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The Great Science Fiction

H. G. Wells (Author)

'No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's'

Exploring the primordial nightmares that lurk within humanity's dreams of progress and technology, H. G. Wells was a science fiction pioneer. This new omnibus edition brings together four of his hugely original and influential science-fiction novels - The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man and The War of the Worlds - with his most unsettling and strange short stories. Containing monstrous experiments, terrifying journeys, alien occupiers and grotesque creatures, these visionary tales discomfit and disturb, and retain the power to trouble our sense of who we are.

With an introduction by Matthew Beaumont

Burmese Days

George Orwell (Author) , Emma Larkin (Introducer)

Based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell's first novel presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, 'after all, natives were natives - interesting, no doubt, but finally ... an inferior people'. When Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Indian Dr Veraswami, he defies this orthodoxy. The doctor is in danger: U Po Kyin, a corrupt magistrate, is plotting his downfall. The only thing that can save him is membership of the all-white Club, and Flory can help. Flory's life is changed further by the arrival of beautiful Elizabeth Lackersteen from Paris, who offers an escape from loneliness and the 'lie' of colonial life.

George Orwell's first novel, inspired by his experiences in the Indian Imperial Police in Burma, Burmese Days includes a new introduction by Emma Larkin in Penguin Modern Classics.

Doctor Sax

Jack Kerouac (Author)

Jack Kerouac called Doctor Sax, the enigmatic figure who haunted his boyhood imagination, 'my ghost, personal angel, private shadow, secret lover'. In this extraordinary autobiographical account of growing up in Lowell, Massachussetts, told through his fictional alter ego Jack Duluoz, he mingles real people and events with fantastical figures to capture the accents, scents, sights and texture of his childhood: playing among the river weeds and railroad tracks, going to church, witnessing life and death on the street corners. Written when he was staying with William Burroughs in Mexico in 1952, Doctor Sax was Kerouac's favourite of all his books: a dark, vivid and magical evocation of a boy's vibrant inner life.

Burmese Days

George Orwell (Author)

Based on his experiences as a policeman in Burma, George Orwell's first novel presents a devastating picture of British colonial rule. It describes corruption and imperial bigotry in a society where, 'after all, natives were natives - interesting, no doubt, but finally ... an inferior people'. When Flory, a white timber merchant, befriends Indian Dr Veraswami, he defies this orthodoxy. The doctor is in danger: U Po Kyin, a corrupt magistrate, is plotting his downfall. The only thing that can save him is membership of the all-white Club, and Flory can help. Flory's life is changed further by the arrival of beautiful Elizabeth Lackersteen from Paris, who offers an escape from loneliness and the 'lie' of colonial life.

Suddenly Last Summer and Other Plays

Tennessee Williams (Author)

These three dramatic works by Tennessee Williams explore the darker side of human nature and are haunted by a sense of isolation and regret. 'Suddenly Last Summer' is the starkly told story of Catherine, who seemingly goes insane after her cousin Sebastian dies in grisly circumstances on a trip to Europe. 'The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore' is a passionate examination of a wealthy old woman as she recounts her memories in the face of death, while in 'Small Craft Warnings' a motley group of people - including a blowsy beautician, a discredited alcoholic doctor, a vulnerable waif and two gay men - sit around a seedy bar on the Californian coast, each contemplating their own desperate fate.

The Day of the Triffids

John Wyndham (Author) , Barry Langford (Introducer)

When Bill Masen wakes up blindfolded in hospital there is a bitter irony in his situation. Carefully removing his bandages, he realizes that he is the only person who can see: everyone else, doctors and patients alike, have been blinded by a meteor shower. Now, with civilization in chaos, the triffids - huge, venomous, large-rooted plants able to 'walk', feeding on human flesh - can have their day.

The Day of the Triffids, published in 1951, expresses many of the political concerns of its time: the Cold War, the fear of biological experimentation and the man-made apocalypse. However, with its terrifyingly believable insights into the genetic modification of plants, the book is more relevant today than ever before.

John Wyndham was born in 1903. After a wide experience of the English preparatory school he was at Bedales from 1918 to 1921. Careers which he tried included farming, law, commercial art, and advertising, and he first started writing short stories, intended for sale, in 1925. During the war he was in the Civil Service and afterwards in the Army. In 1946 he began writing his major science fiction novels including "The Kraken Wakes", "The Chrysalids" and "The Midwich Cuckoos".

Love in the Time of Cholera

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Author)

A poignant meditation on the nature of desire, and the enduring power of love, Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera is translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman in Penguin Modern Classics.

Florentino Ariza is a hopeless romantic who falls passionately for the beautiful Fermina Daza, but finds his love tragically rejected. Instead Fermina marriesdistinguished doctor Juvenal Urbino, while Florentino can only wait silently for her. He can never forget his first and only true love. Then, fifty-one years, nine months and four days later, Fermina's husband dies unexpectedly. At last Florentino has another chance to declare his feelings and discover if a passion that has endured for half a century will remain unrequited, in a rich, fantastical and humane celebration of love in all its many forms.

Gabriel García Márquez (b. 1928) was born in Aracataca, Colombia. He is the author of several novels, including Leaf Storm (1955), One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), The Autumn of the Patriarch (1975) Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) and The General in His Labyrinth (1989). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

If you enjoyed Love in the Time of Cholera, you might like Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'The nearest thing to sensual pleasure prose can offer'
Daily Telegraph

'An amazing celebration of the many kinds of love between men and women... among Márquez's best fiction'
The Times

'The greatest luxury ... is the eerie, entirely convincing suspension of the laws of reality ... the agelessness of the human story as told by one of this century's most evocative writers'
Anne Tyler, author of The Accidental Tourist

Heroes and Villains

Angela Carter (Author)

A modern fable, a post-apocalyptic romance, a gothic horror story; Angela Carter's genre-defying fantasia Heroes and Villains includes an introduction by Robert Coover in Penguin Modern Classics.

Sharp-eyed Marianne lives in a white tower made of steel and concrete with her father and the other Professors. Outside, where the land is thickly wooded and wild beasts roam, live the Barbarians, who raid and pillage in order to survive. Marianne is strictly forbidden to leave her civilized world but, fascinated by these savage outsiders, decides to escape. There, beyond the wire fences, she will discover a decaying paradise, encounter the tattooed Barbarian boy Jewel and go beyond the darkest limits of her imagination. Playful, sensuous, violent and gripping, Heroes and Villains is an ambiguous and deliriously rich blend of post-apocalyptic fiction, gothic fantasy, literary allusion and twisted romance.

Angela Carter (1940-92) was born in Eastbourne and later evacuated to live with her grandmother in Yorkshire. She read English at Bristol University, and after escaping an early marriage went to live in Japan for a number of years. She wrote nine novels, which blend fantasy, science fiction and gothic, and is often referred to as a writer of magical realism.

If you enjoyed Heroes and Villains, you might like Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'Angela Carter is a genius'
Victoria Glendinning

'An unashamed fantasist, a fabulist of daemonic energy'
The Times

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Carson McCullers (Author) , Kasia Boddy (Introducer)

Carson McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a powerful exploration of alienation and loneliness in 1930s America, published in Penguin Modern Classics.

Carson McCullers' prodigious first novel was published to instant acclaim when she was just twenty-three. Set in a small town in the middle of the deep South, it is the story of John Singer, a lonely deaf-mute, and a disparate group of people who are drawn towards his kind, sympathetic nature. The owner of the café where Singer eats every day, a young girl desperate to grow up, an angry socialist drunkard, a frustrated black doctor: each pours their heart out to Singer, their silent confidant, and he in turn changes their disenchanted lives in ways the could never imagine. Moving, sensitive and deeply humane, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter explores loneliness, the human need for understanding and the search for love.

Carson McCullers (1917-1967) was the critically acclaimed author of several popular novels in the 1940s and '50s, including The Member of the Wedding (1946), adapted for the stage in the 1950s and filmed in 1952 and 1997. Her novels frequently depicted life in small towns of the southeastern United States and were marked by themes of loneliness and spiritual isolation. Other films based on her books are Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967, with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968, starring Alan Arkin) and The Ballad of the Sad Café (1991, starring Vanessa Redgrave).

If you enjoyed The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, you might like Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'She has examined the heart of man with an understanding ... that no other writer can hope to surpass'
Tennessee Williams

'A remarkable book ... [McCullers] writes with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming'
The New York Times

The Bird's Nest

Shirley Jackson (Author)

The unsettling story of a young woman's descent into mental illness, from the author of The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived at the Castle.

'An amazing writer' Neil Gaiman

Elizabeth Richmond is almost too quiet to be believed, with no friends, no parents, and a job that leaves her strangely unnoticed. But soon she starts to behave in ways she can neither control nor understand, to the increasing horror of her doctor, and the humiliation of her self-centred aunt. As a tormented Elizabeth becomes two people, then three, then four, each wilder and more wicked than the last, a battle of wills threatens to destroy the girl and all who surround her. The Bird's Nest is a macabre journey into who we are, and how close we sometimes come to the brink of madness.

Shirley Jackson's chilling tales of creeping unease and casual cruelty have the power to unsettle and terrify unlike any other. She was born in California in 1916. When her short story The Lottery was first published in The New Yorker in 1948, readers were so horrified they sent her hate mail; it has since become one of the most iconic American stories of all time. Her first novel, The Road Through the Wall, was published in the same year and was followed by five more: Hangsaman, The Bird's Nest, The Sundial, The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, widely seen as her masterpiece. Shirley Jackson died in her sleep at the age of 48.

'The world of Shirley Jackson is eerie and unforgettable ... It is a place where things are not what they seem; even on a morning that is sunny and clear there is always the threat of darkness looming, of things taking a turn for the worse' - A. M. Homes

Shirley Jackson is unparalleled as a leader in the field of beautifully written, quiet, cumulative shudders' - Dorothy Parker

'Shirley Jackson is one of those highly idiosyncratic, inimitable writers ... whose work exerts an enduring spell' - Joyce Carol Oates

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