Have you all been working on your summer bingo cards? We have, and we’ve almost got a row knocked out. We suspect this week’s list of interesting books is going to help.
We’ll start with Linnea Hartsuyker’s The Half-Drowned King, which we briefly mentioned last summer when it came out in hardback, but the paperback dropped this week, and we’re going to mention it again. What’s it about? Well, it’s got Vikings, and a pair of cunning siblings who raise the bar on scheming and treachery. The Wall Street Journal called it “Like Game of Thrones, only more unscrupulous.” And Kirkus Reviews points out that “it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show.” So, get your Viking on, and lose yourself in the land of the ice and snow.
And speaking of where the harsh winds blow, we’ve got James Markert’s What Blooms from Dust, a novel of good and evil, set in a place called Nowhere, at a time when the land is nothing but dust. Well, there might be something other than dust, but Nowhere happens be smack in the middle of the dust bowl, at a time when the dust was ascendant. Markert looks to both John Steinbeck and Angela Carter for this allegorical novel about twin brothers who must reconcile their past actions in a town that is, literally, plagued with the weight of a nation’s sins.
And speaking of allegories made real, Finnish writer Hannu Rajaniemi is back with Summerland, a spy novel set in the afterlife. Well, sort of. It’s more like the afterlife has spilled all over the British Empire. It’s 1938 or so in Rajaniemi’s novel, and the world is not the way we know of it from the history books. The British Empire has expanded its reach into Summerland, the metropolis for the recently deceased, where they discover the Soviets have plans in Summerland too, plans that involve building a god. Which is never a good thing. Naturally, things get complicated because, you know, spies. And the afterlife.
And speaking of things getting complicated, David Lagercrantz continues Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series with The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. [Seriously. The subtitle for this book is “A Lisbeth Salander novel, continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series.” We’re going to flip tables when marketing copy starts getting shoved into book titles just to game the keyword algorithms. “Choked by Moonlight: A Thriller that Lee Child Says is Totally Awesome.”]
Anyway, Lisbeth is in prison at the start of this book. [You don’t need to know why, do you?] There’s some sadistic prison violence, a secret experiment that comes to light, and a lot of crusader investigating. The sort of thing you expect in a Lisbeth Salander novel, which will probably be the subtitle of the next book in the series. “The Girl Who Pokes The Bear: Which Includes All The Weird Sh*t You Expect From A Lisbeth Salander Novel.”
Oh, and it’s an Instant New York Times Best Seller. Like it’s coffee crystals or something. “Just add water and stir.”
On a less snarky note, we have Paul Tremblay’s The Cabin at the End of the World. Paul won the Bram Stoker award last year for A Head Full of Ghosts, and we have to admit that we’re a little frightened of this book. It starts out with seven-year old Wen hunting grasshoppers on the front lawn of a her family’s cabin at a remote New Hampshire lake. A man named Leonard shows up, and he’s friendly and all, but then he tells Wen that “none of what’s going happen is your fault.” More strangers show up, and they’re carrying things that aren’t your normal camping gear. As Wen runs inside to warn her dads, Leonard calls out: “You dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”
Stephen King says of The Cabin at the End of the World: “A tremendous book—thought-provoking and terrifying, with tension that winds up like a chain. The Cabin at the End of the World is Tremblay’s personal best. It’s that good.” One of you, dear readers, need to take the hit and lose a night of sleep over this one for us.
On a lighter note, Daryl Gregory’s delightful Spoonbenders is out in paperback this week. It’s the story of the less-than-amazing Telemachuses, who used to do magic tricks for a living. Except their “tricks” were real, and in the years since they were last seen (during a segment on The Mike Douglas Show that went off the rails), the Telemachuses have been struggling. But now Matty—the son of Irene, who is a human lie detector—has had his first out of body experience, and his ability for remote viewing may be what the family needs to save themselves. Or, at the very least, they’ll finally learn why Buddy—the precognitive of the family—has been digging that hole in the backyard . . .
And speaking of hard choices and lives not lead, Marisha Pessl’s new book, Neverworld Wake, has got us all wound up. Pessl—whose Night Film was a thrilling and tense read about obsession, family secrets, and cult filmmaking—turns the whimsical idea of the endlessly repeating day into a psychological thriller about second chances and hard choices. Beatrice Hartley and her cool friends are caught in a time loop, one which they can only escape by deciding which of them will make the ultimate sacrifice.
And speaking of more hard choices, Red Waters Rising, the last book in Laura Anne Gilman’s The Devil’s West trilogy, is out this week. Set in a frontier that isn’t quite the same as the midwest at the turn of the 19th century, Red Waters Rising continues to follow Isobel, the Devil’s Left Hand, and Gabriel as they continue their efforts to rout evil from the Territory. Now, Isobel has been tested throughout these books, but she’s about to face her greatest challenge as she and Gabriel struggle to help the townsfolk of Red Stick, who are plagued with a strange sickness.
And on an uplifting note, Katja Pantzar introduces us to sisu, the Finnish concept of “everyday courage.” We’ve learned about tidying from the Japanese, the art of minimalist and earnest homesteading from the Norwegians, and now we’re going to learn how to “keep it simple and be happy” from the Finns. Basically, every culture has got their sh*t together better than those of us stewing in the great melting pot. Whatever. We invented bourbon and narcissism, so it’s not like we’re coming to the table empty-handed.
Anyway, Pantzar’s book, The Finnish Way, is another of those delightful self-help books that attempt to haul us out of our doldrums and concrete-bound lives. There’s something to be said for self-actualization and being happy, you know, and maybe the Finns are a little more practiced at it than some. It couldn’t hurt, could it?
At the very least, you get a bingo stamp for reading a “helpful how-to book,” so there’s that to consider too.