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William Gibson, seen here in the indoor public area at the Vancouver Public Library in Vancouver, B.C., also enjoys the writings of ... William Gibson.

Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

The concourse of Moshe Safdie's Library Square in Vancouver is a good place to have a coffee and read a book. The town I grew up in had no public library, so large ones still fill me with a pleasant awe. I like to imagine Safdie's concourse as it might look in a hundred years or so, the building well worn in, with a small Parisian-style used book market set up opposite the shops and cafés. We can do things like that with public buildings when they're sufficiently old, beloved, familiar.

Urban futures, and urban presents that feel like futures, are my stock in trade, but recently I've been reading a different sort of urban fantasy, and have particularly enjoyed three books. Lev Grossman's The Magicians is like a Harry Potter book in which the characters grow up to have difficult adult lives indeed. Lauren Beukes's Zoo City, set in a version of contemporary South Africa identical to our own except for the fact that "sinners" have been saddled with magical animal familiars, offers the reader the pleasure of reverse engineering and a startling vivid image of the real South Africa out of her brilliant fantasy.

Richard Kadrey's Kill the Dead does something similar to Los Angeles, but to outrageously comical and brawling effect. All very good, and just in time for Halloween.

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Vancouver-based writer William Gibson is the author of nine works of science fiction, including most recently Zero History, which completes a trilogy (with Pattern Recognition and Spook Country). He invented the term "cyberspace" in the mid-1980s, long before the Internet era, and is one of the first practitioners of SF's cyberpunk subgenre.

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