cover image Mars


Asja Bakic, trans. from the Croatian by Jennifer Zoble. Feminist, $16.95 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-936932-48-1

Bosnian writer Bakic’s debut teems with the oddball narratives of George Saunders, the eerie atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe, and the feminist intellect of Marge Piercy. Her characters all, in one form or another, use language to survive, to manipulate, or to shine. In “Day Trip to Durmitor,” a writer dies and goes to purgatory; she can’t leave until she composes her masterpiece. In “The Talus of Madame Liken,” a sociopathic murderer, so masterful at deceit, gets confronted by someone who knows her secret. “Buried Treasure” shows how children imbue an ordinary summer with mythical undercurrents, when a well digger becomes a monster they’d read about in a supernatural magazine. “Asja 5.0” features a writer named Asja, who lives in a world where people no longer have sex, writes porn for a man whose “hope was to be the first man to achieve an erection in god know how many years,” and also negotiates with one of four clones of herself. “The Underworld” takes place in a future where “one day, with no explanation, writing had been proclaimed the greatest evil to have befallen mankind, and all literary works and the people who’d produced them were banished to space—specifically, to Mars. Told in a straightforward manner that transports speculative fiction into almost realist territory, Bakic’s collection imaginatively and strikingly examines sci-fi tropes from not only the point of view of women, but also from the voice of an effortlessly gifted writer whose future is much brighter than that of those depicted in her stories. (Mar.)