One of the most sheerly fun things I’ve read in recent years has been Hal Duncan’s series of Scruffian stories, which are a unique variation on stray child fantasies like the Lost Boys or the Borribles. They incorporate clever twists to history and mythology, a cheeky-but-probably-reliable-enough narrative voice, and a rambunctious spirit that’s as punk and D.I.Y. as any fold-over ‘zine you’ve ever rattled off on your day job’s Xerox machine.
The Scruffian stories come in the form of a Lethe Press collection (above) and a handful of chapbooks available in print, epub, and e-audio formats through the author’s Bandcamp page. There’s a new one coming out in a couple weeks, so if you’re a fan you might need some recommendations to tide you over. Or, if you like the books I’m reccing but haven’t read any Scruffians yet, that means now is a great time to get in to it!
But these Read-Alikes are supposed to be written from the former position. So let’s assume you’ve finished all the Scruffians books so far and concluded that…
…you need ALL OF THE magical anarcho-punks squatting in the abandoned building of your life: The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, by Margaret Killjoy.
The Danielle Cain novella series starts with an off-grid “anarchist” commune under the tyranny of a bloodthirsty demonic stag, then follows a small found-family of them on the road after it gets raided by local police. Like Scruffians, the series examines agency, self-determination and social control in the middle of rollicking adventures and snappy dialogue festooned in pyramid spikes and stick-n-poke tattoos.
…Killjoy’s punk as aul fuck, but isnae Scots, ya ken?*: The Good Fairies of New York, by Martin Millar.
The Good Fairies follows the comedic misadventures of two wayward sprites who’re more at home in frayed jeans than glittery tutus, with brogues so thick you could cut them with a claymore. The Good Fairies is a little more Pratchetty in its tone, Scruffians more formally off-kilter, but they’re obviously cut from the same cloth. Then they used the rest of the cloth for home-made band patches.
…whimsically-worded urban fantasy from this side of the pond would strike your fancy: City of Roses, by Kip Manley.
“They’re not like your usual fairies” is a terrible marketing cliche, but it’s pretty applicable here. The faerie kingdoms in City of Roses are unusually integrated into modern-day Portland, holding court in shopping malls after dark and spilling over into the hipster scene during the occasional house party. Beyond sharing a subgenre, both series are written with stylish prose and have playful language use that really pulls them above other urban fantasies.
…magic and rule-breaking are fun and all, but you thought the series was going to be YA and Gob cusses just a little too much: Un Lun Dun, by China Mieville.
Mieville’s a bit of a big name, but Un Lun Dun seems to be one of his lesser-recommended works. Like the Scruffians tales, it’s also a wicked fun anti-authoritarian adventure, has a bunch of scribbles all throughout the book, and features unashamed pun-based worldbuilding. Either would make a great light read to unwind after you’ve spent an evening eating the rich.
*Oh God I murdered phonetic Scots please don’t hurt me