Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, he latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

The Cabinet

Un Su Kim, trans. from the Korean by Sean Lin Halbert. Angry Robot, $14.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-85766-917-9

Though Kim’s second novel, The Plotters, was his first work translated into English, this brilliant mosaic novel was his debut in South Korea and is now available in English in a faithful and charismatic translation. Mr. Kong is an everyman office worker who organizes and oversees Cabinet 13, a filing cabinet full of stories. Winding through his recognizable reality are the bizarre accounts of strange occurrences contained within the cabinet, among them, “Why, Ludger Sylbaris, Why?” the story of the lone survivor of a volcanic eruption who is saved by his town’s bizarre superstitions. “The Magician” tells of a man so desperate to escape his troubles that he seeks out supernatural help to become a cat. And the philosophical “Bluffer” reads almost like an essay on the nature of phobia. These stories straddle the lines between science fiction, fantasy, fairy tale, and acute reality, and all are told in an approachable style. Readers will be drawn in by the subtle yet effective oddities that grow increasingly more bizarre as the work wends on. This deserves a wide audience Agent: Barbara Zitwer, Barbara J. Zitwer Agency. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Far from the Light of Heaven

Tade Thompson. Orbit, $16.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-7595-5791-8

After the AI fails aboard the colony ship Ragtime, first mate Shell Campion must figure out who’s responsible for a string of deaths in this inventive tale from Arthur C. Clarke Award–winner Thompson (the Wormwood trilogy). Starship AIs are supposed to be infallible, but when the Ragtime arrives at the colony planet Bloodroot, Shell wakes to find the ship in backup mode. The AIs are barely maintaining the ship, and 31 of the 1,000 sleeping passengers are dead. Thompson builds intrigue through clever story structure and shifting perspectives when Shell’s distress call to Bloodroot is answered by investigator Fin and his AI assistant, Salvo—and Shell jumps to the top of their suspect list. A fun dynamic emerges between logical Fin and no-nonsense Shell as it becomes clear that the ship AI is not just faulty but severely compromised, and a new question arises: how did a wolf get aboard the Ragtime? Though the resolution is rushed, with some details of the mystery arising too late to be truly satisfying, Thompson’s appealing take on long-distance space travel, subversion of typical AI tropes, tender characterization, and cleverly constructed suspense makes this worthwhile fare. Readers looking for a smart sci-fi mystery should snap this up. Agent: Alex Cochran, C&W. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Questland

Carrie Vaughn. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $15.99 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-358-34628-9

Professor Addie Cox is pulled into a real-life roleplaying game in this entertaining genre-bender from Vaughn (the Kitty Norville series). Insula Mirabilis, the Wonderful Island, is the brainchild of tech giant Harris Lang, conceived as a fantasy theme park off the coast of Washington State complete with magic and mythical creatures, all created through advanced technology. But after Lang’s production team mutinies and isolates the island under a high-tech shield, Lang hires a team of soldiers to quash the rebellion and brings in Addie to help the mercenaries understand the myth and folklore that rule the island. Addie may also be his best hope for reining in Dominic Brand, the mutiny’s leader and Addie’s ex-boyfriend. Replete with dragons and enchantment, the island is even more fantastic than Addie could have imagined, but she soon discovers that the developers have continued working, rendering useless the maps she and the soldiers have. To regain control from Dominic, the group will have to navigate a series of traps, challenges, and side quests to reach the island’s center. Vaughn lays out every tabletop gamer’s dream as she skillfully creates the illusionary world of Insula Mirabilis. The result is a delightful romp. Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Company. (June)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Pearl

Josh Malerman. Del Rey, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-23783-0

Bestseller Malerman (Bird Box) offers a muddy, meandering horror tale that nevertheless contains some memorably upsetting images. The residents of small town Chowder, Mich., grapple with the presence of Pearl, a telepathic pig with the ability to control the minds of humans and drive them mad with hallucinations. Among those affected are a farmer’s daughter who fights to protect her family from the pig that terrified her in her youth, a trio of stoned teenagers who explore Pearl’s farm only to uncover mind-melting horrors, and a broken businessman who must finally confront the malevolent force that has haunted him for a decade. As the bodies pile up, the townspeople’s paths converge at Pearl’s barn, where they must maintain enough sanity to defeat Pearl once and for all. The novel suffers from thin characterization and a lack of narrative momentum, and though Malerman’s exclamatory style lends itself well to the scarier moments, the story never quite manages to work its way around to coherence. This is best suited for Malerman’s die-hard fans. Agent: Kristen Nelson, Nelson Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Sistersong

Lucy Holland. Redhook, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-316-32077-1

Holland (Firestorm) delivers an enchanting queer retelling of the English murder ballad “The Twa Sisters.” King Cador of the kingdom of Dumnonia in ancient Britain has turned his back on magic in favor of Christianity. His lands retaliate by yielding a poor harvest, and without magic, Dumnonia is vulnerable to invasion by the Saxon army. Cador’s children, Riva, Sinne, and Keyne, are the only hope to restore the kingdom’s vigor, but each struggles with their own inner battles: Riva blames herself for her childhood scars, Sinne fancies a fairy-tale love, and Keyne fights against his parents’ preconceptions of his gender and struggles to get them to accept him identifying as a man. The sudden arrival of a mysterious warrior named Tristan upends the lives of all three siblings. Holland seamlessly weaves magic and folklore into the mystery around Tristan’s identity, but as the hints about his true nature increase halfway through the novel, the conclusion becomes disappointingly predictable. Still, Holland’s fast-paced plot and fresh, inventive take on a little-known classic make for a stirring experience. Fans of folkloric fantasy will be spellbound. Agent: Veronique Baxter, David Higham Assoc. (U.K.). (Oct.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Devil’s Dictionary

Steven Kotler. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-20209-3

Kotler’s earnest hero Lion Zorn gets back to work (after 2019’s Last Tango in Cyberspace) in this action-packed but moralizing techno thriller in which billionaires fight to control the fate of the global ecosystem. Lion, an “empathy tracker” whose sensitivity to individual and social emotions makes him a valuable marketeering tool, is on the trail of two colleagues who vanished after telling him of a new empathy drug, Evo. The case leads Lion into the feud between Sir Richard (his former boss) and a charismatic self-help guru, Chang Zee. Both wealthy men have visions of remaking the world: Sir Richard with a series of restored wilderness “mega-linkages,” Zee by reengineering humanity from the genes up. As more people go missing, Lion has to penetrate Sir Richard’s project and piece together his past connections to Zee to solve the case. Kotler tends to lecture but never quite forgets to keep the plot boiling, whether Lion is dangling over the streets of Seattle or slaloming off cliffs in search of killer flying snakes. Readers with a fondness for nature will appreciate Lion and the sincerity of his quest. Agent: Paul Bresnick, Bresnick Weil Literary. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Innate Magic

Shannon Fay. 47North, $14.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3203-2

Fay’s stirring debut and Marrowbone Spells series launch takes readers to 1950s London, where a reckless mage’s lofty ambitions land him in dire straits. Charismatic Paul Gallagher is a struggling cloth mage with a knack for imbuing garments with magic, but his humble sewing skills will only get him so far. Instead, its his curiously magnetic personality and charming pomposity that win him his connection to war hero Capt. Hector Hollister, to whom he boasts of his goal to become the next Court Magician. In all of Great Britain, only the Court Magician is allowed to wield innate magic, a dangerous skill that allows one to create other mages. The obsessive Hollister entertains Paul’s friendship, and Paul naively believes that the dashing captain could be the key to raising his station. Too late, he realizes Hollister’s true, malevolent motivations. Meanwhile, Paul harbours a deadly secret of his own. Now he must find a way out of a perilous mess of his making before it’s too late. Fay expertly crafts a delightfully adventurous tale, animated by Paul’s chance encounters and audacious antics. This promising series starter announces Fay as a writer to watch. Agent: Rebecca Strauss, DeFiore and Co. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 07/02/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
Research Into Marginal Living

John D. Keefauver. Lethe, $20 trade paper (286p) ISBN 978-1-590-21514-2

These 30 outstanding stories from Keefauver are, as Joe R. Lansdale puts it in the introduction, “from another dimension.” This is more than just a collection from a prolific but obscure speculative author; it’s the swirling record of a uniquely off-kilter writer’s trajectory across genres, from straightforward crime (“The Jam”) to mind-melting surrealist horror (“Getting to Lord Jesus Is a Powerfully Important Thing”). A mailman watches a house shrink each day (“Special Handling”); a lonely man learns to smile when he finds a doll in the garbage who smiles back (“Past a Smile on the Wall”); a hapless postal worker helps the hippies win the culture war (“How Henry J. Littlefinger Licked the Hippies’ Scheme to Take Over the Country by Tossing Pot in Postage Stamp Glue”); and a washed-up trapeze artist with a bellyful of sawdust applies for a day job (“The Daring Old Maid on the Flying Trapeze”). Of particular note is “The Pile of Sand,” a lost weird fiction classic that readers owe it to themselves to be astounded by. Editor Scott Nicolay provides commentary at the end of each story, discussing how each fits into the development of Keefauver’s singularly strange oeuvre. This collection will leave minds scrambled in the best of ways. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Liar of Red Valley

Walter Goodwater. Solaris, $24.99 (464p) ISBN 978-1-78108-911-8

When the Liar of Red Valley, Calif., dies unexpectedly, her daughter, Sadie, inherits the position and must face off against monsters to protect the town she hates in this electrifying urban fantasy from Goodwater (Cold War Magic). Sadie’s mother taught her nothing about how to use the Liar’s magic, a gift from the mysterious King of Red Valley that allows lies to become true for those willing to pay the price. Sadie is both tough and vulnerable as she works to master this power while holding off the egotistical undersheriff and the frightening Laughing Boys, a dangerous gang of junkies possessed by demons. These enemies are after the Liar’s ledgers, a record of all the lies of Red Valley. Goodwater sets a breakneck pace as Sadie discovers dangerous secrets about both the King and his people in the ledgers and the King’s ancient enemies converge on the town. Now Sadie must choose whether to rally the townspeople who have always shunned her or abandon them to their fate. Chilling monsters, excellent interiority, and shocking twists make the pages fly as Goodwater builds to a climax which, unfortunately, falls a little flat after the high-stakes entertainment that precedes it. Still, the thrilling journey there is well worth it. Agent: Jennifer Udden, New Leaf Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2020

Edited by C.L. Clark and series editor Charles Payseur. Neon Hemlock, $18.99 trade paper (264p) ISBN 978-1-952086-27-4

Clark (The Unbroken) and Payseur (The Burning Day) present a diverse, well-crafted anthology of queer speculative fiction, bringing together 16 stories from both established and emerging authors. Highlights include the ambiguous, multilayered “Escaping Dr. Markoff” by Gabriela Santiago, which subverts gothic film tropes to play with gender, sexuality, and race; Naomi Kanaki’s short, bittersweet “Everquest,” in which the protagonist’s video-game avatar takes on a life of her own; “Salt and Iron” by Gem Isherwood, which explores redemption and the legacy of violence as its protagonist attempts to break a curse; and “The Wedding After the Bomb” by Brendan Williams-Childs, in which the nonbinary protagonist treks through a burned-out wasteland on their way to a wedding while contemplating the implications of apocalypse on their fundamental sense of self. There’s a wide range of genres and voices on offer, but all are thematically united by explorations of transformation and movement. This promising start to a new anthology series will appeal to any reader of contemporary short SFF, queer or otherwise, and reinforces Neon Hemlock’s spot at the apex of queer speculative fiction publishing. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 06/25/2021 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

Parts of this site are only available to paying PW subscribers. Subscribers: to set up your digital access click here.

To subscribe, click here.

PW “All Access” site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. Simply close and relaunch your preferred browser to log-in. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com.

If you have questions or need assistance setting up your account please email PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

Not Registered? Click here.