitness requirements, no, she also has the gall to be depressed because her brother Moritz committed suicide, after he was convicted of murder. The evidence was overwhelming, since Moritz’s DNA was found on the body of the murder victim. Nonetheless, Moritz kept proclaiming his innocence until he took his own life.
The Method, alas, has no patience for grief and so Mia soon finds herself accused of crimes against her health and the state. However her lawyer, Dr. Lutz Rosentreter, is determined not just to get Mia acquitted, but also to prove the innocence of her brother Moritz. He eventually succeeds, but the Method knows no mercy…
Part Orwell’s 1984, part Kafka’s The Trial and part CSI (and in fact, the solution to the mystery how Moritz can be innocent, if his DNA was found on the body of a murder victim also appeared in an episode of CSI), Corpus Delicti is a fascinating piece of science fiction, even if author Juli Zeh does not consider it as such and declined a nomination for the Kurd Laßwitz Preis. The extensive trial scenes as well as the criticism of the alleged infallibility of DNA evidence were clearly influenced by Juli Zeh’s other job as a judge, while the depiction of the Method itself is strongly critical of both the surveillance state and attempts to enforce healthy behavior via laws.
- Pulsarnacht by Dietmar Dath (2012)
Dietmar Dath is a phenomenon. He is a brilliant critic whose pop culture reviews for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung are must-reads, the author of weighty tomes about philosophy, history and politics and probably the best science fiction author currently writing in German.
Pulsarnacht is set in the far future, where humanity is but one of the many species inhabiting a universe teeming with life. On the diamond world of Yasaka, President Shavali Castanon rules over a federation consisting of several galaxies. Those who rebelled against her rule have been banished to a planet-sized creature hurtling through deep space. All mining operations are in the hands of a reptilian species called Custai, though the actual mining is done by a slave race called the Dim, who look remarkably human. The Dim have a legend, passed on from generation to generation, about the so-called pulsar night, when all pulsars in the universe will cease to pulse.
Initially, everybody dismisses these stories as nothing but a fairy tale concocted by a slave race. But then the pulsars really do cease to function, disasters occur across the universe and the entire federation breaks down. President Shavali Castanon is deposed, though she is reunited with her ex-lover, who just happens to be the leader of the exiled rebels. And the Dims are freed and can return to their home planet, only to find that it is not exactly a happy place.
Pulsarnacht is a glorious space opera which manages to combine the Golden Age sense of wonder with up to date sensibilities. It is partly reminiscent of Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall”, partly of C.L. Moore’s Judgment Night and partly of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire (which Pulsarnacht predates by five years) and also shares elements of dozens of other science fiction works. It’s a wonderful novel which manages to find hope even in the middle of what is the end of this particular universe. Pulsarnacht was shortlisted for the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis and was the highly deserving winner of the Kurd Laßwitz Preis.
- Schwingen aus Stein (Wings of Stone) by Ju Honisch (2013)
Schwingen aus Stein starts off like a typical gothic novel with the young governess Konstanze Vanholt trying to spirit her charge Clarissa away from her villainous uncle, who wants to have the girl committed to an insane asylum to steal her inheritance. But more danger awaits Konstanze and Clarissa aboard the steamship that is supposed to carry them to safety, as Clarissa is kidnapped and Konstanze barely survives an assassination attempt.
Konstanze goes in search of the missing girl, while Clarissa ends up in brothel, where she encounters the magician Douglas Sutton and his apprentice Ian McMullen, who are looking for some magical grimoires that were stolen from the Munich Arcane Lodge. But kidnappers aren’t the only danger, for there is also the Brotherhood of Light, an order of fanatical witch-hunting monks who believe that Clarissa’s occasional trances are the result of demonic possession (and considering the novel is set in 1867, not quite one hundred years after the last witchcraft execution in Bavaria, witchhunters are a lot more terrifying than they would otherwise be). Finally, there is also the handsome Richard von Rosberg and the mysterious raven man, who occasionally helps out Konstanze for reasons of his own.
Schwingen aus Stein is not just set in nineteenth century Bavaria, it also feels highly reminiscent of nineteenth century gothic novels. Schwingen aus Stein is loosely connected to other fantasy novels by writer and filker Ju Honisch, but easily stands on its own. This sprawling historical fantasy was the highly deserving winner of the SERAPH award for fantastic fiction in 2014.
- Drohnenland (Drone Country) by Tom Hillenbrand (2014)
Drohnenland is a crime novel is set in a dystopian European Union in the unspecified near future. The EU now has sixty-seven member states, but due to climate change, the entire Netherlands and much of Northern Germany, including Hillenbrand’s former hometown Hamburg and the headquarters of his former employer, the magazine Der Spiegel, have been flooded. Surveillance drones watch every square centimetre of Europe and record every move of its citizens. There are solar wars in the Sahara, British-Russian Mafiosi are a serious security challenge, Brazil is a superpower and the USA has declined into utter irrelevance. Oh yes, and the UK is trying to leave the EU. Again.
In the middle of all this, a body is found on a field outside Brussels. In life, this body belonged to Vittorio Pazzi, a member of the European Parliament. Europol inspector Aart van der Westhuizen and forensic specialist Ava Bittmann are on the case, only to realise that somehow none of the ever-present surveillance drones managed to record as much as a trace of Pazzi’s killer. Worse, Mirrorspace, a virtual reality reconstruction created from drone data which allows the police to visit crime scenes and watch the crime being committed, has been hacked. Furthermore, it turns out that Vittorio Pazzi was not the only member of the European Parliament to meet an untimely end.
Drohnenland is the rare example of a science fiction crime novel which works both as science fiction and as a murder mystery. And indeed, Drohnenland was embraced by both speculative fiction and crime fiction fans. It won the 2015 Kurd Laßwitz Preis and was shortlisted for the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis and it also won the crime fiction awards Friedrich Glauser Preis and Radio Bremen Krimipreis.
- Omni by Andreas Brandhorst (2016)
A veteran of the pulp science fiction series Perry Rhodan and Die Terranauten, Andreas Brandhorst is one of Germany’s most popular and most prolific science fiction authors. Considering how prolific Brandhorst is (he publishes at least one or two novels per year in addition to his translation work – for example, Brandhorst is the German translator of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld book), the only question was which of his many science fiction novels to include. In the end, I settled on his space opera Omni, which won the Kurd Laßwitz Preis and was shortlisted for the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis.
Omni is set in the far future of the year 12063 AD. Humanity has spread out across the stars, but so have many other species. Fourteen highly evolved supercivilisations have formed Omni, a conglomerate which guards and protects the universe, via its agents drawn from other species. One of these agents is Aurelius, a ten thousand year old man who is one of the last few humans still born on Earth.
Aurelius’ latest mission is to recover a mysterious artefact from a stranded freighter. However, a sinister organisation known as the Agency also wants the artefact as well as Aurelius himself. They force one of their former agents, Vinzent Forrester and his daughter Zinnober into service to capture Aurelius. And so a wild chase across the universe begins.
Omni is a broad canvas space opera chock full of excitement and adventure on fascinating worlds. Andreas Brandhorst has dedicated the novel to George Lucas and Ursula K. Le Guin. You would think that melding the visions of two so very different greats of science fiction would not work, but somehow Brandhorst manages to do it in Omni.
- Honorable mentions
This is just a small look at the wide variety of speculative fiction that is currently being written and published in Germany. You should also check out other works by the authors listed above as well as the following great German speculative fiction writers: Andreas Eschbach, Wolfgang Jeschke, Frank Schätzing, Cornelia Funke, Bernhard Hennen, Robert Corvus, Markus Heitz, Kai Meyer, Dirk van den Boom, Myra Çakan, Karla Schmidt, Ursula Poznanski, Uwe Post, Michael Marrak, Frank W. Haubold, Claudia Kern, Judith C. Vogt, Gabriele Behrend, Dirk C. Fleck, Marc-Uwe Kling, Simone Heller, etc…
A near-future science fiction novel in Manolios’s characteristic style, it touches upon the possibility of implanting multiple artificial personalities (the titular unborn brothers) in a single person. There are three central characters we follow—the scientist who has invented the technology, a world-renowned musician and an assassin—all of which, interestingly enough for a male author, are women. However, there’s actually an abundance of characters in the book, all of which distinct from each other, as we watch each person’s unborn brothers emerge from their subconscious and take control.
It’s a demanding, complex and sometimes brutal novel, full of human drama and difficult dilemmas—a typical trait of the author, who likes placing his characters in situations where all possible outcomes are disastrous or unethical.
Michalis Manolios was born in 1970. He has released four books, two short story collections and two novels, including the one mentioned above. As far as I know, there’s one more short story collection coming in 2020. His story “Aethra” won the Aeon Award in in 2010. His works have been translated into English and Italian and, recently, Filipino.
A short horror novel situated in Athens’s sister city, Piraeus. It’s in a sense the chronicle of a man’s descend into madness, starting with a terrifying dream. The story unfolds in the duration of one year. The nameless narrator keeps having the same nightmare every night at midnight. Soon he finds out that the same happens to the rest of the residents of his building, resulting even in the death of some. Later in the year, the nightmares stop, but an insatiable hunger for food and sex takes their place, which incites extreme behaviours, followed by a period of abject apathy. And so the story unfolds during the four seasons of the year, till we reach a state of normalcy that seems even more terrifying than the previous states of nervous collapse.
It is a strange allegorical book that makes use of the tropes of the horror genre to address the problems and struggles of modern man.
P. M Zervos was born in 1972 and lives in Piraeus. He has published short stories and essays in magazines and anthologies and has also translated some H. P. Lovecraft stories into Greek. A distinctive characteristic of his writing is his use of polytonic orthography, as opposed to the monotonic orthography which was introduced in 1982 and is the official Greek writing system ever since.
This is an epic trilogy in a pseudo-Byzantine environment. The first volume was published in 2010 by a major Greek publishing house, and later it was reissued in a revised edition, along with the rest of the trilogy, by a different publisher. It is essentially the story of a failing empire, full of court intrigue, magical human and non-human creatures, featuring impressive battle tactics and even a twisted but familiar version of Orthodox Christianity. The story starts with the son of an almighty wizard who tries to thwart his father’s plans, a youth raised in a monastery who finds out he has some special powers and the minister of a demented emperor who tries to manipulate the empire’s politics. The kingdom’s future seems to somehow depend on their actions.
An impressive amount of historical research has gone into this one, and, despite the abundance of characters and names, it’s quite easy to follow and keeps you turning the pages. It is also linguistically very interesting, as the author uses a fair amount of Byzantine terms along with his own made-up archaic words to recreate the atmosphere of a bygone era.
Eleftherios Keramidas was born in 1977 in Ithaca. Said trilogy is his first publication. Before that, some of his short stories had been included in sff anthologies.
First of all, please ignore the fact that there’s one of my own stories in this one. This is by no means the reason I’m including it. This is an anthology comprising short stories from the Science Fiction Club of Athens’s (ALEF) writers’ workshop. The works included are a selection of the best stories presented to the workshop between the years 2005 and 2012. Some of the writers were already established authors with published works, while for others it was their first time in print. The majority of the stories are science fiction, but there are also a few touches of horror or magical realism, and there’s a diversity in topic and style.
The book includes stories by: Giannis Papadopoulos, Panagiotis Koustas, Stamatis Stamatopoulos, Hedwig-Maria Karakouda, Spyros Kintzios and Angela-Lu Petrou, Nektarios Chryssos, Kelly Theodorakopoulou, Christina Malapetsa, Kostas Charitos, Michalis Manolios, Vasso Christou, Teti Theodorou, Hephaestion Christopoulos.
The Science Fiction Club of Athens has been around since 1998. The writers’ workshop takes place twice a year and this is the second anthology coming out of it. It is open to both experienced and first-time authors.
A book consisting of two medium-length novels set in the author’s fantasy universe. The writer herself describes it as “two character-oriented fantasy stories about duty, morals and free will. Also daddy issues.” The first story pertains to a city beset by a curse that causes water shortage.. The situation is dire, so the city’s ruler decides to ask a neighbouring city for help. It is quite a straightforward fantasy story, but with a consistent worldbuilding and some impressive ideas. The second one is an eerie tale about two female adventurers who land on a bizarre island country inhabited by some not quite human creatures and try to understand the rules of their society. This one is the more magical of the two, full of little and larger details about an imaginary society and species.
Christina Malapetsa lives in Stockholm. Short stories of hers have appeared in anthologies, and Desert and Fog is her first book. Both stories were initially written for a NaNoWriMo challenge, and were later reworked and revised.
Hungary — by Bence Pintér
Speculative fiction had a decent decade in Hungary. To offer some of our best writers to the international community and select the five best among their books, I organised a small poll asking various publishing professionals, bloggers and fans. Here are the results:
- Odakint sötétebb (Darker Outside) by Attila Veres (2017)
In this engaging piece of weird fiction, we follow Gábor, a typical Millennial as he flees the city to work on a farm in the countryside. But the animals he will attend to are no ordinary ones: on a cold winter night 30 years ago, this little part of Hungary became a really weird place. All the owls disappeared from the forest, people killed themselves and there was an earthquake in a span of few hours. In the morning, a new set of uncanny creatures appeared in the woods, the cellofoids: part sloth, part cat, part octopus, and their milk supposedly cures cancer. That’s why Hungarians started to hunt them, and why they live in reserves by the time the plot begins. After Gábor arrives, there are more and more weird occurrences surrounding the creatures, and it becomes clear that something really evil is lurking in the woods and the little village, waiting for Gábor. Then the apocalypse begins.
If you ask me, this book was simply the best read this decade in all of Hungarian genre fiction. See, we did not really have horror or weird authors and novels at all. I wrote four or five articles about this book, arguing that Veres proved: weird is the best genre to talk about Hungarian reality. At least, this is the case with this exceptional book.
- Éjféli iskolák (Midnight School) by Attila Veres (2018)
Hungary like you’ve never seen it before. A city that devours its inhabitants. A porn shooting where the actors are not quite human. A wine whose flavor holds entire lives for people to taste. A village where the crop is human beings. A plant that’s a gateway into the afterlife. A scrapyard where the most valuable matter on Earth is scattered among the trash. A wellness spa that is literally Hell.
15 stories that will make the world appear stranger. Stories about love affairs ending in horror, terrible desires, vacations where the lucky die first. Stories about transformations and haunting temptations, rock bands that lure you into madness. Stories about life and death and the state where there is no difference between the two.
After his bestseller Darker Outside, Attila Veres proved again why he is the most relevant weird writer in Hungary with his short story collection.
- Xeno by Brandon Hackett (Botond Markovics) (2017)
Few decades into the future, an armada of alien spacecraft appears in the solar system. The aliens (called ‘migrators’ by earthlings) conquered the planet and opened portals to three different planets, populated by civilizations utterly different from humanity. The unseen migrators force a million members of each race to move to the other planets. That has been the order of the world for decades now. Olga Ballard – the daughter of the famous xenologist Ben Ballard – is destined to become a brainwashed Speaker of the migrators, but with help from the resistance movement, she flees. She and a selected team of soldiers and academics try to find the answer for the final question: who are the migrators and what is their purpose?
Hackett’s take on the topics of migration and xenophobia in this far-reaching space opera is chilling, entertaining and gripping: once the action starts, you cannot put it down for hours, until the surprising twists at the end.
- Horgonyhely (Anchorsite) by Anita Moskát
In a world where everyone is bound to the place where they were born, only pregnant women are able to travel and trade and therefore hold the power. In this society ruled by women and permeated by strange earth magic, three people are searching for a way to break free.
Vazil, bound to his library boat that he cannot leave, preaches equality and researches the reasons behind the women’s ability to travel so that one day all can be free. His daughter Helga, on the other hand, wants to be off the ship that she is bound to ever since her birth, and her only way out is getting pregnant. Lars uses earth magic, which is forbidden to men, and gains special powers that can throw their entire world into chaos.
Anita Moskát’s bold and awe-inspiring novel examines prejudices and searches for the meaning of freedom in this dark and cruel tale.
- Irha és bor (Hide and skin) by Anita Moskát
Two decades ago, animals began to change: they pupated, went through a stage of chrysalis, then transformed rapidly and emerged mostly humanoid. Since then, humanity had to accept that they are not the only intelligent species on Earth. Still, the legal status of these so-called ‘spawns’ is a matter of controversy: for example, in Northern Europe they can become citizens, in Russia they hunt and kill them, while in Hungary, the government is holding a referendum on their fate.
Moskát uses this referendum as a starting point to immerse us into a world that has changed, showing it to us through the eyes of creatures who have never asked to be born and to become a subject of disdain. Moskát’s latest work is a tour-de-force in which she finally proves that she is not just the best fantasy writer in Hungary, but one of the best writers in the country, tout court.
Italy — by Silvio Sosio
- Pulphagus® Il fango dei cieli (Pulphagus®, the Space Mud) by Lukha B. Kremo (2016)
Winner of the Urania Award in 2015, is a gorgeous space-planetary opera involving Pulphagus, a minerary asteroid brought in the orbit of the Moon. Pulphagus is used as a waste management station, is completely managed by the eponimous company. The inspiration is the infiltration of mafia in waste companies in Italy.
One of the most peculiar ideas in the novel is the institution of a tax on the use of some words, with different tariffs. Lukha B. Kremo is one of the most brilliant writers in Italy in this decade.
- Ucronia by Elena di Fazio (2017)
Winner of the Odissea Award 2017 and Italia Award 2018. In 2050 a time catastrophy merges two different eras, and spots or regions of the of Earth the Sixties emerge in the Earth of 2050. The government tries to deal with that. The novel follows the personal stories of a set of characters, a fugitive from the Soviet East Germany, an astronaut returning from a mission to Mars, a drug dealer and others. On the background is the launch of Apollo 11 on its mission to the Moon, followed live by space drones.
- Real Mars by Alessandro Vietti (2016)
Winner of Italia Award 2017. The only way to pay for the first human mission to Mars is to transform it in a live show, a sort of space “big brother”. The novel is written in various writing styles, with articles, dialogues, scripts, even ads.
- Mondo9 (World9) by Dario Tonani (2012)
Winner of Italia Award 2013. This is the first installment on volume of the lucky saga of Mondo9, a planet where ships are travelling in the desert, on wheels, and are in a way living entities. Tonani wrote several other books with a lot of success. The book has been translated in Japan.
- Nuove Eterotopie, edited by Sandro Battisti and Giovanni De Matteo (2017)
The is the “definitive” anthology of the best of the Connectivism. Connnectivism is an artistic movement born in Italy in the first years of the century, in a way a descendant of cyberpunk and futurism. The anthology gathers all the best short stories and novelettes published in the first fifteen years of the movement. It includes a novella by Bruce Sterling.
Latvia — by Barbala Simsone
- Mirušie nepiedod (The Dead Don’t Forgive) by Ieva Melgalve (2013)
What if every emotion we have would be intensified and strengthened to become magic – a dangerous and unpredictable tool to control its subjects? Vega, an independent translator and traveler, flees a Kilri town of Silla to avoid being discovered as a rogue mage – a crime which would be punished by total isolation. For a mage who gains her power and means to survive on human emotions, such a punishment would be worse than death.
Together with a reluctant trader Lug, she travels to a mountain city of Bruga, currently inhabited by the less-than-friendly Bruons. On the first day after her arrival, she becomes friends with Ange – a small girl who is learning to become a mage – and makes an enemy of her teacher, Boord.
That night, in a dangerous encounter near the abandoned silver mines, Boord dies – and, surprisingly, Vega survives. Is the death of mage Boord linked to the deaths of jade miners? Are the legends about the hreel – the spirits of the dead lingering in the mountain caves – true? Will the young King of Bruga manage to control the crisis in the city? And the new acquaintances of Vega – singer Ronada and healer Daar – will they be her friends or her enemies? And, most importantly, what will she do when she will encounter her abusive teacher of magic – and face the prosecution as a rogue mage?
“The Dead Don’t Forgive” is a fantasy novel set in a world where emotions are magic and the dangers you face come from your own mind even more than from the minds of others. It is a stand-alone novel which will become the first in a series covering Vega’s adventures as she travels deeper into Bruon lands, learning magic and discovering dark and dangerous ways of its use.
Ieva Melgalve (1981) is primarily a writer of science fiction and fantasy, with influences of literary and experimental genres. The first short story and stage play collection “The Point of No Losses” (Bezzaudejumu punkts) was published in 1999. In 2013, SF stage play “Inhumanity” (Necilveki) was self-published, and a fantasy novel “The Dead Do Not Forgive” (Mirušie nepiedod) was published and subsequently nominated for The Annual Latvian Literary Award. Her book “Arrow, Star and Laee” (Bulta, Zvaigzne un Lai) was published in 2014, also shortlisted for the Annual Latvian Literature Award. Ieva’s most current work, the SF novel “Moon Theatre” (Meness teatris) was published in 2015.
- Deja ar navi (A Dance with Death) by Laura Dreiže (2015)
“A Dance with Death” is the first book in the fantasy-steampunk trilogy “Danse Macabre”.
London, late 1869. After the Great Fire of 1666, instead of rebuilding the city on the ground the Parliament enlisted the help of magi to restore it in the sky, on platforms powered by steam engines. Thus, Upper London was born, home to the upper crust of society, while factory workers, the poor, and criminals live in Lower London, in constant shadow. The Royal Institute of Magic has become one of the highest authorities, along with its extension, the Royal Academy of Magic.
Victoria Rose Ellington, daughter of the Archmage of the British Empire, is only six years old when she witnesses two strangers take away her father. Everyone, including her mother who was present at the time, maintain Victoria’s father died of pneumonia, but she knows better and becomes obsessed with the idea of uncovering the truth. Victoria’s only chance to reveal the truth about the death of her father is to enter the Royal Academy of Magic. As soon as she turns 18 she disguises herself as a man and travels to Upper London – the glorious city in the sky.
Upon her arrival at the Academy Victoria meets a boy named Theodore and they become roommates. One night, sneaking to the bathroom to shower in peace, Victoria crosses paths with the worst nightmare of all Academy students—Thaniel Glas, Earl of Stamford, and his companions, twins Frederick and Dominic Elfinstone. The encounter nearly costs Victoria her life, as Thaniel wants no witnesses to his nightly exploits, but the twins manage to stop him. Soon Victoria is pulled into a whirlwind of conspiracies and secrets. Death and betrayal, sweet promises and cold calculation walk the halls of the Academy…
Laura Dreiže (1990) is one of the most prominent young fantasy and science fiction authors in Latvia. She began writing already at 15, and her first novel “The Song of the Dragon” was awarded a prize in literary competition “Zvaigznes gramata” for the authors of children’s and YA books and published in 2010. The first novel was followed by “Unfinished Kiss” (2010), “Monitoring the Happiness” (2011) and “The Moth” (2012). In 2015 her first fantasy steampunk trilogy “Danse Macabre” was published which is also the first steampunk work in Latvian literature.
- Laimes Monitorings (Happiness by the Mile) by Laura Dreiže (2011)
The year is 2101. After the economic crisis of 2009, countries throughout the world have been forming alliances and merging in metropolises to avoid bankruptcy. Amidst them is Liberty, also called the Dust City. For almost 50 years it has been governed by the multi-corporation Genom X. It has made considerable advancements in science, creating brain implants enabling its employees to access cyberspace. Meanwhile, Genom X has been methodically exterminating the illegal inhabitants of the outskirts of the metropolis.
For as long as everyone can remember, there has been a blue-green van patrolling the streets of the Dust City. Its purpose, destination and the identity of the driver are unknown. The only thing known is that the van appears wherever the people feel the most unhappy and somehow lifts some of the misery.
Avery Cross lives with her brother and friends in one of the most run-down sections of the city. They have formed a car racing team and entered a competition with a similar group of young men and women. Their goal is to see which team can get closer to the mysterious van. Or at least it was, until Avery’s brother Brandon uses a dirty move to gain the upper hand causing the death of the second team’s mechanic. Furious, Avery leaves her friends and joins the losing team with the purpose to make Brandon listen to reason.
However, gaining the trust of her new teammates is no easy task, When she finally thinks she has earned their friendship and from now on life would be easier, a new tragedy strikes. The attempted murder of a friend, the kidnapping of her brother and an attempt at her own life leave Avery wondering if there is something more going on, something bigger than a simple eradication of the illegal inhabitants. What started as a harmless car race reveals a completely new and ugly side of the metropolis, and she has a more significant role to play than she could ever imagine.
- Kristofers un Enu ordenis (Christopher and the Order of Shadows) by Arno Jundze (2015)
Kristofers is an average fourteen years old boy who lives in Riga, in a little basement flat with an elderly relative. Nobody, including himself, thinks the boy is someone special. But on the very last day of an equally common school year strange events start to happen around Kristofers.
First, the boy on a bus trip to school is addressed by a weird man who is holding something which reminds of a… sewing machine. “Whatever happens, keep calm,” he advises. “The Order of Shadows will take care of you.” Kristofers has no idea whatsoever what this mystical Order of Shadows is and what it wants from him; he just wants to be left alone.
But then the unexpected happens: after an unpleasant but quite ordinary fight with his bossy classmates in school cellar an unfamiliar car picks Kristofers up and a mad chase begins which takes the boy out of the places he knows… and, surprisingly, also out of the time he knows.
Kristofers will travel both Rome and Paris, be involved with superhuman future technologies, travel in time, discover secrets kept by strange historic places in his native Riga and, above all! be forced to make friends with the unbearable red-headed know-it-all – his classmate Catherine…. But that is not nearly all – the real adventures are just about to begin!
Written in the tradition of the great fantasy tales of C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling, “Kristofers and the Order of Shadows” is a delightful mix of adventure, imagination and subtle humour which will not fail to capture young teens and their parents alike.
The popular Latvian journalist and writer Arno Jundze has authored two books for smaller children, a collection of stories and two novels for grown-ups. “Kristofers and the Order of Shadows” is his first novel for young adults and it has already acquired considerable fame in Latvia – it has been included in the Children’s Reading programme of the year and has earned a number of positive reviews both from readers and book bloggers alike.
- Dubultnieki un citi stasti (Seeing Double and Other Stories) by Tom Crosshill (2011)
Tom Crosshill is a Latvian science fiction and fantasy writer who publishes his works mainly in English. Tom Crosshill’s fiction has been nominated for the Nebula Award, the Latvian Literature Award, and has appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Lightspeed. In 2009, he won the Writers of the Future contest. After many years spent in Oregon and New York, he currently lives in his native Latvia. He’s a satellite member of the writers’ group Altered Fluid. In the past, he has operated a nuclear reactor, translated books and worked in a zinc mine, among other things.
The collection Seeing Double was published in Latvian in 2011. It collects 13 of Crosshill’s stories, including 2011 Nebula nominee “Mama, We Are Zhenya, Your Son” and 2009 Writers of the Future winner “Seeing Double”. From quantum mechanics to flying pigs, from hive minds to passenger dragons, from time travel into Soviet times to a future where Russia rules the Baltic, Crosshill’s tales span different settings and genres.
Poland — by Marcin “Alqua” Klak
I must just mention that there were many, many more magnificent books published here in Poland. Still those would be my current recommendations.
- Skrzydia (Wings) by Karolina Fedyk (2019)
Karolina Fedyk has published some shorter stories before, yet ‘Skrzydla’ is their first novel. It is really surprising how mature the book is considering it is a writing debut. One may fall in love with this book from the very first page and remain in love long after the reading is finished.
Karolina Fedyk created a world inspired by some of the not so popular mythologies. The world is full of magic yet it is not a typical fantasy story with wizards casting fireballs everywhere around them. There are places and times in this world when practicing magic is one of the worst things one can do, yet people who can use magic feel some urge to practice it.
One of the interesting aspects of the book is it’s protagonist. Zaihab is a blind girl, historian and a singer. She is also a person whom is attracting the attentions of gods. The author put a lot of effort to describe how the created world it is perceived by a blind girl. Apart from many other merits of the book this unique perspective is a gem itself.
- Czarne (Czarne) by Anna Kantoch (2012)
Anna Kantoch has a great talent to writing. It seems she finds it easy to create stories that are completely different from one another. She is a well recognized Polish author who so far won Janusz A. Zajdel Award five times.
‘Czarne’ is in my opinion one of the best (if not the best) book of Anna Kantoch. The story leaves a reader with many possible interpretations. It can be perceived as a kind of oneiric fantasy, science fiction of even realistic novel. Irrespective on which interpretation you will choose the book is simply fabulous.
The story takes place in Czarne summer resort in Poland. Book describes it in a few time periods around the end of 19th and first half of 20th century. The atmosphere of those times is really well described and the way how the book is published is complementing it.
- Pokój Swiatów (The Peace of the Worlds) by Pawel Majka (2014)
‘Pokój Swiatów’ is a debut novel by Pawel Majka. It is also a great piece of fiction. The basic idea of the book is simple but brilliant. The First World War was ended by the Martian invasion. The weapon used by them was called ‘mythbombs’ and the effect they have is bring the mythical creatures to life. The “mythical” is a broad term here as it refers not only to myths but also to anything else that was populating common imagination – including book characters. Now – some time after the war Martians and humans learned how to coexist – yet the world is still inhabited by many strange creatures.
Author not only had this great idea but he also knew how to write a fascinating story around it. There is a place for revenge, but also for some humour and lastly for cultural (and popcultural) references.
- Czarownica znad kaluzy (The Witch from a Puddle) by Artur Olchowy (2017)
Post-apocalyptic literature is now quite popular in Poland yet most of it does not appeal to me. ‘Czarownica znad kaluzy’ is different. Instead of concentrating on mutants, shooting and strange artifacts, it rather depicts a society. The author concentrates on describing how a society may arise from the ashes. The action does not take place during or directly after the apocalypse. Olchowy gave his world some time to start rebuilding itself but there is still many people who remember the old world.
The author knows the Mazury region of Poland quite well and he sets the action there. He uses his knowledge of local geography but also of local history and traditions. The latter mixed with the world after apocalypse makes really interesting combination.
- Opowiesci z Meekhanskiego pogranicza (Tales from the Meekhanese Border) by Robert M. Wegner (2009-2018)
This is a series of books that were published in Poland between 2009 and 20018. There are five books so far (and hopefully more to come) – first two were anthologies and following three are novels.
‘Opowiesci z Meekhanskiego pogranicza’ is a series of fantasy stories by Robert M. Wegner. The author received multiple (and well deserved) awards for the works from this cycle. The Meekhan Empire is a vast country where different cultures mixes. The northern territories with high mountains and long winters is completely different than the hot south. East of the empire is the steppe country full of horses and horse riders while to the west there is a see. Protagonists in the books come from all of those regions but also from the countries surrounding the empire and from the heart of Meekhan. They are all different people with different values. On top of that we may see that even gods are interested in the world where Meekhan lies.
The atmosphere differs depending on POV and region that is currently described. There are sublime parts of great heroism in the face of enemy. One may find here extremely powerful battle scenes that can even make you cry. On the other hand some characters are egoists thinking mainly about themselves. Sometimes well trained warriors are led to battle while in other situations slaves are rebelling against their masters. On top of that there is some magic, divine influence and some dark secrets. If one is looking for a very specific type of fantasy this series may not be best choice for him yet if you would like to embrace what fantasy as a genre has to offer you may really want to try those books.
Portugal — by Ana Carrilho
- Terrarium by João Barreiros and Luís Filipe Silva (2016)
Considered a classic of Portuguese SF, this book turns Europe to a post-apocalyptic tropical area, with flooded coastal areas and a huge radioactive crater where Brussels once was. There are alien invaders (or not) in a host of insect and fox like characters and a sense of dread so like João Barreiros preferred “maximum damage” principle of writing. It was first published in 1996, by Editorial Caminho, and republished in 2016, on its 20th anniversary, by Edições Saída de Emergência.
João Barreiros is one of the most prolific SF writers in Portugal, with a host of books and short stories published. A writer, editor, critic and translator, he has worked in every area of the publishing activity. He is an impossible to overlook author in Portuguese Sci-Fi, having written in almost every subgenre from Space Opera to Steampunk. His whole body of work is characterized by large doses of dark humour, and plot twists design to always inflict “maximum damage”.
Luís Filipe Silva (blog.tecnofantasia.com) is the author of “O Futuro à Janela” (1991, Prémio Caminho de Ficção Científica), “A GalxMente” (Leya Caminho,1993, reeditado pela Épica em 2015) e ”Terrarium” (with João Barreiros – Leya Caminho, 1996, republished by Saída de Emergência in 2016), and alsoof several short stories, reviews and articles in both portuguese and international magazines. As na anthologist, he has organized the Steampunk Anthology “Vaporpunk” (with Gerson Lodi-Ribeiro – Draco, Brasil, 2010), “Os Anos de Ouro da Pulp Fiction Portuguesa” (with Luís Corte Real – Saída de Emergência, 2011), and “O Resto É Paisagem” (Editorial Divergência 2018)
- Winepunk (short story anthology, coordinated by the Invicta Imaginaria Collective, 2019)
In 1919, nine years after the Implantation of the Republic in Portugal, the Monarchy of the North is founded. For three weeks, it will battle the republican forces and lose. In the Winepunk Universe, this rebellion last three years instead of three weeks, in an alternative history path, in which Douro and Port wine became the precious fuel for a host of new machinery and technology, on both sides of the barricade. A new genre is presented in this short story anthology that hosts works by some of the best Portuguese Sci-Fi writers in activity, and a special contribution from Rhys Hughes.
Invicta Imaginária is a collective formed by some of the most prestigious names in science and science fiction in Portugal, responsible for the historic outline and creative limits that permitted to thematically tie all the different short stories together.
- Comandante Serralves by multiple authors (2014)
In the tradition of the classical space operas, “Comandante Serralves” is an open universe written by six different hands. What started as a modest short story and a simple main character concept grew in complexity and gain new perspectives, by being exposed to the talents (and considerable neurosis) of a group of young writers. Comandante Serralves is defined as an “open source” universe, with the publisher welcoming new contributions to it.
In 2015, Imaginauta organized a Roleplaying Game Scenario Creation Contest, from which stemmed “Pouso Forçado”, a RPG based on the FATE system with the Comandante Serralves universe as its background storyline and world. An expansion to this growing universe was published in 2018, with three new authors contributing with new short stories.
- Lovesenda by António de Macedo (2017)
Set in the 10th Century, Lovesenda follows the story of the daughter of the Duke of Viseu, as she marries a neighbour lord, and finds herself getting more and more involved in the world of dark magic and ancient curses. With the Catholic Church ever present in the background, and all the social restrictions imposed on a young lady at the time, Lovesenda is a story of quiet rebellion and personal growth in the midst of a larger than the Universe scenario of divine confrontations and ever growing magic.
António de Macedo was a prominent filmmaker, writer and college professor, with more than a dozen published books in Fantastic Literature, and innumerable films, documentaries and TV shows to his name. He was a prolific and genius producer of fantastic worlds, with an academic background in esoterism, medieval studies and ancient religions that he incorporated beautifully in his fiction.
- Occult Lisbon – Tourist Guide (2018)
In a time of Fake News and the ascension of Deep Fakes, Imaginauta invites its readers to a delicious literary exercise in the wake of the famous “An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin”, “The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases” and “The Resurrectionist”, where truth and fiction copulate and produce a wonderful bastard offspring. To dive into “Occult Lisbon – Tourist Guide” is to allow ourselves to be swept by half-awaken dreams, where the strangest fantasies seem to be logical and true.
Lisboa Oculta – Guia Turístico (Occult Lisbon – Tourist Guide) is an illustrated bilingual (Portuguese/English) guide book which tells the totally fake (is it?) occult story of thirteen real locations in Lisbon, e.g. the sirens of Principe Real or the super-exclusive supernatural dinners at Abadia (a real opulent subterranean restaurant whose remains can still be visited today).
Romania — by Anamaria Borlan
Aurel Carasel is a Romanian teacher, journalist, writer, editor, historian of science fiction literature.
What makes Aurel Carasel unique and the most important writer in the Romanian science fiction landscape is the fact that he writes non-stop. He is considered the most prolific science fiction writer in Romania, addressing a whole range of sub-genres, such as fantasy, hard SF, thriller SF, children’s SF stories, SF authors dictionaries, SF encyclopedias and not lastly, the history of Romanian science fiction. He wrote more than 40 titles and is not stopping. Every story started becomes a large series, with many volumes. It is not enough to just write a book, the idea must be extended to exhaustion, stretching into whole series.
Southern Galaxy by Aurel Carasel is a large space saga, published by the Tritonic Publishing House, is a history of the world including seven books of short stories, spanning a period of several tens of thousands years of the humans space adventures, beginning with the exploration of the Earth’s satellite, the Moon.
- Pulsar by Liviu Surugiu (2017)
Liviu Surugiu is one of the most important and well known science fiction writer from Romania. Being in the middle generation, he links the youngs and the olds together, creating an arch over time, bridging the past and future.
Liviu Surugiu’s writing is a special one. It has an impeccable shape, very interesting and intellective topics, an alert style and easy to read. Pulsar, published by the Tracus Arte Publishing House in 2017, is a collection of short texts that includes a story, a novelette, a novella and an SF movie script.
- Pragul (The Threshold) by Doina Roma (2014)
The Threshold (Pragul) is a novel by Romanian fantasy writer Doina Roman. Her work is significant and relevant because of the rare nature of the style, which is quite unique in Romania. Her trilogy of The Threshold is populated with quirky, extravagant characters, not to mention the entire concept and motives. Doina Roman is one of the few Romanian writers to embrace the weird, and to a some degree the gothic and horror.
- The Blue Wings by Anamaria Borlan
The secret dream of Kei-kun, a teenage rocker is to become a samurai, a real one, not an actor, nor for a show. It seems that fate tricks him, so he finds a diary, most intriguing than mysterious, written in an academic English style of the British Victorian Era. Wanting to fully understand what, who and why was that journal written, he assumes certain risks and consequences, leaving his home in Tokyo, without the knowledge of his parents, to a city far north of the country, where he start to read, with the help of an old teacher.
The myths, legends and Japanese culture from the feudal times of the Edo samurai intertwined in a bizarre but also gentle way, with the relentless predestination of supernatural forces, and the two main characters, Kei-kun and Lady Elisabeth, as opposed to for a century and a half, they discover each other and share their impossible love. Crossing the boundaries of time, they meet, but never physically.
Russia — by Andrey Malyshkin
The number of books published per year in Russia is huge. Therefore, I’d better name the authors who wrote at a good level for the indicated period of time and you can take any book they wrote during these years for acquaintance.
Oleg Divov – writes social satirical science fiction, which ridicules modern society.
Henry Lion Oldy – a duet of authors who write both fantasy and space opera.
Yulia Zonis – writing soft science fiction on various themes.
Maria Galina – an interesting author of modern magic realism.
K.A. Terina – one of the best Russian short stories writer.
Serbia — by Dragoljub Igrosanac
- Goli glasovi (Bare Voices) by Adrijan Sarajlija (2017)
The short story collection Bare Voices by Adrijan Sarajlija (1976) was published in 2017 and attracted attention of both audience and literary critics. During last decade Sarajlija has been regarded as the fresh voice of science fiction and horror literature in Serbia. Sophisticated style, unorthodox approach to archetypal subjects of fantastic literature along with efficient narrative technique make the Bare Voices highly enjoyable piece of work.
In fifteen stories of this collection, writer explores the relation of traditional and futuristic, artificial intelligence and humanity, the metaphysics of death, perspectives of posthuman society, questioning the very nature of reality in the process. Previous works by Adrijan Sarajlija include short story and novella collection Manufacture G and the highly acclaimed novel Mirror for the Vampire.
- Covek koji je ubio Teslu (The Man Who Killed Tesla ) by Goran Skrobonja (2010)
Goran Skrobonja (1962), a lawyer by profession, is one of the most prominent Serbian SFF writers. Skrobonja is well-known as a perfect translator to Serbian of the most important American/English books in this genre. In his novel The Man Who Killed Tesla, Skrobonja returns to science fiction after his long commitment to horror genre. The aforementioned novel belongs to the subgenre of alternative history.
The story in the novel happens in two separate universes – both of them different to our own because of their alternative histories. One is depicted in 1920s Serbia with many small and large differences in comparison to our own history: several turning points have been the key for this – especially the famous Annie Oakley’s stunt in Berlin during the Buffalo Bill’s Circus show for the young Kaiser Wilhelm – instead of hitting the cigar he is holding, she shoots the young emperor in the jaw and subsequently he dies; thus the whole German military expansion and WW1 are delayed.
In the meantime, Nikola Tesla finds a tax haven in Belgrade and builds his great scientific, research and industrial empire there. The first scene we see Tesla in involves Henry Ford who has come to Tesla’s Belgrade asking the scientist to refrain from industrial production of his electric cars in America. Tesla is conducting a dangerous experiment in order to prove the theories of quantum physics and alternative realities, and the main protagonist of the novel is a young engineer willing to risk his life in such an endeavor.
The other universe is closer to our own and we are witnessing the last day in the life of Mr. Nikodius Maric, one of the wealthiest man in the world, a ruthless tycoon funding his own research in alternative realities. Tesla’s experiment and his own converge, resulting in spectacular destruction of Maric’s universe; however, he manages to survive (sort of), finding a host in the body and mind of Tesla’s young assistant. After that, Maric slowly takes over and adapts to his new environment, where the events that will lead to WW1 finally happen, just to realize that he is able to travel from one universe to another in the endless ocean of worlds. The Man Who Killed Tesla is the first novel in trilogy by the same name.
- Price misterije i magije (The Tales of Mystery and Magic) by Oto Oltvanji (2017)
The Tales of Mystery and Magic is a collection of 12 stories by Oto Oltvanji (1971), written in the last 10 years, some of them previously published in anthologies and magazines, others appearing here for the first time. In this stories, author continues to develop the motives of his 4 earlier novels by dissolving, through a subtle literary technique, the fragile boundaries between reality and imagination.
Stories are loosely grouped in three sections: Mystery, without an overt fantastical element but decidedly enigmatic and thrilling; Magic, with strong supernatural and science-fictional overtones, and Mystery & Magic, which contains two long novellas that combine both. This short fiction of varying length deals with classical fantastical tropes (time travel, haunted hotel, deal with the devil, living dead, first contact), but gives each a unique twist, especially in the context of contemporary life in Serbia. Despite variety of writing styles and subject matters included, the collection is surprisingly unified in vision, representing a weird, humorous and often bleak view of the increasingly mad world we are living in today.
- Jaz (The Chasm) by Darko Tuševljakovic (2016)
At its core, The Chasm is a story about the disintegration of a family. In the first of the two parts of the novel, an estranged husband suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of his war experience, strives to re-establish the relationship with his estranged wife during a holiday in Greece, succeeding only in deepening the discord between the two of them.
The second part takes place in Serbia and focuses upon the main reason for the marital discord of the couple from the first part – the plight of their son, a student who tries to find his place in society, as well as his identity, through a series of dramatic and fantastical events, with a surprising and powerful twist at the end.
The Chasm is one of the twelve winners of EU Prize for Literature in 2017. Earlier this year The Chasm has been published in Bulgaria, and an Italian edition is to be expected until the end of the year. It is being translated into some other languages (English, Polish, Turkish, Albanian…), and Hungarian and Romanian publishers have shown interest in it, so we might expect those editions, too, in years to come.
Spain — by Cristina Macia
- La habitación de Nona by Cristina Fernández Cubas (2015)
Short stories by one of the main representatives of the genre in Spanish, adored also by the mainstream readers. Her stories show absurd, surreal, crazy elements in the everyday world.
- Cenital by Emilio Bueso (2012)
Post-apocalypse novel about a world, ours, that has run out of fossil fuel and civilization has collapsed. Almost all people consulted wanted to include Bueso in this list. His still unfinished trilogy “Los ojos bizcos del sol” (Trancrepuscular, Antisolar and a third novel yet to be published) would also deserve to be on the final list.
- Trilogía Victoriana (Victorian Trilogy) by Félix J. Palma (2008-2014)
Brilliant steampunk novels; in them, everything is scientific and sensible… until it is not anymore. The three novels have been translated into English.
- Mystic Topaz by Pilar Pedraza (2016)
This is a series of short stories by the absolute queen of Spanish gothic horror. All stories are connected by an esoteric store. Pilar Pedraza has won this year Kelvin 505 award to the best Spanish genre novel published in 2018.
- Challenger by Guillem López (2015)
73 short stories, as many as seconds Challenger did fly over Miami, by one of the most interesting science fiction Spanish writers of the decade. This novel won the Kelvin 505 award to the best Spanish genre novel published in 2015.
Ukraine — by Borys Sydiuk
- Voroshilovgrad by Serhii Zhadan (2010)
It was supposed to be a short trip – to visit a brother who was holding a gas station in the Donbass steppes. However, being in the city of his childhood, Herman almost forever fits into the local landscape. The brother disappears, his business is being attacked by local mobsters, old friends have strange affairs… Gera has to decide on a shaky reality, a past that has powerfully burst into his life, and a future that has some doubts…
The novel won the 2010 BBC Book of the Year competition (Ukraine) in 2010, and in 2014 the novel was awarded the Swiss Literary Prize Jan Michalski Prize On December 12, 2014, in honor of the tenth anniversary of the award, BBC Ukraine, together with the EBRD’s cultural program, announced the novel the BBC Book of the Decade. In addition to Ukrainian, the novel is published in Russian, Polish, German, French and other languages.
- Mesopotamia by Serhii Zhadan (2014)
Mesopotamia is a set of nine prose stories and thirty verses. All the texts in this book is a single environment, the same characters move from story to story and then to verses. Philosophical digressions, fantastic images, exquisite metaphors and specific humor – this is all that attracts Sergei Zhadan in his works. The stories of Babylon are told for those interested in the issues of love and death. The life of the city, which lies between the years, biographies of characters fighting for their right to be heard and understood, chronicle street battles and daily passions. Declarations and betrayals, escape and return, tenderness and cruelty.
- Enchanted Musicians by Halyna Pagutyak (2010)
The story of this novel is the history of my family. My grandfather before the war, grazing horses along the river, saw fascinated musicians and a maiden with yellow hair. I called them – The ones that fly in the air. The British call them saddles (a kind of elves). And the novel takes place in the 16th century, in the town of Zhuravno, where the Candle merges with the Dniester, and where 400 years ago porphyry, a white stone, was mined. This book is a confirmation of how the place, the landscape themselves suggest the plot.
- Tango of Death by Yuri Vynnychuk (2012)
The events of the Tango Death novel are devided in two plot sections. In pre-war Lviv and during the Second World War, four friends – a Ukrainian, a Pole, a German and a Jew whose parents were soldiers of the UNR Army and died in 1921 near Bazaar – go through various adventures, fall in love, fight, but do not commit any cataclysms your friendship. At the same time, other events are happening with other heroes these days. And not only in Lviv, but also in Turkey. Both storylines converge in the unexpected finale.
- Powder from Dragon Bones/Child of the Dogheads by Vladimir Arenev (2015, 2018)
1. Marta the Witch is a regular high school girl. Ever since her father went to work, she lives with her stepmother, whom she cannot tolerate. Marta dreams of breaking out of her hometown, and for that she conscientiously learns and works in the Incubator. However, the money earned is unlikely to be enough for paid studies at a capital university. And so Marta has one more boom: she secretly digs, neutralizes and sells toxic bones.
2. Marta the Witch already knows what happened to her father down the river in the country of the dogheads. Now, she needs to understand how to live with that knowledge – and is she able to help her father somehow? And all this is against the backdrop of the mysterious disappearance of the class leader, Mr. Stots. All this is in a city where the past blends with the present and germinates with dragon’s teeth.
- Long Hours by Volodymyr Refeyenko
This novel tells the story of the city Z, in which the author’s native Donetsk is mentioned, though, in fact, instead of Z it is possible to substitute Lugansk and some other settlement from the territory of the ATO. In addition to ordinary, fairly realistic people with psychological and domestic problems, the city has a lazy man and a former philosopher Socrates Gradis, his assistant Mykola Veresayev and a somewhat admired grandson Socrates Lisa. These three operate in a specific place – the Fifth Rome baths, from which Russian fighters regularly disappear, which is why the local government occasionally arranges for Socrates to be questioned. But Socrates and his colleagues do not destroy enemy soldiers and do not pave the way for desertion. Everything is much more phantasmagoric.