The Best Political Fiction of 2015

Bob Burnett
Thursday December 31, 2015 - 02:04:00 PM

Here are my five favorite 2015 reads for fun; all — of course — with political overtones.

5. “The Girl With All the Gifts,” by M.R. Carey. (Science Fiction/Horror) Theme: Police-state abuses A delightfully ghoulish retelling of the classic “Day of the Triffids.” Movie version due for release in 2016.

4. “Blood, Salt, and Water,” by Denise Mina. (Mystery/Police Procedural) Theme: Sexism Thought by many to be the finest mystery writer in the British Isles, Mina is back with her favorite character, Glasgow homicide detective, Alex Morrow. It’s a good story, well written; notable for Mina’s unsparing attention to the sexism that confronts her female detective at every step —perhaps the most realistic series about a woman trying to juggle two careers.

3. “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin (translated from Chinese). (Science Fiction) Theme: Environmental degradation (!) This interesting, hopeful novel would be a serious contender for book of the year except for the technical complexity (quantum mechanics, signal theory, and artificial intelligence) and the occasionally clunky narrative. Plot: After the cultural revolution, China’s leaders conclude they are losing the arms race to America and Russia and ask aliens for help. A bad idea. 

2. ”The Whites,” by Richard Price. (Mystery/Police Procedural) Theme: Police brutality Ostensibly a police procedural, it’s really a meditation on justice and personal responsibility. The best of the detective genre since “Mystic River.” 

1. “Big Little Lies,” by Liane Morality. (Dark Mystery) Theme: Sexism, abuse Plot: three women meet when they enroll their kids at the first day of Kindergarten. They become friends and we learn their very interesting stories. And, through a fantastic use of narrative-shift, we learn that six months from now there’s a murder at a charity benefit for the Kindergarten and the women are being questioned. But, until the end, we don’t know who is murdered or who did it. The rights to “Big Little Lies” have been purchased by Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman. 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and retired Silicon Valley Executive. He can be reached at bburnett@sonic.net