Fiction Affliction: Genre-Benders for August

Twenty-one genre-hopping, bending, dancing, mashing, and otherwise mixing-up books join the uncategorizable category this month. Hang out with nature in Drew Magary’s The Hike or Ali Shaw’s The Trees; investigate some out-there threats with the FBI in Chuck Wendig’s Invasive; explore the Curioddity of comics-writer-turned-novelist Paul Jenkins; and pick up the latest from China Miéville. It’s a good month to get a little weird.

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

The HikeDrew Magary (August 2, Viking)
When Ben, a suburban family man, takes a business trip to rural Pennsylvania, he decides to spend the afternoon before his dinner meeting on a short hike. Once he sets out into the woods behind his hotel, he quickly comes to realize that the path he has chosen cannot be given up easily. With no choice but to move forward, Ben finds himself falling deeper and deeper into a world of man-eating giants, bizarre demons, and colossal insects. On a quest of epic, life-or-death proportions, Ben finds help comes in some of the most unexpected forms, including a profane crustacean and a variety of magical objects, tools, and potions. Desperate to return to his family, Ben is determined to track down the “Producer,” the creator of the world in which he is being held hostage and the only one who can free him from the path.

1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz (Ring of Fire #20)—Kerryn Offord & Rick Boatright (August 2, Baen)
Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz, the world’s greatest alchemist and a great-grandson of Paracelsus—and a Bombast on his mother’s side—was a man history had forgotten. But when the town of Grantville was transported by a cosmic accident from modern West Virginia to central Germany in the early seventeenth century, he got a second chance at fame and fortune. The world’s greatest alchemist does not make household goods. But with suitable enticements Gribbleflotz is persuaded to make baking soda and then baking powder so that the time-displaced Americans can continue to enjoy such culinary classics as biscuits and gravy. Applying his superb grasp of the principles of alchemy to the muddled and confused notions the Americans have concerning what they call “chemistry,” Gribbleflotz leaves obscurity behind. In his relentless search for a way to invigorate the quinta essential of the human humors, Gribbleflotz plays a central role in jump-starting the seventeenth century’s new chemical and marital aids industries—and pioneering such critical fields of human knowledge as pyramidology and aura imaging. These are his chronicles.

The Language of DyingSarah Pinborough (August 2, Jo Fletcher Books)
A woman sits at her father’s bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters—she is the middle child of five—have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. Each is traumatized in his or her own way, and the bonds that unite them to each other are fragile—as fragile perhaps as the old man’s health. With her siblings all gone, back to their self-obsessed lives, she is now alone with the faltering wreck of her father’s cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it—the dark and nameless, the impossible, presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house—comes calling. As the clock ticks away in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her, a reunion she both dreads and aches for…

The TreesAli Shaw (August 2, Bloomsbury USA)
The Trees. They arrived in the night: wrenching through the ground, thundering up into the air, and turning Adrien’s suburban street into a shadowy forest. Determined to get some answers, he ventures out, passing destroyed buildings, felled power lines, and broken bodies. It is soon apparent that no help is coming and that these trees span far beyond the town. As far, perhaps, as the coast, where across the sea in Ireland, Adrien’s wife is away on a business trip and there is no way of knowing whether she is alive or dead. When Adrien meets Hannah, a woman who, unlike him, believes that the coming of the trees may signal renewal rather than destruction, and Seb, her technology-obsessed son, they persuade him to join them. Together, they pack up what remains of the lives they once had and set out on a quest to find Hannah’s forester brother and Adrien’s wife—and to discover just how deep the forest goes.

 

WEEK TWO

Good Morning, MidnightLily Brooks-Dalton (August 9, Random House)
For years Augustine, a brilliant, aging astronomer, has lived in remote outposts, studying the sky for evidence of how the universe began. At his latest posting, in a research center in the Arctic, news of a catastrophic event arrives. The scientists evacuate, but Augustine stubbornly refuses to abandon his work. Shortly after the others have gone, Augustine discovers a mysterious child, Iris, and realizes that the airwaves have gone silent.At the same time, Mission Specialist Sullivan is aboard the Aether on its return flight from Jupiter. The astronauts are the first human beings to delve this deep into space, and Sully has made peace with the sacrifices required of her: a daughter left behind, a marriage ended. But when Mission Control falls inexplicably silent, Sully and her crewmates are forced to wonder if they will ever get home. As Augustine and Sully each face an uncertain future against forbidding yet beautiful landscapes, their stories gradually intertwine in a profound and unexpected conclusion.

Froelich’s LadderJamie Duclos-Yourdon (August 9, Forest Avenue Press)
When Froelich disappears from the fourth-tallest ladder in the world, his nephew’s quest to find him interlaces with the journeys of two spunky young women who outwit their guardians. In a Wild West populated with immigrants, skittish Civil War veterans, hungry clouds, a circus menagerie, and a few murderers, this fairy-tale twist on the American dream explores the conflict between loyalty and ambition, and the need for connection, even at the highest rungs.

KillfileChristopher Farnsworth (August 9, William Morrow)
John Smith possesses a special gift that seems more like a curse: he can access other people’s thoughts. He hears the songs stuck in their heads, knows their most private traumas and fears, and relives the painful memories they can’t let go of. The CIA honed his skills until he was one of their most powerful operatives, but John fled the Agency and now works as a private consultant, trying to keep the dark potentials of his gift in check—and himself out of trouble. Unfortunately, John is unexpectedly plunged into dangerous waters when his latest client, billionaire software genius Everett Sloan, hires him to investigate a former employee—a tech whiz kid named Eli Preston—and search his thoughts for some very valuable intellectual property Sloan is convinced he’s stolen. But before John can probe Preston’s mind, his identity is compromised and he’s on the run for his life, along with Sloane’s young associate, Kelsey Foster.

The Last Days of New Paris—China Miéville (August 9, Del Rey)
1941. In the chaos of wartime Marseille, American engineer—and occult disciple—Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist André Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever. 1950. A lone Surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts—and by the forces of Hell. To escape the city, he must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the exquisite corpse. But Sam is being hunted.

The Book of Ralph—Christopher Steinsvold (August 9, Medallion)
A message appears on the moon. It is legible from Earth, and almost no one knows how it was created. Those three words, written in blazing crimson letters on the lunar surface, will foster the strangest revolution humankind has ever endured and make Markus West wish he was never involved. The message is “Drink Diet Coke.” When Coca-Cola denies responsibility, global annoyance with the beverage-industrial complex becomes indignation. And when his investigation confirms Coca-Cola’s innocence, Markus West becomes one of the most hated men on Earth. Later, five miles above the White House, a cylinder is discovered floating in the night. It is 400 feet tall, 250 feet in diameter, and exactly resembles a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Nearly everyone thinks the cylinder is a promotional stunt gone wrong, just like the lunar advertisement. And this is exactly what the alien in the cylinder wants people to think.

Not So Much, Said the CatMichael Swanwick (August 9, Tachyon)
The master of literary science fiction returns with this dazzling new collection. Michael Swanwick takes us on a whirlwind journey across the globe and across time and space, where magic and science exist in possibilities that are not of this world. These tales are intimate in their telling, galactic in their scope, and delightfully sesquipedalian in their verbiage. Join the caravan through Swanwick’s worlds and into the playground of his mind. Travel from Norway to Russia and America to Gehenna. Discover a calculus problem that rocks the ages and robots who both nurture and kill. Meet a magical horse who protects the innocent, a semi-repentant troll, a savvy teenager who takes on the Devil, and time travelers from the Mesozoic who party till the end of time…

Mr. EternityAaron Thier (August 9, Bloomsbury USA)
Key West, 2016. Sea levels are rising, coral reefs are dying. In short, everything is going to hell. It’s here that two young filmmakers find something to believe in: an old sailor who calls himself Daniel Defoe and claims to be five hundred and sixty years old. In fact, old Dan is in the prime of his life—an incredible, perhaps eternal American life. The story unfold over the course of a millennium, picking up in the sixteenth century in the Viceroyalty of New Granada and continuing into the twenty-sixth, where, in the future Democratic Federation of Mississippi States, Dan serves as an advisor to the King of St. Louis. Some things remain constant throughout the centuries, and being on the edge of ruin may be one. But there are other constants too: love, humor, and old Dan himself, always adapting and inspiring others with dreams of a better life.

 

WEEK THREE

Amaryllis and Other StoriesCarrie Vaughn (August 16, Fairview Press)
For more than fifteen years Carrie Vaughn has published short fiction across all genres, through time and space, earning praise from critics and readers for twists and turns, shocks and delights, and emotional heart. This collection brings together alien encounters, classic fantasy creatures, strange magic, historical milieus; stories with heart, of people making their ways in the world the best they can, however strange and hostile those worlds might be; rare, hard-to-find stories that haven’t been available in years. All this, now brought together in the first widely-available retrospective collection of Vaughn’s work, including her Hugo-nominated, WSFA Small Press Award winning story “Amaryllis,” about a post-catastrophe future in which a community struggles to live in balance with the environment and each other.

InvasiveChuck Wendig (August 16, Harper Voyager)
Hannah Stander is a consultant for the FBI—a futurist who helps the Agency with cases that feature demonstrations of bleeding-edge technology. It’s her job to help them identify unforeseen threats: hackers, AIs, genetic modification, anything that in the wrong hands could harm the homeland. Hannah is waiting to board a flight home to see her family when she receives a call from Agent Hollis Copper. “I’ve got a cabin full of over a thousand dead bodies,” he tells her. Whether those bodies are all human, he doesn’t say. What Hannah finds is a horrifying murder that points to the impossible—someone weaponizing the natural world in a most unnatural way. Discovering who—and why—will take her on a terrifying chase from the Arizona deserts to the secret island laboratory of a billionaire inventor/philanthropist. There are a million ways the world can end, but Hannah just might be facing one she could never have predicted.

 

WEEK FOUR

Breath of EarthBeth Cato (August 23, Harper Voyager)
In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills. When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome … and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

The Secret SeaBarry Lyga (August 23, Feiwel & Friends)
Young adult. Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that’s crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real … It warns him of danger. One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home—if they can even get home! In his most propulsive and heartfelt book yet, acclaimed author Barry Lyga explores the depths of friendship, the bonds of family, and the nature of the universe itself.

The Left-Handed FateKate Milford (August 23, Henry Holt & Co.)
Young adult. Lucy Bluecrowne and Maxwell Ault are on a mission: find the three pieces of a strange and arcane engine they believe can stop the endless war raging between their home country of England and Napoleon Bonaparte’s France. During the search, however, their ship, the famous privateer the Left-Handed Fate, is taken by the Americans, who have just declared war on England, too. The Fate (and with it, Lucy and Max) is put under the command of new midshipman Oliver Dexter … who’s only just turned twelve. But Lucy and Max aren’t the only ones trying to assemble the engine; the French are after it, as well as the crew of a mysterious vessel that seems able to appear out of thin air. When Oliver discovers what his prisoners are really up to—and how dangerous the device could be if it falls into the wrong hands—he is faced with a choice: Help Lucy and Max even if it makes him a traitor to his own country? Or follow orders and risk endangering countless lives, including those of the enemies who have somehow become his friends?

Waking Up Dead—Nigel Williams (August 23, Thomas Dunne Books)
Retired bank manager George Pearmain is, apparently, dead. According to the behavior of everyone around him, it would seem that he is no more. Not only that, but his mother has also passed away too – and on the eve of her 99th year, poor dear. Not only that, it could be that they were both murdered. He feels fine otherwise. As George’s family gather for the birthday-celebration-that-never-was, he hovers around the house, watching and listening, entirely unseen. As a result, he makes all sorts of discoveries about himself, his wife Esmeralda, and his supposedly happy family … One of internationally bestselling author Nigel Williams’ best books to date, Waking Up Dead is both a screamingly funny cozy mystery and startlingly strange ghost story asking the question: What would you do if you could bear witness to your own demise?

 

WEEK FIVE

The Subsidiary—Matias Celedon (August 30, Melville House)
In the subsidiary offices of a major corporation, the power suddenly goes out: the lights switch off; the doors lock; the phone lines go dead. The employees are trapped in total darkness with only cryptic, intermittent announcements over the loud speaker, instructing all personnel to remain at their work stations until further notice. Terrified, one lone worker uses the implements on his desk to give testimony to the horrors that occur during the days he spends trapped in the building, testimony told exclusively—and hauntingly—through the stamps he uses to mark corporate documents. Hand-designed by the author with a stamp set he bought in an bookstore in Santiago, Matías Celedón’s The Subsidiary is both an exquisite object and a chilling avant-garde tale from one of Chile’s rising literary stars.

Curioddity—Paul Jenkins (August 30, St. Martin’s Press)
Will Morgan is a creature of habit—a low-budget insurance detective who walks to and from work with the flow of one-way traffic, and for whom imagination is a thing of the distant past. When a job opportunity enters the frame in the form of the mysterious Mr. Dinsdale—curator of the ever so slightly less-than-impressive Curioddity Museum—Will reluctantly accepts the task of finding a missing box of levity (the opposite of gravity). What he soon learns, however, is that there is another world out there—a world of magic we can only see by learning to un-look at things—and in this world there are people who want to close the Curioddity museum down. With the help of his eccentric new girlfriend Lucy, Will will do everything he can to deliver on his promise to help Mr. Dinsdale keep the Curioddity Museum in business.

Scary Out ThereJonathan Maberry, editor (August 30, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Young adult. Multiple Bram Stoker Award–winning author Jonathan Maberry compiles more than twenty stories and poems—written by members of the Horror Writers Association—in this terrifying collection about worst fears. What scares you? Things that go bump in the night? Being irreversibly different? A brutal early death? The unknown? This collection contains stories and poetry by renowned writers such as R. L. Stine, Neal and Brendan Shusterman, and Ellen Hopkins—all members of the Horror Writers Association—about what they fear most. The stories include mermaids, ghosts, and personal demons, and are edited by Jonathan Maberry, multiple Bram Stoker award winner and author of the Rot & Ruin series.

Plunder of Gor (Gorean Saga #34)—John Norman (August 30, Open Road)
A mysterious package lies unclaimed somewhere in the great port of Brundisium, and it is rumored that its contents could determine the fate of a world. Whether or not that is true, one thing is certain: Men and beasts will kill to claim it. Meanwhile, a young woman, now merchandise, has been brought to the slave markets of Gor after displeasing a stranger in her secretarial job back on Earth. Unbeknownst to her, she holds the key to finding the elusive package—and changing the course of history forever. This adventure series—alternatively referred to by several names including the Chronicles of Counter-Earth or the Saga of Tarl Cabot—has earned a devoted following for its richly detailed world building, erotic themes, and mash-up of science fiction, fantasy, history, and philosophy.

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