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The Realm's fearless leader Thomas Saras shares the 5 SFF books that have defined him.

  • The War of the Worlds - H.G. Wells

    This book in many ways, is where it all began for me . . . well this and watching lots of Star Trek, Lost in Space and Batman is what put me on the path of sci-fi, fantasy and the fantastical. I have such clear memories of my mum playing the radio drama and the musical version in our house. From the “ooh la” chant of the tripod’s weapons, to the ominous introduction from Orson Wells, I was filled with a sense of wonder and completely immersed in another world. I was left awestruck (and a little amused) at the idea that people truly believed this radio drama was happening. War of the Worlds cemented in my mind both the power and the importance storytelling, it was the first step for me in understanding the true power of science-fiction, that it can be both a complete fantasy and still have real world relevance.

  • New X-Men - Grant Morrison

    So I am obsessed with comics, always have been and probably always will be in one way or another. The X-Men are the pinnacle of American Super-hero comics. The cast of characters, the costumes, the villains but most importantly the soap opera! Despite one successful (and a sequel that for me is the perfect comic book film coming) in the early 2000’s the X-Men were a little stale, in desperate need of new blood, new purpose. In came the absolute mad genius that is Grant Morrison. Known for his subversive if not downright bonkers work on Doom Patrol (a crappy X-Men knockoff) and The Invisibles (he swears aliens told him the story for this series), Grant Morrison brought the X-Men right into the new millennium. Magneto was dead (again) but now his face was all over T-Shirts and lunch boxes, he had become a Che Guevara figure for the new millennium. The Xavier school had more students than ever, many of whom didn’t even want to be superheroes they just wanted an education and somewhere to feel safe. Whereas Hogwarts broke every student down to four houses, four arbitrary personalities, Xavier’s felt like a haven where each and every weirdo and freak could let their flag fly. It made me feel safe. Mutant art, fashion and politics was being discussed each issue in way that made mutants feel like a proper community and culture for the first time. It was thrilling and strange, but also full of the usual world-ending hijinks and soap opera drama that made X-Men the number 1 comic book for decades. As a young gay man it was so inspiring and reassuring to read about a group of superheroes not only fighting to protect the world, but to change it. Their battle for acceptance and equality is as pertinent now as it was in the 1960’s and 70’s. While the art in some places may put people off, the sheer unbridled imagination and inventiveness more than make up for it. If you want everything that makes the X-Men so great and so enduring all diluted into one epic story, this is the series to read.

  • The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham

    You remember when Rick Grimes woke up in a hospital? Pretty creepy, but kinda familiar? Didn’t Cillian Murphy also wake up in a hospital at the beginning of 28 Day Later? Oh yeah that’s right now THAT was creepy… except John Wyndham did it first in Day of the Triffids. Day of the Triffids is a paired back apocalyptic tale of a world literally gone blind, and alien plants devouring a helpless humanity. What was so defining for me, was the prevailing sense of hopelessness. There is a plethora of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic stories out there, this was the one that made me realise just how tenuous our lives are, how it can take what horrific event to turn everything upside down. Also who the hell doesn’t love the idea of man eating alien plants? It’s almost as cool as the existence of the Mars crab. Don’t know what that is? Google it. Trust me it’s worth your time.

  • Chaos Walking - Patrick Ness

    Forget the Diverging Hunger Race of Death Games, the only YA fantasy series you need to pay attention to is Chaos Walking. I hand sold the holly hell out of this when I was a bookseller. So what’s it about? A familiar but alien world where the men of a farming community called Prentistown have the ability to read each other’s minds. The unending wave of thoughts is called ‘The Noise’ and it is presented both beautiful and chaotically on the printed page (you need to see it for yourself). A young boy named Todd finds a small patch of swamp where the noise ceases, the origin of that silence is a young girl named Viola. Believing all women to have died out, Todd is unwillingly thrust into a life or death journey to protect himself and Viola from the fanatics of Prentistown. What unfolds over three books is an ambitious and powerful story that works as a road adventure, a war epic and in some ways a political thriller. It’s that last aspect that really hooked me, the second part in the series; The Ask and the Answer ruminates on the morality of war by placing friend against friend and opening up the narration of the book to more than one character. The political machinations, the gender and queer politics of the series and the sheer horrors of warfare make The Chaos Walking trilogy a perfect YA/Adult crossover. I still remember buying a coffee on Sunday morning, sitting on my balcony and taking a sip before opening up The Knife of Never Letting Go, I was so hooked that by the time I stopped to take a second sip my coffee had already gone cold. This is addictive and captivating reading.

  • Sandman - Neil Gaiman

    And here we are at the end of my list, how could it not be Neil? I’m sure many other members of The Realm have included Neil but I suspect as the resident comic book nerd of The Realm, I’m the only one including Sandman. But how could I not? I remember walking into the comic book section of what would soon be my workplace – Kinokuniya (not that I knew that at the time) and picking up two first volumes: Brian Wood’s DMZ and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. At 17 years old my comic book reading habits were almost entirely super-hero related. It’s fitting that the original flagship of Vertigo Comics, the imprint that helped US comics grow up, would be the comic book that helped my reading sensibilities grow up too. What can be said that hasn’t already been said? A beautiful fantasy epic that is also deeply human. One of the first comics to be recognised as having significant literary merit. It’s the comic you give to people who haven’t tried comics. It’s a big part of why women came to comics after decades of them being seen as a boy club. It gave us a completely original version of Death that you fall in love with. If there’s one thig I remember most from Sandman its Death’s words of wisdom with a newborn baby that she’s come for: “You get what anybody gets - you get a lifetime.” To put it succinctly: Sandman is a thing of beauty and the stuff of legends.

Thomas Saras

Thomas Saras

Brand Manager and Head of the Realm at Hachette Australia Books. Mutant power: Aggressive humour. Lifelong Trekkie (I don’t find that offensive) comic book reader and former proud bookseller. Likes: Literary, contemporary and speculative fiction. Dislikes: Haters. Ideal date: My birthday.

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