The holidays are right around the corner and for many that means looking forward to time with family and friends, indulging in holiday feasts, and sneaking in some extra reading time. It's also the start of gift-giving season and the ensuing panic of figuring out what to get for the special people in your life. For those of you who know readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror and/or the garden variety geek, I have good news: I've rounded up some of the coolest books to add to your gift list.
For readers of science fiction, fantasy and horror, an obvious choice is to get them a sf/f/h fiction book. I cover worthy reads every week, but if you're looking for something extra special, consider getting a deluxe version of a well-loved story. For example, there a new Deluxe Edition of The Princess Bride by William Golding. You'll recognize this beloved fantasy story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers from the comedic 1987 film that made famous their story of love, adventure and pirates. This handsome new edition of the novel on which it was based includes fifty wonderful illustrations by Michael Manomivibul and endpaper maps of their dangerous travels.
Or, consider the 10th Anniversary Edition of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: while you are transported into the marvelous, magical world of Kvothe and his trials entering a legendary school of magic, revel in the fifty pages of extra content, including beautiful illustrations by Dan Dos Santos. Another fantasy book that received the special edition treatment is V. E. Schwab's A Darker Shade of Magic, about four parallel worlds with varying levels of magic, and Kell, one of the last Traveler-magicians who possesses a rare ability to cross between them. This new collector's edition—featuring a glossary, author interview, cool fan art and additional short tales set in this universe—is the perfect opportunity to read the story before it becomes a film.
For those readers who deserve something a little more upscale, Folio Society is your go-to destination. They produce beautiful definitive editions of books that hardcore readers will treasure for the rest of their lives. Not long ago, I wrote about some of their gift-worthy classics (The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, The Call of Cthulhu & Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft, and The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty). Their latest releases aimed at speculative fiction fans are equally gorgeous. First up is Ray Bradbury's classic short fiction collection The Illustrated Man. Each of the sixteen stories in this striking slipcase edition is presented as a tattoo coming to life in front of the narrator, and every one of them will entertain readers in a different way. This lovely edition features eye-catching illustrations by Marc Burckhardt and a thought-provoking introduction by Margaret Atwood.
Folio Society's other new offering is not one, but two books in one! Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? & A Scanner Darkly is a single slipcase volume of two science fiction classics by Philip K. Dick. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the basis for the classic filmBlade Runner and it's recent spinoff, Blade Runner 2049, both starring Harrison Ford) is about a bounty hunter from the future looking for renegade lifelike androids on a poisoned Earth left behind by those rich enough to escape. The people and events of the story are brought to life by Chris Skinner's remarkable illustrations. When you're done reading that, flip the book over and read A Scanner Darkly (the basis for the 2006 film starring Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, and Robert Downey Jr.). This paranoia-infused mind trip of a novel, made all the more psychedelic by Andrew Archer's illustrations, is about a narcotics cop who goes undercover to bring down the dealers of a lethal new drug called Substance D (as in Death). Either one of these classic Philip K. Dick stories would make a good gift. Both of them in one volume is a great one.
In my experience, science fiction readers don't just like fiction, they also like non-fiction books related to genre itself. To that end, there's another batch of books worth considering. First is The Astounding Illustrated History of Science Fictionby Dave Golder, Jess Nevins Russ Thorne, and Sarah Dobbs…an explosion of art, articles and timelines of science fiction. This is a coffee table book you'll actually keep on your coffee table. It's stuffed with interesting reading about the long history of science fiction as it evolved in literature, magazines, comics, film and art. Also endlessly fascinating is Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix. The immediate attraction here is the hundreds of book covers that trigger all sorts of unsettling memories from perusing the book store aisles of my youth. The main attraction, though, is Hendrix's illuminating travelogue down the dark, creepy byways of classic horror fiction. Combined together, this visual treat is a bookstore-in-your-lap that will have you endlessly jotting down book titles to seek out.
Similarly, the seriously page-turning coffee table book The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History by Stephen Jones not only looks at the entire history of the horror film, but also assaults the eyes (in a good way) with a seemingly endless cavalcade of film posters. Trace the evolution of horror films through decades of horror filmmaking and get lost in over six hundred arresting images from the films that made us jump and fear the dark. (No, you're afraid of that downright creepy illustration of Chucky on page 178!) A book for all geeks is The Year of the Geek: 365 Adventures from the Sci-Fi Universe by James Clarke, which features a day-by-day look at geek culture. Stuffed with infographics and interesting tidbits of information and trivia, it gives readers something to be thankful for every day of the year. Finally, there's the 75th Anniversary illustrated edition of Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton. This large (and heavy!) hardback edition is a one-stop shop of the myths that have perennially formed the basis for so many stories. Epic heroes, daring quests, family trees—it's all here, and beautifully brought to life by Jim Tierney's terrific illustrations.
For film and TV fans, the buzz of the moment has been buzzing for literally decades. I'm talking about Star Wars and Star Trek. In the universe of Star Wars, all eyes are turned towards the upcoming release of The Last Jedi. Obsessed fans will no doubt love Pablo Hidalgo's Star Wars: The Last Jedi The Visual Dictionary. As its name suggests, it's a picture-by-picture description of all things you see in the film (and as such, being part of a notoriously secret film franchise, isn't being published until the film's release date on December 15th). Hardcore fans will also appreciate the eye-popping pages of The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi by Phil Szostak. Star Wars began in a visual medium and this book—featuring concept art and costume sketches, storyboards, and blueprints—will show you why. For younger Star Wars fans who are on your gift list, check out Star Wars Made Easy: A Beginner's Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Christian Blauvelt, a super-accessible introduction to the Star Wars universe. This episode-by-episode guide is loaded with pictures to accompany the short snippets on information and answers about everything newcomers need to know.
Meanwhile, on the Star Trek front, everyone is talking about the new television series Star Trek Discovery. Fans of the show will appreciate Star Trek Discovery: Official Collector's Edition, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, complete with production artwork and photos from the set. To be sure, the Star Trek films are still a hit with fans and so they may also appreciate The Art of Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline, a lavish art book revolving around the three films of the recent Trek reboot, featuring interviews, concept art and design illustrations. And finally, there's Star Trek: The Book of Lists by Chip Carter, a fun trivia-based walk through Trek's entire fifty-one-year history.
Comic book fans are experiencing a golden age of comic book heroes, particularly revolving around the films. Fans of both Marvel's comics and the films will adore Adam Bray's must-have reference book Ultimate Marvel, a fairly comprehensive and chronological explanation of all things in the Marvel universe. This beautifully designed hardback book is laid out so it's easy to digest, informative, and impossible to keep from flipping through. It's proved itself to be an excellent resource during my recent viewing of Marvel's Inhumans television show. The art alone is worth the price. Meanwhile, self-proclaimed "true Marvel comics super-fans" can test their mettle with the Peter Sanderson newly-updated Obsessed With Marvel quiz book. It's jam-packed with 2,500 trivia questions, where fans will get to definitely prove whether they just know the easy stuff (Q: What is Medusa's power? A: Telekinetically-controlled hair) or have memorized even the smallest detail (Q: Who is Hannibal King? A: A vampire detective).
On the DC Comics side of the aisle, fans of superhero teams would love to get their hands on the box set of Justice League written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Jim Lee,Ivan Reis and more. This 3-volume set includes the "New 52" origin story of the Justice League, which relaunched the series in a way that will appeal to both old fans and new ones. It's set in a world that has yet to learn that superheroes exist. When the vigilante called Batman stumbles on a plot to destroy the Earth, he assembles a team (including Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg) to save the day. It's far from a smooth start, the heroes do not get along at first, and they must learn to put aside their differences to battle the likes of Darkseid, Cheetah and Ocean Master. The set includes lots of extras in its 500 pages, like art galleries and supplemental material. There's also a stunning deluxe hardcover edition of Wonder Woman: The Rebirth by Greg Rucka, Liam Sharp, Nicola Scott, Laura Martin and Romulo Fajardo Jr. This page-turning collection is taken from the "DC Rebirth" relaunch, where Wonder Woman learns even she does not know her true history. The story alternates between her early days on the island paradise of Themyscira and her modern-day quest to find out why the island has vanished.
There's also a new edition of Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and now newly annotated by Leslie S. Klinger. In 1986, this seminal work redefined "comics" as "graphic novels" and proved by example that they are every bit as powerful as prose novels. Set in an alternate history where the U.S. is on the brink of World War III, costumed vigilantes, who have been outlawed, come out of retirement to find out who is killing one of their number. The story itself is already deeper and meatier than most novels, and Klinger's notes give readers a whole new perspective on its creation and impact. Also included are creator interviews and previously unseen bonus source material.
For a one-of-a-kind graphics novel reading experience, check out the uniqueness of Anomaly: The Rubicon by Skip Brittenham & Brian Haberlin, and illustrated by Geirrod Haberlin. On the surface, it's a fast-paced graphic novel (albeit one published in a widescreen format—30 inches wide when opened—adding to its epic atmosphere) about a rebellion against an evil conglomerate set on a dangerous world. It's also a whole new reading experience thanks to a free companion phone app that makes it interactive and even more fun. Just fire up the app, point it at one of the numerous trigger pages, and see an augmented reality version of some aspect of the story. It adds a whole new level of immersion to an already engrossing story and will continue to entertain even after publication, when new content will be delivered through the app.
If it's eye candy that makes the person on your gift list get excited, you have several picks for attractive art books. First up is Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess. You (or at least the receiver of this treasure) will immediately recognize the artist's work from contemporary science fiction and fantasy novels. Above the Timberline takes place in a snowy alternate future and tells the story of a son searching for his father, a famed polar explorer who has become stranded. One hundred twenty pieces of full-page artwork accompany this already absorbing story. Another talented artist shows off his skill in Beyond Science Fiction: The Alternative Realism of Michael Whelan. This art book by the multi-award-winning artist showcases some of the astounding pieces from a five-decades long career depicting "Alternative Realism". There's also The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist, which offers 256 pages of futuristic design that will knock your socks off. If your gift recipient liked the look of such films as Blade Runner, Alien, and Tron, then this is the one to get.
See? There's plenty to choose when looking for gifts. If you happen to sneak one of these treasures for yourself along the way, I won't tell.
Cover images courtesy of the Folio Society.