Fiction Affliction: Genre-Benders for September

Seventeen September releases play mix-and-match with genres, including Alan Moore’s Jerusalem. Ursula K. Le Guin gets the Library of America treatment for her Orsina stories; Nisi Shawl presents the Neo-Victorian alternate history Everfair; Lev Grossman’s Warp gets reissued; and Brian Evenson joins Tor.com Publishing with his novella The Warren. And that’s just for starters!

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 Boys of Summer—Richard Cox (September 6, Night Shade)
In 1979, a massive tornado devastates the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, leaving scores dead, thousands homeless, and nine-year-old Todd Willis in a coma, fighting for his life. Four years later, Todd awakens to a world that looks the same but feels different in a way he can’t quite grasp. For Todd, it’s a struggle to separate fact from fiction as he battles lingering hallucinations from his long sleep. The new friends Todd makes in 1983 are fascinated with his experience and become mesmerized by his strange relationship with the world. Together the five boys come of age during a dark, fiery summer where they find first love, betrayal, and a secret so terrible they agree to never speak of it again. But darkness returns to Wichita Falls twenty-five years later, and the boys—now men—are forced to reunite and confront the wounds from their past. When their memories of that childhood summer refuse to align with reality, the friends embark upon a search for truth that will threaten their lives, and transform their understanding of each other—and the world itself—forever.

Mostly Void, Partially Stars (Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1);
The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe (Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2)—Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (September 6, Harper Perennial)
In June of 2012, the creators of Welcome to Night Vale began airing twice-weekly podcasts. By the anniversary show a year later, the fanbase had exploded, vaulting the podcast into the #1 spot on iTunes. Since then, its popularity has grown by epic proportions, hitting more than 100 million downloads, and Night Vale has expanded to a successful live multi-cast international touring stage show and a New York Times bestselling novel. Now the first two seasons are available as books, offering an entertaining reading experience and a valuable reference guide to past episodes. Mostly Void, Partially Stars introduces us to Night Vale, a town in the American Southwest where every conspiracy theory is true, and to the strange but friendly people who live there. In The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe we witness a totalitarian takeover of Night Vale that threatens to forever change the town and everyone living in it.

The Rib From Which I Remake the World—Ed Kurtz (September 6, ChiZine)
In a small, rural Arkansas town in the midst of World War II, hotel house detective George “Jojo” Walker wearily maintains the status quo in the wake of personal devastation. That status quo is disrupted when a “hygiene picture” roadshow rolls into town with a controversial program on display and curious motives in mind. What begins with a gruesome and impossible murder soon spirals into hallucinatory waking nightmares for Jojo—nightmares that converge with his reality and dredge up his painful, secret past. Black magic and a terrifying Luciferian carnival boil up to a surreal finale for the town of Litchfield, when truth itself unfurls and Jojo Walker is forced to face his own identity in ways he could never have expected.

The Complete Orsina—Ursula K. Le Guin (September 6, Library of America)
The inaugural volume of Library of America’s Ursula K. Le Guin edition gathers her complete Orsinian writings, enchanting, richly imagined historical fiction collected here for the first time. Written before Le Guin turned to science fiction, the novel Malafrena is a tale of love and duty set in the central European country of Orsinia in the early 19th century, when it is ruled by the Austrian empire. The stories originally published in Orsinian Tales (1976) offer brilliantly rendered episodes of personal drama set against a history that spans Orsinia’s emergence as an independent kingdom in the twelfth century to its absorption by the eastern Bloc after World War II. The volume is rounded out by two additional stories that bring the history of Orsinia up to 1989, the poem “Folksong from the Montayna Province,” Le Guin’s first published work, and two never before published songs in the Orisinian language.

MJ-12: Inception—Michael J. Martinez (September 6, Night Shade)
Normal people across the United States have inexplicably gained paranormal abilities. A factory worker can heal the sick and injured. A schoolteacher bends emotions to her will. A car salesman alters matter with a simple touch. A former soldier speaks to the dying and gains their memories as they pass on. They are the Variants, controlled by a secret government program called MAJESTIC-12 to open a new front in the Cold War. From the deserts of Nevada to the palaces of Istanbul, the halls of power in Washington to the dark, oppressive streets of Prague, the Variants are thrown into a deadly game of shifting alliances. Amidst the seedy underbelly of nations, these once-ordinary Americans dropped in extraordinary circumstances will struggle to come to terms with their abilities as they fight to carve out a place for themselves in a world that may ultimately turn against them. And as the MAJESTIC-12 program will soon discover, there are others out there like them, some with far more malevolent goals…

Everfair—Nisi Shawl (September 6, Tor Books)
Everfair is a Neo-Victorian alternate history novel that explores the question of what might have come of Belgium’s disastrous colonization of the Congo if the native populations had learned about steam technology a bit earlier. Fabian Socialists from Great Britain join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated. Nisi Shawl’s speculative masterpiece manages to turn one of the worst human rights disasters on record into a marvelous and exciting exploration of the possibilities inherent in a turn of history.

 

WEEK TWO

Dark Entries—Robert Aickman (September 13, Faber & Faber)
Reissue. Aickman’s “strange stories” (his preferred term) are constructed immaculately, the neuroses of his characters painted in subtle shades. He builds dread by the steady accrual of realistic detail, until the reader realizes that the protagonist is heading towards their doom as if in a dream. Dark Entries was first published in 1964 and contains six curious and macabre stories of love, death and the supernatural, including the classic story “Ringing the Changes.”

The Sound of Seas (EarthEnd Saga #3)—Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin (September 13, Simon451)
From Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin—their EarthEnd Saga comes to a thrilling conclusion in a wild story involving time travel, ghosts, alien technology, and strange spiritual powers … the perfect combination for X-Files fans. After discovering the secrets to the Gaalderkhani tiles—ancient computers that house not just memories, but untold destructive force—Caitlin O’Hara’s son gets accidentally thrust back in time. In order to save him she must master the power of the tiles and figure out what the Gaalderkhani’s modern relatives are searching and killing for. Can she put the pieces together and bring her son back home again? In the exciting finale to their acclaimed paranormal series, Anderson and Rovin pull out all the stops.

Jerusalem—Alan Moore (September 13, Liveright/Norton)
In the half a square mile of decay and demolition that was England’s Saxon capital, eternity is loitering between the firetrap housing projects. Embedded in the grubby amber of the district’s narrative among its saints, kings, prostitutes, and derelicts a different kind of human time is happening, a soiled simultaneity that does not differentiate between the petrolcolored puddles and the fractured dreams of those who navigate them. Fiends last mentioned in the second-century Book of Tobit wait in urine-scented stairwells, the delinquent specters of unlucky children undermine a century with tunnels, and in upstairs parlors laborers with golden blood reduce fate to a snooker tournament. An opulent mythology for those without a pot to piss in, through the labyrinthine streets and pages of Jerusalem tread ghosts that sing of wealth and poverty; of Africa, and hymns, and our threadbare millennium. They discuss English as a visionary language from John Bunyan to James Joyce, hold forth on the illusion of mortality post-Einstein, and insist upon the meanest slum as Blake’s eternal holy city.

Snow White: A Graphic Novel—Matt Phelan (September 13, Candlewick)
The scene: New York City. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words “Another … More Beautiful … KILL.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.

Little Nothing—Marisa Silver (September 13, Blue Rider)
In an unnamed country at the beginning of the last century, a child called Pavla is born to peasant parents. Her arrival, fervently anticipated and conceived in part by gypsy tonics and archaic prescriptions, stuns her parents and brings outrage and scorn from her community. Pavla has been born a dwarf, beautiful in face, but as the years pass, she grows no farther than the edge of her crib. When her parents turn to the treatments of a local charlatan, his terrifying cure opens the floodgates of persecution for Pavla. Little Nothing unfolds across a lifetime of unimaginable, magical transformation in and out of human form, as an outcast girl becomes a hunted woman whose ultimate survival depends on the most startling transfiguration of them all. Part allegory about the shifting nature of being, part subversive fairy tale of love in all its uncanny guises, Little Nothing spans the beginning of a new century, the disintegration of ancient superstitions, and the adoption of industry and invention.

 

WEEK THREE

The Warren—Brian Evenson (September 20, Tor.com Publishing)
X doesn’t have a name. He thought he had one—or many—but that might be the result of the failing memories of the personalities imprinted within him. Or maybe he really is called X.
He’s also not as human as he believes himself to be. But when he discovers the existence of another—above ground, outside the protection of the Warren—X must learn what it means to be human, or face the destruction of their two species.

Warp—Lev Grossman (September 20, St. Martin’s Griffin)
Reissue. Twenty-something Hollis Kessler languishes in a hopelessly magician-less world (with the exception of a fleet-footed nymph named Xanthe) not too far from where he graduated college. His friends do, too. They sleep late, read too much, drink too much, talk too much, and work and earn and do way too little. But Hollis does have an obsession: there’s another world going on in his head, a world of excitement and danger and starships and romance, and it’s telling him that it’s time to stop dreaming and get serious. This re-publication of Lev Grossman’s debut novel shows the roots of his Magicians hero Quentin Coldwater in a book that is for anyone (and everyone) who has ever felt adrift in their own life.

The Gradual—Christopher Priest (September 20, Titan)
Alesandro Sussken is a composer living in Glaund, a fascist state constantly at war with another equally faceless opponent. His brother is sent off to fight; his family is destroyed by grief. Occasionally Alesandro catches glimpses of islands in the far distance from the shore, and they feed into the music he composes. But all knowledge of the other islands is forbidden by the military junta, until he is unexpectedly sent on a cultural tour. And what he discovers on his journey will change his perceptions of his home, his music, and the ways of the islands themselves, bringing him answers where he could not have foreseen them. A rich and involving tale playing with the lot of the creative mind, the rigors of living under war and the nature of time itself, this is multi award-winning, master storyteller Christopher Priest at his absolute best.

Metaltown—Kristen Simmons (September 20, Tor Teen)
Young adult. The rules of Metaltown are simple: Work hard, keep your head down, and watch your back. You look out for number one, and no one knows that better than Ty. She’s been surviving on the factory line as long as she can remember. But now Ty has Colin. She’s no longer alone; it’s the two of them against the world. That’s something even a town this brutal can’t take away from her. Until it does. Lena’s future depends on her family’s factory, a beast that demands a ruthless master, and Lena is prepared to be as ruthless as it takes if it means finally proving herself to her father. But when a chance encounter with Colin, a dreamer despite his circumstances, exposes Lena to the consequences of her actions, she’ll risk everything to do what’s right. In Lena, Ty sees an heiress with a chip on her shoulder. Colin sees something more. In a world of disease and war, tragedy and betrayal, allies and enemies, all three of them must learn that challenging what they thought was true can change all the rules.

 

WEEK FOUR

Swarm (Zeroes #2)—Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Biancotti (September 27, Simon Pulse)
They thought they’d already faced their toughest fight. But there’s no relaxing for the reunited Zeroes. These six teens with unique abilities have taken on bank robbers, drug dealers and mobsters. Now they’re trying to lay low so they can get their new illegal nightclub off the ground. But the quiet doesn’t last long when two strangers come to town, bringing with them a whole different kind of crowd-based chaos. And hot on their tails is a crowd-power even more dangerous and sinister. Up against these new enemies, every Zero is under threat. Mob is crippled by the killing-crowd buzz—is she really evil at her core? Flicker is forced to watch the worst things a crowd can do. Crash’s conscience—and her heart—get a workout. Anon and Scam must both put family loyalties on the line for the sake of survival. And Bellwether’s glorious-leader mojo deserts him. Who’s left to lead the Zeroes into battle against a new, murderous army?

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