All the New Genre-Bending Books Coming Out in February

If you’re looking for variety, you’re in the right place. February has immortal men, time-traveling special agents, haunted museums, mysterious new creatures, and a lot of magical-sounding short story collections. Plus Austen meets Shelley in John Kessel’s Pride and Prometheus, and Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus present the novel edition of The Shape of Water!

Keep track of all the new releases here. Note: All title summaries are taken and/or summarized from copy provided by the publisher.

 

WEEK ONE

How to Stop Time—Matt Haig (February 6, Viking)
Tom Hazard may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history—performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life. So Tom moves back his to London to become a high school history teacher—the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: Never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

The Gone World—Tom Sweterlitsch (February 6, Putnam)
March 9th, 1997: A family murdered, a daughter missing. All evidence points to a dangerous suspect: ex-Navy Seal Patrick Mursult, who has vanished without a trace. NCIS Special Agent Shannon Moss is determined to take down Mursult and bring the girl home. Moss is one of the few federal agents with clearance to investigate strands of the multiverse—to experience possible futures that grow out of the circumstances of the present. April 19th, 2014: Seventeen years have passed, but Moss still questions witnesses whose lives have changed far from their fears and tensions that had made them so reticent to talk about the original incident. Filling in details of the long past case, Moss learns the terrible truth about Mursult and the fate of the missing girl. Moss returns to the present with the information she needs to close the case, but at what cost? Every decision she makes, every plot she unravels, has terrifying consequences—consequences she sees with every trip to a new future

Jagannath—Karin Tidbeck (February 6, Vintage)
A child is born in a tin can. A switchboard operator finds himself in hell. Three corpulent women float somewhere beyond time. Welcome to the weird world of Karin Tidbeck, the visionary Swedish author of literary sci-fi, speculative fiction, and mind-bending fantasy who has captivated readers around the world. Originally published by the tiny press Cheeky Frawg—the passion project of Ann and Jeff VanderMeer—Jagannath has been celebrated by readers and critics alike, with rave reviews from major outlets and support from lauded peers like China Miéville and even Ursula K. Le Guin herself. These are stories in which fairies haunt quiet towns, and an immortal being discovers the nature of time—stories in which anything is possible.

 

WEEK TWO

Madness is Better than Defeat—Ned Beauman (February 13, Knopt)
In 1938, two rival expeditions descend on an ancient temple recently discovered in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is a locus of conspiracies far grander than anyone could ever have guessed. Shot through with insanity, intrigue, ingenuity, and adventure, showcasing Beauman’s anarchic humor, spectacular imagination, and riveting prose, Madness Is Better Than Defeat teases, absorbs, entertains, and dazzles in equal measure.

The Ghost Notebooks—Ben Dolnick (February 13, Pantheon)
When Nick Beron and Hannah Rampe decide to move from New York City to the tiny upstate town of Hibernia, their careers have flatlined, the city is exhausting, and they’ve reached a relationship stalemate. Hannah takes a job as live-in director of the Wright Historic House, a museum dedicated to an obscure nineteenth-century philosopher, and she and Nick swiftly move into their new home. The town’s remoteness, the speed with which Hannah is offered the job, and the lack of museum visitors barely a blip in their consideration. At first, life in this old, creaky house feels cozy—they speak in Masterpiece Theater accents and take bottles of wine to the swimming hole. But as summer turns to fall, Hannah begins to have trouble sleeping and she hears whispers in the night. One morning, Nick wakes up to find Hannah gone. In his frantic search for her, Nick will discover the hidden legacy of Wright House: a man driven wild with grief, and a spirit aching for home.

Freshwater—Akwaeke Emezi (February 13, Grove Press)
Ada has always been unusual. As an infant in southern Nigeria, she is a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents successfully prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry, as the young Ada becomes a troubled child, prone to violent fits of anger and grief. But Ada turns out to be more than just volatile. Born “with one foot on the other side,” she begins to develop separate selves. When Ada travels to America for college, a traumatic event crystallizes the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters—now protective, now hedonistic—move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dangerous direction. This debut explores the metaphysics of identity and being, plunging the reader into the mysteries of self.

Pride and Prometheus—John Kessel (February 13, Saga Press)
Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate? Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

Thirty-seven—Peter Stenson (February 13, Dzanc)
The Survivors, their members known only by the order in which they joined, live alone in a rural Colorado mansion. They believe that sickness bears honesty, and that honesty bears change. Fueled by the ritualized Cytoxan treatments that leave them on the verge of death, they instigate the Day of Gifts, a day that spells shocking violence and the group’s demise. Enter Mason Hues, formerly known as Thirty-Seven, the group’s final member and the only one both alive and free. Eighteen years old and living in a spartan apartment after his release from a year of intensive mental health counseling, he takes a job at a thrift shop and expects to while away his days as quietly and unobtrusively as possible. But when his enigmatic boss Talley learns his secret, she comes to believe that there is still hope in the Survivor philosophy. She pushes Mason to start the group over again—this time with himself as One.

 

WEEK THREE

Ink, Iron, and Glass—Gwendolyn Clare (February 20, Imprint)
Young adult. Can she write a world gone wrong? A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation, where her mother—a noted scriptologist—constantly alters and expands their reality. But when her home is attacked and her mother kidnapped, Elsa is forced to cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative Victorian Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of young scientists with a gift for mechanics, alchemy, or scriptology—and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep. In this thrilling debut, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created—and only she can stop it.

All the Names They Used for God—Anjali Sachdeva (February 20, Spiegel & Grau)
In a secret, subterranean world beneath the prairie of the Old West, a homesteader risks her life in search of a safe haven. A workman in Andrew Carnegie’s steel mills is turned into a medical oddity by the brutal power of the furnaces—and is eventually revitalized by his condition. A young woman created through genetic manipulation is destroyed by the same force that gave her life. Anjali Sachdeva demonstrates a preternatural ability to laser in on our fears, our hopes, and our longings in order to point out intrinsic truths about society and humanity. Like many of us, the characters in this collection are in pursuit of the sublime, and find themselves looking not just to divinity but to science, nature, psychology, and industry, forgetting that their new, logical deities are no more trustworthy than the tempestuous gods of the past. Along the way, they walk the knife-edge between wonder and terror, salvation and destruction.

The Rending and the Nest—Kate Schwen (February 20, Bloomsbury)
When 95 percent of the earth’s population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can’t afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost. Four years after the Rending, Mira’s best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object—and other women of Zion follow suit—the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn’t return, Mira must decide how much she’s willing to let go in order to save her friend, her home, and her own fraught pregnancy.

Ambiguity Machines and Other Stories—Vandana Singh (February 20, Small Beer Press)
In her first North American collection, Vandana Singh’s deep humanism interplays with her scientific background in stories that explore and celebrate this world and others and characters who are trying to make sense of the people they meet, what they see, and the challenges they face. An eleventh century poet wakes to find he is as an artificially intelligent companion on a starship. A woman of no account has the ability to look into the past. In “Requiem,” a major new novella, a woman goes to Alaska to try and make sense of her aunt’s disappearance. Singh’s stories have been performed on BBC radio, been finalists for the British SF Association award, selected for the Tiptree award honor list, and oft reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Her dives deep into the vast strangeness of the universe without and within and with her unblinking clear vision she explores the ways we move through space and time: together, yet always apart.

The Clarity—Keith Thomas (February 20, Leopoldo & Co./Atria Books)
Dr. Matilda Deacon is a psychologist researching how memories are made and stored when she meets a strange eleven-year-old girl named Ashanique. Ashanique claims to harbor the memories of the last soldier killed in World War I and Matilda is at first very interested but skeptical. However, when Ashanique starts talking about being chased by the Night Doctors—a term also used by an unstable patient who was later found dead—Matilda can’t deny that the girl might be telling the truth. Matilda learns that Ashanique and her mother have been on the run their whole lives from a monstrous assassin named Rade. Rade is after a secret contained solely in memories and has left a bloody trail throughout the world in search of it. Matilda soon realizes Ashanique is in unimaginable danger and that her unique ability comes with a deadly price.

 

WEEK FOUR

The Sea Beast Takes a Lover—Michael Andreasen (February 27, Dutton)
The Sea Beast Takes a Lover explores hope, love, and loss across a series of surreal landscapes and wild metamorphoses. Just because Jenny was born without a head doesn’t mean she isn’t still annoying to her older brother, and just because the Man of the Future’s carefully planned extramarital affair ends in alien abduction and network fame doesn’t mean he can’t still pine for his absent wife. Romping through the fantastic with big-hearted ease, these stories cut to the core of what it means to navigate family, faith, and longing, whether in the form of a lovesick kraken slowly dragging a ship of sailors into the sea, a small town euthanizing its grandfathers in a time-honored ritual, or a third-grade field trip learning that time travel is even more wondrous—and more perilous—than they might imagine.

The Shape of Water—Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus (February 27, Feiwel & Friends)
Visionary storyteller Guillermo del Toro and celebrated author Daniel Kraus combine their estimable talent in this haunting, heartbreaking love story. It is 1962, and Elisa Esposito—mute her whole life, orphaned as a child—is struggling with her humdrum existence as a janitor working the graveyard shift at Baltimore’s Occam Aerospace Research Center. One fateful night, she sees something she was never meant to see, the Center’s most sensitive asset ever: an amphibious man, captured in the Amazon, to be studied for Cold War advancements. The creature is terrifying but also magnificent, capable of language and of understanding emotions. Using sign language, the two learn to communicate. Soon, affection turns into love, and the creature becomes Elisa’s sole reason to live. But outside forces are pressing in. Richard Strickland, the obsessed soldier who tracked the asset through the Amazon, wants nothing more than to dissect it before the Russians get a chance to steal it. Elisa has no choice but to risk everything to save her beloved.

The Strange Bird—Jeff VanderMeer (February 27, Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
The Strange Bird is a new kind of creature, built in a laboratory—she is part bird, part human, part many other things. But now the lab in which she was created is under siege and the scientists have turned on their animal creations. Flying through tunnels, dodging bullets, and changing her colors and patterning to avoid capture, the Strange Bird manages to escape. But she cannot just soar in peace above the earth. The sky itself is full of wildlife that rejects her as one of their own, and also full of technology. And the farther she flies, the deeper she finds herself in the orbit of the Company, a collapsed biotech firm that has populated the world with experiments both failed and successful that have outlived the corporation itself. But of the many creatures she encounters with whom she bears some kind of kinship, it is the humans—all of them now simply scrambling to survive—who are the most insidious, who still see her as simply something to possess, to capture, to trade, to exploit. Never to understand, never to welcome home.

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