As it is a quiet week in publishing, this may be a good week to start thinking about your taxes . . . nah! Let’s go find some books instead!

Oh, look! There’s a movie tie-cover to Fifty Shades Freed this week, reminding us that Hollywood has finally finished its version of E. L. James’s saucy romp through the modern boardroom. We're noting this mostly for those who would rather watch the movie than read the book (heathens!)

And there are a dozen or so books that earnestly walk us through the end of civilization as we know it, due to the machinations of our current administration (versus, you know, climate change or dinosaurs—January is the month to scare us sh*tless, apparently). But let’s not dwell too much on those sorts of books. We are dodging doing our taxes, after all. We might as well go with fun stuff. 

And we’re going to start with Tim Wirkus’s The Infinite Future, which we unreservedly adore. In fact, here’s the review we sent off to the publisher a few months ago: “Like the SF-love child of Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, and Jorge Luis Bores, The Infinite Future unspools like a Möbius loop jumping out of the innermost nesting doll. God, and Wirkus doesn't flinch from the ending. Sure to be polarizing, but we love him all the more for going there. A fantastic read, even if we want to shake him for all the marvelous stories he DIDN'T tell. Highly recommended.” 

We are tempted to stop there, with the exhortation that if you’re going to take a week off and play hooky with a book, this would be the one to do it with. But, ah, that would be to shower love on one of our favorites, which would leave our other darlings all sad and lonely, and, well, we’re not that cruel. So, more books!

And we have a new adventure FBI Special Agent Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast, the Holmsian hero of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s long-running series of supernatural suspense thrillers. In fact, do you remember that the first book in this series was called Relic? And that it was a thinly veiled monster in New York book? That’s right. And in the film version (of course there was a film version), there was a NY cop named Vincent D’Agosta. Well, D’Agosta is back in City of Endless Night, and he’s got a whopper of a mystery to solve. Good thing he still has Pendergast on his speed dial, right? 

And speaking for high-stakes action, Christopher Reich is back with The Take, starring an enigmatic hero, Simon Riske, who is spending his days quietly working out of an auto garage in London. Well, we’re not here for the simple life; we want explody! And Reich is happy to oblige. Riske is approached by the CIA to retrieve a letter that has been stolen from a Saudi prince in Paris. Oh, and a couple hundred thousand Euros that were in the briefcase too. Geez! Naturally, there’s a whip-smart and sexy Parisian police detective, and beautiful and deadly Russian assassin, enigmatic spies with ulterior motives, and a blustering police chief that will most likely be played by Jean Reno in the film version. Boom boom! Bang bang! Gimme me some sugar, baby! (That’s like, what? a Pink Floyd reference mashed up with a Evil Dead reference. Whatever.)

And speaking mash-ups, here’s Jonathan Moore’s The Night Market, which is a crime novel set in a dystopian near-future SF where everything is all Blade Runner-esque, and there’s a mystery that is sorta like the fungal grey caps revenge out of Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch. Our protagonist Ross Carver (Ross MacDonald + Raymond Carver, right?), doggedly tries to figure out what killed the victim as the book veers through China Miéville and Clive Barker territory. Which is to say: it may seem familiar, but it’s not quite what you think it is, and the book definitely gets its hooks in you by the end. 

And speaking of words that stay with you, the conclusion to Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti trilogy is out this week as well. Binti: The Night Masquerade finds Binti returning home after her encounter with the alien Meduse, and, well, you can’t always go home again, especially when you’ve got alien tech merged with you. Okorafor’s trilogy comes to a satisfying and emotionally resonate close. 


And speaking of third books, Edwardian sleuth Veronica Speedwell is back this week in Deanna Raybourn’s A Treacherous Curse. Speedwell is called to investigate a missing Egyptian artifact, and the ensuing investigation stirs up old family secrets, an Egyptian ghost, and a delightful lighter-than-air chase. Speedwell and her indefatigable companion, the Honorable Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, are a charming duo, and Raybourn is clearly having a lot of fun with these characters. 

And speaking of fun, Nate Staniforth’s new memior Here is Real Magic is a glimpse into the life of a full-time magician. Staniforth, a former host of the Discovery Chanell’s Breaking Magic, has grown cynical after years of being on the road. Apparently, you can only pull a coin out of a kid’s ear for eighteen weeks straight before it starts to grow old. Staniforth, eager to rediscover the joy he had as a kid with magic, journeys to India, where he encounters a culture with a very different approach to “magic.” Along the way, he rediscovers that sense of “awe and wonder” that so permeated his psyche as a child. For a man whose career is illusion, he offers some very sensible suggestions about how to find your own magic. 

And speaking of magic, here’s Rae Katherine Eighmey’s Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin. Now, we’re not here for the history lesson, though Eighmey does a lovely job of glossing over Franklin’s life and career. Rather, we’re showing up for the sixty-two recipes (updated for our more modern kitchens, of course) that are from Franklin’s kitchen cookbook. That’s right. Ole Ben experimented in the kitchen too. Back in the day when everyone had beer and bread for breakfast, he went all whackadoo and suggested that “watery gruel” might actually be healthier. Not only did he play with electricity in the yard, he also brought it into the kitchen and cooked a turkey! 

And so, with watery gruel and a slightly shocked turkey on the table, we bid you adieu for this week. Dodge your responsibilities responsibly. Read more books. Implement life lessons. Eat more gruel and less beer for breakfast. 

Overheard At The Battered Casket »»

COLBY: ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did—

GINGER: Are you okay? 

COLBY: What?

GINGER: You’ve been sitting here for awhile, and you haven’t touched your lunch. 

COLBY: I’ve been rehearsing. 

GINGER: Rehearsing? 

COLBY: Going over some lines. 

GINGER: Like, for a movie? Oh my god! Are you famous? 

COLBY: No, no. Nothing like that. It’s a local production. 

GINGER: Like when those guys came over and shot that movie in the bookstore? 

COLBY: No, not like that. 

GINGER: That was pretty cool. When are we going to see that movie? 

COLBY: Later this year, I think. 

GINGER: You’re in it, right? 

COLBY: Yes. Well, I hope so. You never know what happens in editing. 

GINGER: Oh, yes. I know. I was supposed to be in a movie once. 

COLBY: Really? 

GINGER: Uh huh. I had two lines. And I got to say them to a real famous actor guy. He was real nice. But when the movie came out, that scene wasn’t there. It had been cut. 

COLBY: I’m sorry. 

GINGER: It’s okay. I got paid. And he gave me his autograph. Still feels like a dream, though. Since no one has seen those scenes. Oh, well. How many lines you do have? 

COLBY: A few. But I’m practicing some others. Just in case. 

GINGER: Just in case of what? 

COLBY: I’m the understudy for the lead part. 

GINGER: Oh, fancy. 

COLBY: It’s just in case. It’s nothing that exciting. 

GINGER: Yes, but if there’s an accident with bears or something, then you take over, right? 

COLBY: Or something, yes. 

GINGER: So memorizing all these lines might never happen? 

COLBY: That’s a distinct possibility. 

GINGER: So, you could end up like me. 

COLBY: Working at a dive bar across the street from a book store? 

GINGER: No, no. Playing a role that doesn’t exist. 

COLBY: But it does exist. It just isn’t being played by me. 

GINGER: Oh. I guess you’re right. It’s not the same thing. Oh, well. Good luck, anyway!

COLBY: Uh, thanks? . . . It’s probably best that I didn’t tell her about how I have to disappear on-stage . . . 


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