My COVID Reading List for 2020-2021

Scott Gardner

Schrödinger; or, The Modern Pandora

A gothic horror novel about a scientist named Schrödinger who creates a multiple-reality box and puts his cat in it as an experiment. The resulting quantum-jumping feline escapes and wreaks existential havoc on the village. A new mother checks on her baby and finds eight fully grown children sleeping in the bedroom. A farmer goes to milk his cows and finds his barn full of llamas. Newlyweds awake on their honeymoon to find that, not only are they not married, but they have turned into wicker patio chairs. The villagers blame the cat and march to Schrödinger’s castle with torches and pitchforks, demanding that the scientist make things right or die. However, when they get there a doctor named Victor appears at the window and tells them that, in this reality, Schrödinger moved out a decade ago and sold the lab to him. Disheartened, the villagers retreat. But before they leave, Victor asks if anyone would like to volunteer for some “revitalizing experiments” he is trying out in the basement.


The Big Game Hunter

Bored teenager Phyla discovers a tiny map of a fantastical world in the QR code link for a mysterious video game. She follows the map to a land where talking animals coexist in complete harmony (aside from the odd cannibalism binge). The leaders, Pam Pangolin and Tim Tapir, seek Phyla’s help to fulfill a prophecy involving an exodus—a “crossing”—beyond an empty stretch of frontier road in the forest. As everyone prepares for the trip, some creatures lose courage. One vocal dissenter calling himself Chicken stands defiantly before the crowd and asks, “Why should we cross the road?” Phyla rolls her eyes and says, “Super Mushrooms, duh!” With that, the creatures march valiantly onto the blacktop. Suddenly, Phyla hears a bloodcurdling klaxon burst that awakens her from her nap. It was all a dream. Her parents, seeing her asleep on the porch as they parked their Toyota Resetti in the driveway, had playfully honked the horn. Perturbed but thankful that her dream was not real, Phyla walks to the car to welcome her parents. There are feathers in the grille.


Huckleberry Flynn

A classic picaresque tale of a mischievous boy who escapes from his aunt in Glenfarne and floats down the River Shannon in a rubber dinghy, seeking adventure. Nothing much happens along the way, so when he gets to Limerick he deflates the boat and catches an Éireann Express back to Drumshanbo, hoping a second try will be more fun. On the bus he meets an assortment of odd characters: two attorneys who have opened their own law firm together against the wishes of their divorcing clients; a private detective heading north on the case of a missing child (the boy avoids discovery by disguising himself as the bus’s boatswain); and two grifters who win the boy’s dinghy in a rigged shell game. The boy gets the last laugh, however, when he convinces them to reinflate the boat by attaching it to the exhaust pipe of the bus while it is in motion. Violent slapstick humor ensues.


A Streetcar Named Derail

A short melodrama about Blunt, a woman who had married into high society but is now widowed and penniless. She is forced to move into the city with her sister, Dulla, who is married to the working-class oaf Gennou. Blunt and Gennou take an instant dislike to each other and start battling for Dulla’s sympathy. At one point the married couple fight, and as Dulla retreats to the attic, Gennou steps into the street, repeatedly shouting his wife’s name to the sky. He is suddenly struck by an out-of-control trolley and dies. The end.



This dark fantasy novel was pitched as a film idea to Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 80s, but he thought the plot was too farfetched and turned it down. A small, eerily self-illuminating tablet, the Doomscroll, sits on an alter in a temple on a mountain. It is purported to have the answers to all of life’s mysteries written in it, but those who try to read from it find that they cannot stop. The scroll forces them to continue reading and neglecting their societal needs until they waste away from hunger, go crazy and jump off a cliff, or get fired by management for unproductivity. Temple emissaries search the land to find the one person who can pick up the tablet and read the magic “tweets” without succumbing to its power. Will they find the Doomscroller? Swipe now to find out!