Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal is something that every reader secretly and desperately craves: fast-paced. Percy’s mastery of plot is on display in this intricately cast sci-fi thrill ride. The high concept is overlaid by a rocketfuel stortyline that is, among other things, an unabashed homage to comicbook superheroes and supervillains. You’ll find plenty of both in the fictionalized Northern Minnesota of The Ninth Metal. (A region which, by the way, Percy culturally nails down to every detail.)
Eerie, slippery, lush, and dark, the distinct stories in this collection are jointed together by their setting and recurring characters. Vadnais’ writing (by way of Strauss’ translation) does dreamlike horror very well, while imagining how the near-future world, rather than being humanity’s victim, may very well reckon with us. Fascinating stuff.
The Vanished Birds is nothing short of stunning. Simon Jimenez manages to cover a thousand years of history on a galactic scope and somehow still tell a story as intimate as a lullaby. The planets, cultures, and personalities are richly envisioned. Everything feels immediate. Jimenez’s prose is perceptive, agile magic. The unique longing and wonder of this novel is hard to articulate beyond this: I will never forget it.
Sorrowland is difficult to classify, and (as I’ve probably mentioned before) that is something I always enjoy. This book is horror, it’s a motherhood story, it’s a political allegory, it’s erotic, it’s fantastical… it’s wild, just like its protagonist Vern. And I think that’s part of Solomon’s point with this story, that there’s no such thing as too much, that we limit the power of others and the possibility of the world when we say “no, that’s too different; no, that’s not allowed; no, that’s not normal; no, that’s too far.” These are the questions of this novel: Why can’t we do away with limits? Why can’t we reinvent reality? I deeply respect Solomon’s boldness with this nightmarish, fabulist piece of social criticism.
This book is so beautifully written, researched, and organized. Like the whale, it is heavy. Like the whale, it has many different functions and territories within a single body. Part memoir, part natural history, part catalog, part philosophy, Rebecca Giggs takes on the massive task of exploring how whales and human beings will never be free of each other’s influence. She presents a connection between humans and whales across species that has enlightened, destroyed, moved, fed, thrilled, and poisoned bodies, cultures, and our own vision of ourselves. An urgent and unflinching piece of environmental writing, and a true, poetic love at its core.
Klara and the Sun is the first Ishiguro novel I’ve read, and now I understand why his work is so widely loved. He writes with such grace. It takes guts to write a novel about the limitations of love from a robot’s perspective, but in Ishiguro’s hands it is entirely believable. The book itself is like the qualities of human nature that Klara is always observing–both simple and incomprehensible. There is nothing else like this. It is a balm to read, a new favorite.
Rosewater is an innovative read with a lot of interesting takes on classic sci-fi tropes that ultimately make them… well… weirder. The main character is very much an antihero: self-absorbed and funny if not dismissive of nearly everything and everyone. But the positioning of Kaaro as a reluctant narrator not really bent on saving anyone’s life (or even day) creates a unique reading experience that lets us explore Thompson’s city of Rosewater without preconceived notions. It’s a neat trick how Kaaro’s gift is seeing into the minds of others, and as readers we experience something akin to that as we witness his perspective. Everything is presented as a little bit broken and dirty here–grey morality abounds.
Sarah Perry’s sophomore novel may be a gothic tale about fear, but the writing itself is absolutely fearless. Uniting several different stories that cross time and place by cataloging them as proof in a surreal monster investigation, Perry dissects the idea of guilt in ways both sweeping and intimate. In a narrative style that pulls the reader (at times uncomfortably) close, the story allows us to discover and dread along with our protagonist. Unnerving, at times devastating, at times funny, and always honest, this is a modern, cursed gothic story told with a wildfire level of passion, even as it masquerades beneath British restraint.
Jac Jemc’s short story collection is just sensational. These stories are tied together by strokes of odd happenstance that whittle change into the lives of their characters. Surprising, uncanny, funny, and dark, these stories are all about people we recognize. Strange as they may be, we’ve all met them and we’ve all privately wondered, “What’s it like to be that person?” This book offers one set of answers, shining Jemc’s unique light on the human experience. Such talent!
This book is everything I hoped it might be and more. Jeremy Wade’s voice, experience, and specialty are each one of the most unique you’re liable to find. In this superbly fishy little volume, Wade plumbs the depths (forgive me) of the peculiar obsession involved in perfecting one’s craft. There are spectacular fish stories and practical tips, but what’s best is the philosophical underpinning and gentle humor that make this book far more beautiful than a simple angler’s guide.