New & Notable Books, September 2018

B. Catling, The Cloven (Vintage 7/18) The final volume in the dark historical fantasy Vorrh trilogy (after The Vorrh and The Erstwhile) brings this ambitious and unpredictable series to a moving conclusion. Afrikaner socialite Cyrena Lohr mourns the death of her cyclops lover Ishmael and has a dalliance with naturalist Eugène Marais, who gives her a gift that allows her visions of another world… while Nicholas the Erstwhile senses looming danger, and the Nazi forces, already destroying London in the Blitz, turn their attention to Africa.

Gardner Dozois, Sense of Wonder (ReAnimus 7/18) This one hurts. The beloved author, editor, and reviewer died as this book was going to press. This hefty volume reprints 105 of his short fiction reviews from Locus magazine, covering 2009 to early 2017 – very nearly his complete run, missing only the last year or so of columns. Gardner’s aim was not formal criticism, but to let readers know which stories were worth their time, and why. These reviews provide not only an overview of the state of short fiction in the last decade, but also serve to showcase Dozois’s deep knowledge of the field, his puckish sense of humor, and his affection – sometimes exasperated, but never absent – for the world of SF stories.

Theodora Goss, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (Saga 7/19) Goss returns to the world of her acclaimed debut novel, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, for this second volume in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, bringing together “monstrous gentlewomen” inspired by the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, and H.G. Wells, for a new adventure. This time the Club sets out from London for a journey across the Continent to rescue Lucinda, the daughter of Professor Van Helsing. “The considerable charm of European Travel comes from the manner in which it deepens and complicates the relationships among its central characters… it’s fun to settle in and enjoy this company of remarkable women, discovering themselves and supporting each other in open defiance of the expectations of their era.” [Gary K. Wolfe]

Maria Dahvana Headley, The Mere Wife (MCD x FSG 7/18) Headley’s latest work is an ambitious and poetic retelling of Beowulf set around a modern gated community called Herot Hall. Gren, a boy who lives rough in an abandoned train station with his veteran mother, wanders into Herot Hall and befriends child of privilege Dylan, drawing the ire of Dylan’s wealthy, proper mom Willa… who enlists the help of local policeman Ben Woolf to track down the boys when they run off. Headley is also working on a new translation of Beowulf, forthcoming in 2019.

Kameron Hurley, Apocalypse Nyx (Tachyon 7/18) Hurley’s first novels, God’s War, Infidel, and Rapture (collectively the Bel Dame Apocrypha) were set in a world of bug-based technology, endless war, and deserts full of conniving magicians, and the protagonist was the hard-drinking, hard-fighting, brutal woman Nyx, a former assassin turned bounty hunter. This collection gathers five bizarre and violent stories about Nyx and her world, four of them written for Hurley’s Patreon backers, and thus new to most readers.

Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon, Conversations on Writing (Tin House 4/18) This engaging book-length interview chronicles a series of long conversations between the late Grand Master Le Guin and author David Naiman, with the manuscript completed shortly before the former’s death in January 2018. The wide-ranging discussion covers matters of craft, aesthetics, and philosophy, not just in Le Guin’s fiction, but in her less-discussed but no less impressive poetry and non-fiction. It’s full of valuable insights for writers and readers alike.

Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver (Del Rey 7/18) Novik made her name with the historical fantasy Temeraire series, but with last year’s Uprooted she proved herself just as adept with the materials of fairy tales. Spinning Silver is another retelling, this time of “Rumplestiltskin”, set in a world reminiscent of medieval Russia, about a Jewish money-lender’s daughter drawn into a terrible bargain with a fey king. “Marvelous to read. Novik’s characters are compelling, and the moral choices they are faced with are genuinely difficult…. It is, in fact, even better than Uprooted.” [Lila Garrott]

Rebecca Roanhorse, Trail of Lightning (Saga 6/18) In this first volume of the Sixth World series, debut novelist Roanhorse (interviewed elsewhere in this issue) has produced an engrossing and unconventional postapocalyptic tale rooted in Navajo mythology, featuring a cast of compelling and flawed characters who defy expectations. “A fun, fast book, immensely readable and very enjoyable.” [Liz Bourke]


Vivian Shaw, Dreadful Company (Orbit 7/18) In this sequel to Strange Company, “Doctor to the undead” Greta Helsing travels from England to Paris to attend a medical conference (on such topics as reconstructive surgery for zombies) and runs afoul of a coven of particularly ill-behaved vampires who have the run of the catacombs. Literary figures from Lord Ruthven to Varney the Vampire make appearances, along with a helpful werewolf, a demon, and ghost-hunters. “It’s a grand romp, mixing plenty of humor (even Oscar Wilde chimes in) and some heartwarming moments amid the chills.” [Carolyn Cushman]

Carrie Vaughn, The Wild Dead (Mariner 7/18) In this sequel to the Philip K. Dick Award-winner Bannerless, second in the Coast Road postapocalyptic SF series, the investigator Enid of Haven travels with her new partner Teeg to a remote settlement at the very edge of Coast Road territory to investigate the death of an outsider from the lawless regions nearby. Vaughn deftly blends procedural and SF elements in the series, which depicts a refreshingly cooperative approach to life after the apocalypse.

This list and more like it in the September 2018 issue of Locus.

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