Summer reads, MIT Press style

Science fiction, graphic novels, speculative tales, and more

With summer approaching, it’s time to begin scouring your local independent bookseller for the best beach books to read while lazing about in the sun. Admittedly, the MIT Press may not be the first publisher to come to mind when you hear “summer reading”—but we’re hoping to break that mold with books that make you think, even as they whisk you away to other worlds.

These may not be your standard escapist beach reads, but there’s room for variety in everyone’s vacation bag.


Power On! by Jean J. Ryoo and Jane Margolis

This lively graphic novel follows a diverse group of teenage friends as they discover that computing can be fun, creative, and empowering. Taylor, Christine, Antonio, and Jon seem like typical young teens—they communicate via endless texting, they share jokes, they worry about starting high school, and they have each other's backs. But when a racially-biased artificial intelligence system causes harm in their neighborhood, they suddenly realize that tech isn't as neutral as they thought it was. But can an algorithm be racist? And what is an algorithm, anyway?

Power On! is a fresh read from the otherwise superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories that majorly fill this [comic book and graphic novel] space.” —E&T Magazine


The Truth and Other Stories by Stanisław Lem

Of these twelve short stories by science fiction master Stanisław Lem, only three have previously appeared in English, making this the first “new” book of fiction by Lem since the late 1980s. The stories display the full range of Lem's intense curiosity about scientific ideas as well as his sardonic approach to human nature, presenting as multifarious a collection of mad scientists as any reader could wish for. Many of these stories feature artificial intelligences or artificial life forms, long a Lem preoccupation; some feature quite insane theories of cosmology or evolution. All are thought provoking and scathingly funny.

“The Truth and Other Stories, a new collection of Lem’s previously untranslated stories, shows that even the ‘scatterings from his workshop,’ as Kim Stanley Robinson puts it in his foreword, could outstrip a typical writer's lifetime of creation.” —The New York Times Book Review


The Clockwork Man by E. V. Odle

In 1920s England, a strange being crashes a village cricket game. After some glitchy, jerky attempts to communicate, this creature reveals that he is a machine-enhanced human from a multiverse thousands of years in the future. The mechanism implanted in his skull has malfunctioned, sending him tumbling through time onto the green grass of the cricket field. Apparently in the future, at the behest of fed-up women, all men will be controlled by an embedded “clockwork,” camouflaged with hats and wigs. Published in 1923, The Clockwork Man—the first cyborg novel—tells the story of this odd time traveler's visit.

“Edwin Vincent Odle's ominous, droll, and unforgettable The Clockwork Man is a missing link between Lewis Carroll and John Sladek or Philip K. Dick.” —Jonathan Lethem, author of The Arrest


The Curie Society by Heather Einhorn, Adam Staffaroni and Janet Harvey

An action-adventure original graphic novel, The Curie Society follows a team of young women recruited by an elite secret society—originally founded by Marie Curie—with the mission of supporting the most brilliant female scientists in the world. The heroines of the Curie Society use their smarts, gumption, and cutting-edge technology to protect the world from rogue scientists with nefarious plans. Readers can follow recruits Simone, Taj, and Maya as they decipher secret codes, clone extinct animals, develop autonomous robots, and go on high-stakes missions.

A selection of the 2022 Hal Clement Notable Young Adult Books List from the American Library Association

“Readers eager for greater representation of women in the sciences will cheer.” —Publishers Weekly


Make Shift: Dispatches from the Post-Pandemic Future edited by Gideon Lichfield

This new volume in the Twelve Tomorrows series of science fiction anthologies looks at how science and technology—existing or speculative—might help us create a more equitable and hopeful world after the coronavirus pandemic. The original stories presented here, from a diverse collection of authors, offer no miracles or simple utopias, but visions of ingenuity, grit, and incremental improvement. In the tradition of inspirational science fiction that goes back to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, these writers remind us that we can choose our future, and show us how we might build it.


The Cheerful Skapegoat: Fables by Wayne Koestenbaum

In his first book of short fiction—a collection of whimsical, surreal, baroque, ribald, and heartbreaking fables from distribution partner Semiotext(e)—Wayne Koestenbaum takes the gloom and melancholy of our own terrifying political moment and finds subversive solace by overturning the customary protocols of tale-telling. The activities in The Cheerful Scapegoat are a cross between a comedy of manners and a Sadean orgy. Language has its own desires: figures of speech carry an erotic charge that straddles the line between slapstick and vertigo. Punishment hangs over every dialogue—but in the fable-world of The Cheerful Scapegoat, abjection comes with an undertaste of contentment. The tchotchkes of queer culture—codes and signifiers—get scrambled together and then blown up into an improbable soufflé.

“These charmingly insouciant short stories by the noted critic, poet and essayist exhibit the same surreal whimsy that distinguishes his work in other formats.” —New York Times Book Review


The Invincible by Stanisław Lem

In the grand tradition of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, Stanisław Lem's The Invincible tells the story of a space cruiser sent to an obscure planet to determine the fate of a sister spaceship whose communication with Earth has abruptly ceased. Landing on the planet Regis III, navigator Rohan and his crew discover a form of life that has apparently evolved from autonomous, self-replicating machines—perhaps the survivors of a “robot war.” Rohan and his men are forced to confront the classic quandary: what course of action can humanity take once it has reached the limits of its knowledge? In The Invincible, Lem has his characters confront the inexplicable and the bizarre: the problem that lies just beyond analytical reach.

“Mr. Lem was a giant of mid-20th-century science fiction, in a league with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Philip K. Dick.” —The New York Times


A World of Women by J. D. Beresford

Imagine a plague that brings society to a standstill by killing off most of the men on Earth. The few men who survive descend into lechery and atavism. Meanwhile, a group of women (accompanied by one virtuous male survivor) leave the wreckage of London to start fresh, establishing a communally run agrarian outpost. But their sexist society hasn't permitted most of them to learn any useful skills—will the commune survive their first winter? This is the bleak world imagined in 1913 by English writer J. D. Beresford—one that has particular resonance for the planet's residents in the 2020s. This edition of A World of Women offers twenty-first-century readers a new look at a neglected classic.

“A satire on the lives women lead nowadays and the appalling vanity of modern civilization.” —The Publisher's Weekly (1913)


Entanglements: Tomorrow's Lovers, Families, and Friends edited by Sheila Williams

In a future world dominated by the technological, people will still be entangled in relationships—in romances, friendships, and families. This volume in the Twelve Tomorrows series considers the effects that scientific and technological discoveries will have on the emotional bonds that hold us together. The strange new worlds in these stories feature AI family therapy, floating fungitecture, and a futuristic love potion; a co-op of mothers attempts to raise a child together, lovers try to resolve their differences by employing a therapeutic sexbot, and a robot helps a woman dealing with Parkinson's disease.

“Pairing scientific precision with emotional insight, this accessible anthology makes a powerful case for featured author Nancy Kress's assertion that ‘stories are made out of and for people.’ Readers will be captivated.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review


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