Susanna Clarke, Piranesi (Bloomsbury US 9/20) This much-anticipated new novel from the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell departs from Clarke’s magical 19th century to follow the ingenuous title character for whom the massive House is the entire world, with halls and rooms that go on forever, an ocean in the lower floors, and only a mysterious Other and corpses for company. “The elegant and ingenious structure of the novel lends it a haunting quality which would not be nearly as hypnotic were the story told any other way… an astonishing narrative performance.” [Gary K. Wolfe]
Elwin Cotman, Dance on Saturday (Small Beer 9/20) This genre-bending collection offers six stories (two reprints) mixing everything from fairytales and Victorian literature to horror. “I have been unfortunate enough to miss Elwin Cotman’s two previous collections…. But now that I’ve latched onto his third, Dance On Saturday, and enjoyed the ever-lovin’ pants off it, I can solace myself by contemplating the untapped reservoir of heartfelt gonzo Cotmanesque fiction that awaits me.” [Paul Di Filippo]
Andrea Hairston, Master of Poisons (Tor.com Publishing 9/20) The worldbuilding shines in this complex, African-inspired epic fantasy, following the griot Awa and Djola, Master of Poisons, both seeking to save the Arkhysian Empire from a poison desert spreading across the land.
Maria Dahvana Headley, Beowulf (MCD X FCD 8/20) Headley’s new feminist verse translation of the classic Old English poem seeks to update the language and restore lost nuances and historical context, particularly in the epic’s treatment of Grendel’s mother. This new look at a seminal tale of heroes and monsters – and Headley’s introduction on the choices involved in her work – will reward anyone interested in the roots of fantasy, and the treatment of gender.
Zenna Henderson, Believing: The Other Stories of Zenna Henderson (NESFA Press 2/20) Henderson’s best known for her stories of the People, alien refugees passing as human on Earth, but this collects another 38 stories, most originally collected in the hard-to-find Holding Wonder and The Anything Box, and adds five stories and three poems never collected before. Some are a bit dated, but Henderson still manages to bring a wonderful down-home charm to even the rare scary stories.
R.B. Lemberg, The Four Profound Weaves (Tachyon 9/20) Fantasy novella, the first in the Birdverse universe, about two transgender elders learning to weave from Death in order to defeat an evil ruler. “For once, these aren’t whip-smart kids learning to be gods or kings, but complex, experienced older adults recognizing and acting on what a lifetime has taught them about resistance, redemption, and loyalty. If that isn’t rarity enough, Lemberg’s gorgeous prose sets The Four Profound Weaves apart as one of the most beautifully written fantasies of the year.” [Gary K. Wolfe]
Naomi Novik, A Deadly Education (Del Rey 9/20) Entertainingly dark and almost over-the-top, this first book in the Scholomance trilogy introduces a magic boarding school where students, magically enrolled against their wills, face continuous deadly threats, from the cafeteria food to hordes of monsters waiting for the graduating class to try to leave. El, a girl with no allies and secretly possessed of great power she dare not use, decides in her first year to get rid of an annoying young hero who keeps rescuing her – but things don’t work out the way she expects.
Daniel Pinkwater, Adventures of a Dwergish Girl (Tachyon 9/20) Pinkwater’s latest fantasy is a charming and quite humorous middle-grade tale of one of the little people of the Catskills (think “Rip Van Winkle”) who decides to leave her isolated village for the outside world. Written for a younger audience and often silly, it nonetheless manages enough amusingly acute observations on the modern world to entertain older readers with a taste for whimsy.
Natalie Zina Walschots, Hench (Morrow 9/20) A first novel getting critical acclaim, this darkly humorous superhero fantasy follows a young woman doing temp office work for supervillains until she gets injured by a hero, starts gathering information on such incidents, and discovers the greatest power may be data and spreadsheets. “It is a clever, witty, vigorous, and well-crafted adventure in this mode of superhero revisionism, by turns hilarious and tragic, alternately rudely juvenile or sophisticated.” [Paul Di Filippo]
Sheila Williams, ed., Entanglements: Tomorrow’s Lovers, Families, and Friends (MIT Press 9/20) The latest anthology in MIT Press’s Twelve Tomorrows series offers 10 new stories about people with a variety of personal connections and how they are affected by technological advances, from AI family therapy to a futuristic love potion, by an impressive group of authors including James Patrick Kelly, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nancy Kress, Sam J. Miller, Annalee Newitz, and Cadwell Turnbull.
From the November 2020 issue of Locus.
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