cover image The Adventurists

The Adventurists

Richard Butner. Small Beer, $17 trade paper (320) ISBN 978-1-61873-194-4

Landscapes and memories alter, gentrify, and crumble in Butner’s flawless debut collection, which wends ghosts, virtual futures, and the intricacies of friendship into 16 breathtaking, intimate stories. “Holderhaven” slowly unfurls a country house museum’s ghostly mystery into a multifaceted examination of recreation’s limits, who is allowed agency, and the impossible truth behind the legend. “Ash City Stomp,” about an encounter with the devil, and “The Ornithopter,” set in a high-technology future, both imbue their speculative setups with vital humanity. The delicate “Adventure” holds a mirror to the aging process while still honoring a vividly alive present, and in “Sunnyside,” exes attend a successful artist friend’s virtual-reality wake in a breathtaking commentary on the act of remembering. Butner pairs clean, elegant prose with keen and generous human insight, unique imagery, and a broad range of interests, treating Renaissance faires, 1980s counterculture, and rich small-town worlds with the same loving deliberation. Readers of John Crowley, Ray Bradbury, and Sally Rooney alike will find a home in this beautiful, grounded exploration of pasts and futures—and the people suspended between them. (Feb.)