cover image A Better World

A Better World

Sarah Langan. Atria, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-982191-06-1

In the near-future world where Bram Stoker Award winner Langan’s ambitious latest (after Good Neighbors) takes place, climate disaster and rampant crime have transformed life into a struggle for survival. For Brooklyn’s Farmer-Bowen clan, salvation beckons when patriarch Russell, a scientist recently laid off from the EPA, is offered a trial position at South Dakota’s Plymouth Valley, one of a handful of “company towns” that are the only remaining safe spaces on the planet. The oasis, constructed decades earlier by eco-engineering firm BetterWorld, seems like a golden ticket: as long as new employees pass an annual review, BetterWorld provides them with housing, transport, food, and clothing. As Russell’s pediatrician wife, Linda, and their teenage twins attempt to fit into their new surroundings, Linda comes to worry that Plymouth Valley is too good to be true. Unfailingly polite but uniformly remote, the locals give her a sinister, Stepford Wives vibe, regularly snubbing her and the twins—and that’s before she begins asking questions about a series of opaque neighborhood customs known as “Hollow.” Blending suspense, tragedy, and flashes of comedy, Langan keeps her cards close to the vest as the Farmer-Bowens’ perfect escape morphs into a sinister trap. This deeply disturbing tale will keep readers up at night. Agent: Stacia Decker, Dunlow, Carlson & Lerner. (Apr.)