Justin B.

Justin B.

Accounts Payable Liaison

"Justin is a native of New York City (read: unicorn) who learned to read at the age of three and, for over two decades, has yet to stop. A graduate of Hunter College and writer of speculative fiction, he will espouse the virtues of good genre literature (Adams, Tolkien, Le Guin) to anyone who will lend him an ear. He can most often be found stalking the aisles of the Strand in a Doctor Who-themed t-shirt carrying far more books in his arms than is probably recommended. But just try telling him that..."

Would you like other recommendations? Email me at staff+justin-b@strandbooks.com

Latest Review

DUNE By Frank Herbert

Dune

by Frank Herbert

Dune deftly blends science, mysticism and politics into an epic space odyssey that has earned itself an indelible place among the classics of genre fiction. Herbert's dense yet textured and lyrical prose echoes the complexity of the world he's created, with characters, cultures and philosophies as rich and damaged as our own. A potentially challenging read, but enduringly worthwhile to the strong of mind and the bold of spirit. "Fear is the mind-killer...

Older Review

The Left Hand of Darkness: Book in the Hainish Series  By Ursula K. Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness: Book in the Hainish Series

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Arguably, Le Guin's best novel. At once a very personal story about loss, belief, and the limits of human endurance, it also serves as a poetic meditation on the politics of gender and the legitimacy of colonialism.  As always, Le Guin's prose sings without succumbing to the over-ornamentation. My favorite writer of any genre.

Older Review

You by Alex Grossman

You

by Austin Grossman

"Austin Grossman’s latest novel is a nerdily funny bildungsroman of the late-twenties, managing to combine a thoughtful tale of overdue maturity with a deep look into the side of video games most of us never see. The narrator, Russell, is a charmingly shiftless jack-of-many-trades, recognizable to all of us approaching the big 3-0 still searching for that deceptively commonplace thing called “adulthood.” Except he has a cadre of imaginary game characters to help him on his way. Lucky.

In You, Russell, after years of personal and professional meandering, if forced to crawl back to the same gaming culture that he abandoned as a teen in exchange for more normative pursuits. This takes the form of a small video game company run by some old, hastily discarded friends, who accept him with more than a bit of ambivalence. Before he has a chance to get his legs under him, however, a smoke-bomb of corporate defection leaves him a reluctant executive at said company, and tasked with solving a glitch that threatens the futures of everyone around him.

Grossman delivers Russell’s reintroduction, and re-embracing, of gaming in detailed yet rarely over-technical prose. The author’s intimate knowledge of games shines through, but the jargon never subordinates the story, reading more military journal than instruction manual. Not to say that it isn’t fun. Anyone who’s played a sidescroller, FPS or RPG in the past 20 years will find comfortable landmarks in the narrator’s references, and even those who have no idea what those acronyms mean can’t deny the texture that Grossman’s expertise lends the telling.

Parallel to the primary story ride Russell’s reminiscences of his time as a part-time teenage outcast, introduced to video games at the historical and cultural tipping point. The bonds he here forms, and later lets fray, inform much of the present-day tension: the dark, quiet girl with an artistic mind and penchant for grudges is now his co-executive, vacillating between cohort and thorn-in-his-side; the brash and bombastic boy who fit in with the cool kids but decided to be the Geek King is now his corporate rival and secret hero; and the damaged genius he never took the time to know, now deceased, simultaneously becomes his invisible nemesis and the keyholder to all the answers he needs.

Amidst these narratives, insinuating themselves throughout the novel, are the games themselves. Part character, part subplot, the games are drawn with personality and landscape, as well as a complexity that makes those of us with the bent drool for a chance to play them. The title, You, is itself an allusion to the unique kind of interactive storytelling video games provide. The peculiar alchemy of pre-programmed storyline with the variability of temperament, ethos and playing style is what draws gamers to the pastime. The manipulability of our own tale, so fraught and elusive in reality, but right there with each “New Game,” becomes the emotional core of novel, and satisfyingly so.

You, behind the avatars and hit points, is a story that examines the identities we choose, and the passions that choose us; how we go about reconciling these, and how not doing so can come back and bite us. The nerdy accoutrements may gear it toward sympathizers, but its wit, honesty and adventure have a lot more to offer than you may think. And who knows? You may just come out the other side as one of us. One of us, one of us."

View:

  • Anansi Boys

    By Neil Gaiman

    Our Price: $14.39
    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN-13: 9780061342394
    • Publisher: Harper Perennial
    • Published: February 2008
    A tall tale to end all tall tales, inspired by the trickiest of all trickster gods, Anansi the Spider, whose origins lie in Ghana. Exciting, scary, and deeply comic, the novel is a kaleidoscopic journey far into myth, a wild adventure,and a fierce and unstoppable farce that shows where gods come from, and how to survive your family. 336p.
  • Coyote Blue

    By Christopher Moore

    Our Price: $16.00
    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN-13: 9781416558477
    • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
    • Published: March 2008
    Sam Hunter, a yuppie salesman who has everything he needs except the beautiful Calliope's love, confronts Coyote, the Indian trickster god, and his own forgotten and buried life as Samson Hunts Alone, a native American outlaw. Reprint. 60,000 first printing.
  • Ready Player One

    By Ernest Cline

    Our Price: $14.40
    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN-13: 9780307887443
    • Publisher: Broadway Paperbacks
    • Published: June 2012
    Immersing himself in a mid-21st-century technological virtual utopia to escape an ugly real world of famine, poverty and disease, Wade Watts joins an increasingly violent effort to solve a series of puzzles by the virtual world's super-wealthy creator, who has promised that the winner will be his heir. (This book was previously listed in Forecast.)
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible

    By Austin Grossman

    Our Price: $7.50
    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN-13: 9780307279866
    • Publisher: Vintage Books
    • Published: June 2008
    Doctor Impossible - evil genius, wannabe world dominator - has just broken out of prison. Again. After twelve failed attempts at taking over the world (doomsday devices, mass mind control, robot armies, insect armies, alien invasions, etc.), he's not about to fail again. 304p.
  • The Feast of the Goat

    By Mario Vargas Llosa

    Our Price: $18.00
    • Format: Paperback
    • ISBN-13: 9780312420277
    • Publisher: Picador / Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • Published: 2001
    Haunted all her life by feelings of terror and emptiness, forty-nine-year-old Urania Cabral returns to her native Dominican Republic--and finds herself reliving the events of 1961, when thecapital was still called Trujillo City and one old man terrorized a nation of three million. 404p. Pap.

View: