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7 books as unsettling as Black Mirror

By Kobo • April 21, 2024Recommended Reading

For readers who want to go deeper into the dark.

What would the world be like if the way we rate restaurants and Uber drivers was applied to people? What would we do if we could replay our memories like videos stored on our phones? How would we grieve if loved ones could be reconstructed from social media? 

These are some of the perplexing questions explored in the anthology TV series Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker. Every episode leaves viewers unsettled, contemplating questions about society, technology, and human nature. We've put together this list of books to bring you to that headspace, where you're feeling both amused and disturbed, like you've just watched an episode of Black Mirror.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin

In this story, mechanical animals called "kentukis" are embraced around the world by users, called "Keepers," enamoured with the adorable robot critters who they welcome into their homes. The kentukis belonging to Keepers happily follow family members around, taking in the day's goings-on through glossy eyes. Meanwhile, other users called "Dwellers" can buy a chance to view the world through those eyes, being transported randomly anywhere to take on the perspective of a treasured synthetic pet. The divisions between Keepers and Dwellers parallel divisions in our own world, making the fictional conceit of this book all too plausible.

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Friday Black: Stories by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

There's something extraordinary and even fantastical about each of these dark stories—and yet the situations they present reveal violence, cruelty, and outright absurdity that anyone would recognize as all too real. Satire with a vicious bite.

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Foe by Iain Reid

From the author of I'm Thinking of Ending Things, this is the story of a near-future world destroyed by climate change. Junior and Henrietta live remotely on one of the last remaining farms in the country, where visitors are few and far between. One day a stranger comes to their door with news: Junior has been selected for a special mission that will send him very far away from here—and Henrietta. The arrangements for his trip have already been made, and companionship for Henrietta will be provided in Junior's absence. They don't need to worry about a thing...

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Made for Love by Alissa Nutting

For over a decade Hazel has lived with her husband, the tech billionaire and Gogol Industries founder Byron Gogol in his ultra high-tech home, where their every movement and vital sign is tracked. But Byron wants to take their connection further, through chips implanted into each of their brains. Byron says it's an enhancement that's sure to bring them closer together. But Hazel suddenly wants to get as far away from him as she can.

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

If you can, it's best going into Kazuo Ishiguro's heart-wrenching novel Never Let Me Go knowing as little as possible. Really, you should just stop what you're doing and go read the book right now rather than reading this blurb. But if you'd like to know more, moderate spoilers follow...

It starts in an English boarding school called Hailsham, where students are told all their lives that they are special and are being raised for a special purpose. They are shut off from the outside world and told that they must take care of themselves. But when students Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy discover the truth behind their purpose in the world, they'll never see themselves (or one another) in the same way.

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The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police is a dystopian novel set in a world where sometimes things just disappear—and are forgotten. At first, it's just the little things, and forgetting them is easy. But when memorable, essential things start to disappear and people can't easily forget them, that's when the Memory Police are called in.

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

In this propulsive sci-fi thriller, Jason Dessen has been kidnapped and taken to a world that closely resembles his own. But here, he has made different choices and now lives an entirely different life. Most notably, he has created a box that allows people to travel the multiverse, setting in motion events (actually thousands of events) that are beyond anybody's imagining.

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Photo: Apple TV+

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