Out of all the science-fiction subgenres within the “-punk” category, mesopunk books would be the newest and most elusive of them all. Mesoamerican fiction is plentiful, offering brilliant literature across a range of other genres — fantasy being the most popular.
What are Mesopunk Books?
It seems easy (and relatively popular) to tap into the mysticism of Mexico and Central America. The spiritual side of Mesoamerica is vivid and bright and filled with strong characters. But rarely do we have books that explore the strength of the civilisation beyond their stunning architecture. Science fiction is the opportunity to dive into society and really challenge the path ahead. The punk subgenre takes it even further by applying a post-modern twist with a rebellious streak. Mesopunk is more than a Central American landscape. Mesopunk builds on the sense of family, community, and the structure of society for the benefit of all. If anything, mesopunk books ensure our Mesoamerican people are seen for their hard work and the sacrifices they made for a better post-modern future.
As stated above, the term “Mesopunk” is fairly new on the literary scene, even if mesopunk books have always been here. No one has claimed its first mention, nor will the search term reveal a plethora of science-fiction novels to fill your reading list. To be clear, Mesoamerica refers to the historical region and cultural area starting in southern North America down and covering most of Central America. It includes central Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. However, Mesoamerica does not automatically mean Latine, nor does it include all of South America. The following is definitely not a conclusive list, but I have selected some of the best mesopunk books with authors who understand the spirit of Mesoamerica and all it brings to the subgenre.
The Best of the Best Mesopunk Books
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This is a variation of the science-fiction classic The Island of Dr. Moreau set against the backdrop of 19th-century Mexico. Carlota Moreau, our title character, has spent her life in luxury, safe from the conflict spreading across the Yucatán peninsula. She is not alone: she lives with her father, his assistant (Laughton), and The Hybrids: part human and part animal monstrosities. Their perfectly controlled environment is soon disrupted by the arrival of Eduardo Lizalde, the son of Dr. Moreau’s wealthy patron. Moreno-Garcia is well known for her Mesoamerican fantasy novels. This time, she blends science fiction beautifully with historical references. Carlota’s demand for truth and freedom is the very soul of mesopunk.
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
Martine’s debut novel is set in a future where the Teixcalaanli empire governs most of human space. Its next goal is to assimilate the independent mining station, Lsel. The ambassador of the station, Mahit Dzmare, seeks to avoid this political takeover but is instead thrown into political turmoil when she discovers her predecessor has died under very suspect circumstances. This is the first of the Teixcalaan series, a mesopunk space opera set against the determined survival of living in space and yet with a character that resonates with almost any post-colonial immigrant student. I strongly suggest you also pick up the sequel, A Desolation Called Peace, because you are going to want to read it as soon as you finish the first.
The Jade Bones (Book 2 of the Age of the Seventh Sun) by Lani Forbes
The first book in the series, The Seventh Sun, was steeped in mythology. Prince Ahkin’s family should be able to control the sun, while Mayana’s family should be able to control the water. Their struggle to fight against the burgeoning apocalypse casts them into the underworld and an overwhelming battle to return to the surface. This is where The Jade Bones picks up, exploring a futuristic journey with concepts firmly set within the mesopunk subgenre. There are also elements of cli-fi as the two characters focus on bringing elements together in balance to avoid the oncoming crisis. The third and final book, The Obsidian Butterfly, completes the story with a sense of closure for both the characters and the author, who passed away before her final book was published.
The Witch Owl Parliament (Clockwork Curandera #1) by David Bowles and Raúl the Third, colour by Stacey Robinson, lettering by Damian Duffy
This graphic novel is an awesome retelling of Frankenstein in colonial Mexico. To be fair, it borders on the fantasy genre a little more than science fiction, but it is definitely all punk. Cristina Franco is an apprentice shaman in the Republic of Santander, where non-Christian magic is heavily frowned upon (with extreme prejudice). When she is killed by witch owls, her brother Enrique will do anything to bring her back. Anything includes forbidden alchemy and engineering to revive Cristina as part human, part machine. While the people of Santander will never approve of her very existence, Cristina vows to take down the witch owl coven and protect her people.
Once caras del punk: Antología de relatos by Okami Maresco, Dean Wyes, Hannelore Adler Gailwain, Diego J. Sañudo, Kimara Louise, Vianey Medina, and others
The title translates to Eleven Faces of Punk: Anthology of Stories — a collection of stories for the future and the past. It covers a range of science fiction subgenres, including steampunk, biopunk, solarpunk, and, of course, mesopunk. The mesopunk is strong across a few of the stories, bringing the feel of Mesoamerica to both the hope for the future and the dismal experience of the past.
If these top mesopunk books have you wishing for more, check out our list of great Aztec/Mexica mythology books, including the best meso-fantasy books like Season of the Bruja by Aaron Durán with art by Sara Soler.