Well, those tiny noisemakers are out of the house for most of the day. It's canning season. It's not quite gourd season. But it is definitely fall book season. Oh, dear readers, the deluge is about to start. Here, then. begins the mighty trickle that will turn into a roaring wave of books. Get ready.
Let's start with David Koepp's Cold Storage. Now, you may think "Hang on, don't I know that name?" And you'd be right, because Koepp has written a movie script or two over the years (enough of them, in fact, that he is the ninth most successful screenwriter of all time). But has he written a novel? He has not. Does he know how to write a novel? Oh, yes, indeed he does.
Cold Storage is about a space fungus that will take over the world if three people can't stop it. One is a special ops bad-ass who encountered the space fungus back when it first showed up. The second is a single mother who works a crap shift at a dead-end job. The third is an ex-con who would really really like to have something other than "ex-con" on his C.V. There's a couple other characters who show up, but to say more would be to blather on about things you're going to find out about soon enough anyway. Why? Because this book is going to screw up any plans you have once you crack it open.
Seriously. Just clear the rest of the evening. You might as well call work now and tell them that you're going to take a sick day tomorrow. Because if you don't stay up all night reading this book—and we salute you if you have that sort of willpower—then you're going to idly glance at it in the morning while you're munching on your cereal. "Maybe one more chapter," you'll think, and that'll be it until lunchtime. Just call in now. It'll be easier for everyone.
Four out of five booksellers you know will attest to this. And the only reason the fifth bookseller isn't in agreement is because they've been reading all the other books the rest of us have been ignoring because we've been talking about Cold Storage.
[Ed. note: AND Stephen King's Dark Tower books. Let's not forget all that chatter.]
Whatever. It's all in service of Bookslingers, our monthly read-through of King's Dark Tower series. We're starting tonight (or we have already started, depending on when you read this newsletter), but you can still catch up with us for The Drawing of the Three discussion on October 3rd.
Anyway, Randall Munro is back this week with his thoroughly over-helpful scientific know-how with How To. There's no problem that can't be transformed into a gigantic project that will threaten to shift the orbit of the planet or blot out the sun, and Munro is right there to help you with all the fine details. Right on down to the stick-figure sketches which dizzyingly translate complex mechanical drawings into process documents that a child could parse. In the dark. While blindfolded.
It's not all high-polish nonsense, actually. Munro—author of those delightfully erudite and hysterical tomes of scientific inquiry What If? and Thing Explainer—hopes to show us the power of critical thinking and problem solving. It's easy to get mired in the details of any seemingly insurmountable project, but Munro is here to demonstrate that we really can do anything we want, as long as we put our minds to it.
Just look at James Patterson, for instance. Do you know how many books he has out this week? TWO. Not one, but two books. Why? Because he dared to think beyond the norm. First, it was merely "I can put out more than a book a year," and then it was "I can do a book a season." Then, when all of publishing turned on him with awe-struck faces, he said: "Oh, I'm just getting started." That's when he dared to schedule one book a week. Was that enough for Mr. Patterson? Oh, no. Surely he could do more.
And so he has.
This week we have Killer Instinct, which teams up Dr. Dylan Reinhart, the man who "wrote the book on the psychology of murder" and Detective Elizabeth Needham, who willing makes herself a target when she saves innocent lives. Together, they fight a brilliant sociopath, the likes of which have never been seen before.
That is, until next week when Patterson has to outdo himself.
And the other book is the next volume in the Max Einstein series. Max is the smartest girl in the world, and when she's not running from the nefarious Corp and evil Dr. Zimm, she's trying to solve the world's ecological and sociological problems. Go Max!
Here's an interesting counter-point. Lucia Peters has put together a collection of Dangerous Games to Play in the Dark. These are urban legend / modern grimoire / how to freak your pals out sort of games. Most of them have histories that go back hundreds of years. Most of them will probably generate a good laugh as they fail to achieve their spooky goal (talking to the dead, levitating a friend, visiting another plane of existence), but eh, you never know. Something strange might happen. It's getting on toward that time of year, after all . . .
Meanwhile, William Kent Krueger, who has been writing Minnesota-based crime novels for some time, turns in another standalone book. This Tender Land tells the story of four orphans who venture on a life-changing odyssey during the early part of the Great Depression. Krueger is one of those unassuming writers whose prose and style are so pure and clean that they're almost invisible, and yet, his work moves with an astounding grace. If you've been missing Ivan Doig, This Tender Land might ease that ache a bit. If you're caught up on your Tony Hillerman and James Lee Burke, Krueger can take care of you as well.
The Man Booker Prize shortlist was announced a few days ago, and we get one more of those books this week. Salman Rushdie's Quichotte is a retelling of that venerable Spanish classic shot through with a bracing and biting attention to trash fires, media feeding frenzies, and hyper-capitalist cannibalism. It's a comedy. Sort of. It's a meditation on the vanishing collective memory of the past. Sort of. It's a mash-up of Cervantes, Melville, Collodi, and a probably a half-dozen other classic writers whose contributions to popular culture have been sand-blasted, 3D-rendered, and meme-ified into the virtual framework of our sordid TV-sucking lives. It's also a love story.
And speaking of love stories, the raviest of raves is swirling around Lara Prescott's debut novel, The Secrets We Kept. Now, we're old and cynical (regardless of what you tell us otherwise, and we certainly don't mind your continued efforts), and we're not in a rush to lemming up with the rest of the kids, but this one? This one might might crack our stoic veneer. What's it about? Well, it's the back story of the publication of Dr. Zhivago, wherein we discover that the book was used as propaganda tool by the CIA. Basically, it's tragic love story meets insider publishing gossip meets spy thriller.
What? No, we're not swooning. We're just looking up at the lights. Get ahold of yourselves, for crying out loud. This is embarrassing.
Oh, look! A new Sandra Boynton board book! Aren't those dinosaurs cute?
And speaking of cute, here's Cathleen Schine's new book, The Grammarians. We have no idea what it is about; we just imagine those two twins on the cover are thinking about cutting you because you once were heard saying, "Yeah, well, but the Oxford comma is just another contrarian reminder of the bourgeoisie's attempt to perpetuate a moribund classist and patriarchal structure."
Just look at them. There is murder going on behind those eyes.
(Though, seriously, Schine's got a barbed wit about her, and this book is about two sisters who seem all peachy-keen and polite on the outside, but all bets are off once they start arguing about whether Fowler's Modern English Usage or The Chicago Manual of Style is more relevant to daily life. Trust us. You don't get between grammarians once they've got their teeth in something. This one is for those who like a little wordplay and razor-edged language along with their dysfunctional family dramas.)
And finally, here's a debut novel that is launching a new fantasy series. There Will Come a Darkness is about a world where—wait for it—darkness is coming, and only five have the skills to stand before it. That is, if they can't stop squabbling among themselves in time. Katy Rose Pool mixes a lot of Mediterranean influences here in her world-building, and out of that simmering stew comes a well-developed and delightful world. This one is going to leaving you wanting more. As it should . . .