The Changeling is a stunning piece of modern horror. Victor LaValle pulls off a feat that somehow blends humor, terror, the incorporation of fairytales, social commentary, a New York City setting, and a narrative voice so genuine that you can’t help but trust it implicitly. There are so many allegorical levels at work here, it’s dizzying. It’s a story about parenthood, race, gender, belief, technology, evil, and dogged hope. A fascinating read.
Incredibly meticulous, Alfred Lansing’s Endurance is almost intimidating in its level of detail at first. But the deeper I sank into this story, the more appreciative I became of that detail. The way that Lansing painstakingly analyzed every crew member’s diary, interviewed surviving members, and researched everything he could possibly get his hands on regarding Shackleton’s voyage makes this book the immersive masterpiece that it is. You feel every moment. Reading it left me in awe at the capacity of human beings. It moved me to tears. What a book. What a story. What an absolute miracle.
How High We Go in the Dark is structurally fascinating. It reminded me of the way family stories get passed down, and we end up remembering names from someone else’s memory because the names were important… even if we don’t really grasp why or to whom. We learn about important moments from lives that never touched ours, but yet treasure those seeds of information and carry them with us, believing they’re a part of our story, too. (Does that make sense?) What I’m driving at is Nagamatsu’s intentional, recursive setting down and picking up of themes in different time periods, and different lives, all ones that are struggling through the great challenges of living on planet earth. This novel imagines the fractal-patterned fallout of grief on a global scale as it manifests in individual experiences. It’s surprising, timely, and affecting.
Star Eater comes out blazing from page one with great worldbuilding that is both transportative and familiar. The story reads as a metaphorical exploration of inherited power and harm. While exploring those themes, Hall brings us interesting imagery, political intrigue, and a quest-driven plot along the way.
I’ve been a huge admirer of the late Ursula K. Le Guin ever since I read The Left Hand of Darkness and my mind was never the same. How lucky we are that some of her best writing advice is preserved in this volume! It’s a largely no-nonsense guide that distills writing into its most basic elements–she presents a deep dive on things like description, verb tenses, and point of view with plenty of examples and exercises to go with each section. But my favorite part was where she waxed a bit philosophical about how and why these nuts and bolts fit into the larger magic of story. There’s also a heaping helping of patented Le Guin sassiness and I loved that.
Rebecca Roanhorse brings us a gorgeously drawn fantasy world inspired by the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas in Black Sun. Everything from clothing to languages to rituals pulls from Roanhorse’s deep study of these cultures, woven together with a healthy dose of new magic. Exploring this part of the world and time in history from an epic fantasy angle is incredibly refreshing and satisfying. I want to walk around in the world of the book–it’s a powerhouse of sensory description, absolutely begging for a film adaptation. Xiala was my favorite character, and anyone who knows me and also reads this book will understand that she’s an obvious choice.
Little Eyes is a fascinating science fiction read from a powerhouse writer. It’s an eerie, prescient, and compelling look at how intimate connections with strangers are facilitated by technology. The structure of the novel is in vignettes connected by the overall idea, but in different iterations. What I find most interesting about the narration is Schweblin’s unflinching view and refusal to moralize, even while plumbing the uncomfortable crevices of the human psyche. If you’ve ever wondered if a furby could be evil, if the thought of smart home devices makes you queasy, or if you’ve ever bonded with a tamagotchi on a different level, this book will resonate with you.
I am a Twin Peaks superfan, so please understand that this was always destined to be an automatic five star. To that, I will add that this book is beautifully designed, extremely fun, and just satisfying enough that I felt I found some answers to what happened after Twin Peaks: The Return, but enough mystery was preserved that it’s still deliciously perplexing. (Also, the Margaret Coulson file made me cry!)
This book is phenomenally drawn, researched and told. Reading Seek You is a deeply personal act. As Kristen Radtke explores what it means to feel alone, her pages hold a mirror up to our own secret longings and darkest hours. The book asks important questions. It gives intensely challenging reasons to rethink and reimagine the ways we choose to carry our own cycles of loneliness. Radtke delivers a fascinating look at American culture and the human heart.
This book is a fascinating, deeply disturbing study on how childhood trauma impacted two lives: one who went on to commit horrific violence, and another who went on to become a loving parent with a happy life. The latter of these is Liza Rodman, who recounts her childhood in Provincetown, Massachusetts in the heart of the 1960’s. The former was her sometime babysitter, Tony Costa-a man who became nothing less than a demon, plagued by violent impulses and devoid of remorse. The way these two real-life narratives intertwine (Rodman’s in first person, Tony’s in a meticulously researched third person from journalist Jennifer Jordan) is engrossing and horrifying. It reminds us that evil sits side by side with the benign, and that we should always trust our instincts when we feel that something… or someone… is off.