Fiction Affliction: Genre-Benders for May

There are some big names lurking among May’s fourteen genre-bending releases: Neil Gaiman! Don DeLillo! Joyce Carol Oates! Joe Hill! But don’t get distracted—this month also includes a pair of peculiar Londons (in Smoke and The Chimes); a high-school exorcism; a strangely forgettable teen; and so much more…

Fiction Affliction details releases in science fiction, fantasy, and “genre-benders.” Keep track of them all here. Note: All title summaries are taken and/or summarized from copy provided by the publisher.

 

WEEK ONE

Zero K—Don DeLillo (May 3, Scribner)
“We are born without choosing to be. Should we have to die in the same manner? Isn’t it a human glory to refuse to accept a certain fate?” These questions haunt Zero K and its memorable characters. Jeffrey Lockhart’s father, Ross, is a billionaire in his sixties, with a younger wife, Artis Martineau, whose health is failing. Ross is the primary investor in a remote and secret compound where death is exquisitely controlled and bodies are preserved until a future time when biomedical advances and new technologies can return them to a life of transcendent promise. Jeff joins Ross and Artis at the compound to say “an uncertain farewell” to her as she surrenders her body.

The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Horror—Joyce Carol Oates (May 3, Grove/Atlantic)
In The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror, Joyce Carol Oates evokes the “fascination of the abomination” that is at the core of the most profound, the most unsettling, and the most memorable of dark mystery fiction. In the title story, a young boy becomes obsessed with his cousin’s doll after she tragically passes away from leukemia. As he grows older, he begins to collect “found dolls” from the surrounding neighborhoods and stores his treasures in the abandoned carriage house on his family’s estate. But just what kind of dolls are they? In “Gun Accident,” a teenage girl is thrilled when her favorite teacher asks her to house-sit, even on short notice. But when an intruder forces his way into the house while the girl is there, the fate of more than one life is changed forever.

The ChimesAnna Smaill (May 3, Quercus)
After the end of a brutal civil war, London is divided. Monk-like masters are selected for special schooling and shut away for decades, learning to write beautiful compositions for the chimes, played citywide morning and night, to mute memory and keep the citizens trapped in ignorance. A young orphan named Simon arrives in London with nothing but a half-forgotten promise to locate someone. What he finds is a new family—a gang of scavengers that patrols the underbelly of the city looking for valuable metal to sell. In this alternate London, the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is considered “blasphony.” But Simon has a unique gift—the gift of retaining memories—that will lead him into an epic struggle for justice, love, and freedom.

Over Your Dead Body (John Wayne Cleaver #5)—Dan Wells (May 3, Tor Books)
John and Brooke are on their own, hitchhiking from town to town as they hunt the last of the Withered through the midwest. With each new town, each new truck stop, each new highway, they get closer to a vicious killer who defies every principle of profiling and prediction John knows how to use. Meanwhile, Brooke’s fractured psyche teeters on the edge of oblivion, overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of dead personalities sharing her mind. She flips in and out of lucidity, manifesting new names and thoughts and memories every day, until at last the one personality pops up that John never expected and has no idea how to deal with. The last of Nobody’s victims, trapped forever in the body of his last remaining friend.

 

WEEK TWO

MongrelsStephen Graham Jones (May 10, William Morrow)
He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his aunt Libby and uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixed blood, neither this nor that. For ten years, the boy and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and narrow escapes—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will finally know if their nephew is like them or not. Mongrels is a moving, sometimes grisly novel that illuminates the challenges and tender joys of a life beyond the ordinary in a bold and imaginative way.

The Mirror ThiefMartin Seay (May 10, Melville House)
In sixteenth century Venice, makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world’s most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination, the Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however, has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city’s terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten. Meanwhile, in two other Venices—Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today—two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret. Set in three cities in three eras, The Mirror Thief calls to mind David Mitchell and Umberto Eco in its mix of entertainment and literary bravado.

 

WEEK THREE

My Best Friend’s ExorcismGrady Hendrix (May 17, Quirk)
The year is 1988. High school sophomores Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fourth grade. But after an evening of skinny-dipping goes disastrously wrong, Gretchen begins to act… different. She’s moody. She’s irritable. And bizarre incidents keep happening whenever she’s nearby. Abby’s investigation leads her to some startling discoveries—and by the time their story reaches its terrifying conclusion, the fate of Abby and Gretchen will be determined by a single question: Is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil? Like an unholy hybrid of Beaches and The Exorcist, My Best Friend’s Exorcism blends teen angst, adolescent drama, unspeakable horrors, and a mix of ’80s pop songs into a pulse-pounding supernatural thriller.

The FiremanJoe Hill (May 17, William Morrow)
A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. There is no antidote. Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, has discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. She and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as the Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself. Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

The Sudden Appearance of HopeClaire North (May 17, Orbit)
My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. But we’ve met before-a thousand times. It started when I was sixteen years old. A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A friend who looks at me and sees a stranger. No matter what I do, the words I say, the crimes I commit, you will never remember who I am. That makes my life difficult. It also makes me dangerous.

 

WEEK FOUR

The City of Mirrors (Passage #3)—Justin Cronin (May 24, Ballantine Books)
The Twelve have been destroyed and the terrifying hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew—and daring to dream of a hopeful future. But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy—humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him. One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu—edited by Paula Guran (May 24, Running Press)
An anthology of original stories inspired by H. P. Lovecraft from authors who do not merely imitate, but reimagine, re-energize, and renew his concepts in ways relevant to today’s readers. Fresh new fiction that explores our modern fears and nightmares. From the depths of R’lyeh to the heights of the Mountains of Madness, some of today’s best weird fiction writers present tales of cosmic horror that traverse terrain created by Lovecraft and create new eldritch geographies to explore. Including stories by: Laird Barron, Ruthanna Emrys, Caitlín R. Kiernan, John Langan, Yoon Ha Lee, Helen Marshall, Silvia Moreno, Veronica Schanoes, and more.

SmokeDan Vyleta (May 24, Doubleday)
In an utterly strange and utterly real England, people who are wicked in thought or deed are marked by the Smoke that pours forth from their bodies, a sign of their fallen state. The aristocracy do not smoke, proof of their virtue and right to rule, while the lower classes are drenched in sin and soot. Three young people learn everything they’ve been taught is a lie—knowledge that could cost them their lives.

 

WEEK FIVE

The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected NonfictionNeil Gaiman (May 31, William Morrow)
An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; and ghosts. The View from the Cheap Seats offers a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

The Geek Feminist RevolutionKameron Hurley (May 31, Tor Books)
The Geek Feminist Revolution collects dozens of double Hugo Award-winning essayist and fantasy novelist Kameron Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution also features several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume. Unapologetically outspoken, Hurley has contributed essays to The Atlantic, Locus, Tor.com, and others on the rise of women in genre, her passion for SF/F, and the diversification of publishing.

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