This is my weekly[-ish] list of speculative fiction novels that I think are worth looking out for. They are mainly – but not always! – new or forthcoming releases.
Babayaga by Toby Barlow
Will is a young American ad executive in Paris. Except his agency is a front for the CIA. It’s 1959 and the Cold War is going strong. But Will doesn’t think he’s a warrior–he’s just a good-hearted Detroit ad guy who can’t seem to figure out Parisian girls. Zoya is a beautiful young woman wandering les boulevards, sad-eyed, and coming off a bad breakup. In fact, she impaled her ex on a spike. Zoya, it turns out, has been a beautiful young woman for hundreds of years; she and her far more traditionally witchy-looking companion, Elga, have been thriving unnoticed in the bloody froth of Europe’s wars.Inspector Vidot is a hardworking Paris police detective who cherishes quiet nights at home. But when he follows a lead from a grisly murder to the abode of an ugly old woman, he finds himself turned into a flea …
Babayaga‘s quirkiness appeals, and I have faith in the author of Sharp Teeth, which was an incredible, free-verse werewolf novel.
Read an excerpt from Babayaga.
This is the Way the World Ends by James Morrow
When tombstone engraver George Paxman is offered a bargain, he doesn’t hesitate. His beloved daughter gets an otherwise unaffordable survival suit to protect her from radioactive fall-out and all George has to do is sign a document admitting that, as a passive citizen who did nothing to stop it, he has a degree of guilt for any nuclear war that breaks out. George signs on the dotted line. And then the unthinkable happens. The world and everyone in it (survival suit or not) is destroyed in a nuclear Armageddon – except for George and five others who must now face prosecution from the great mass of humanity who will now never be born. And George Paxman stands accused in the name of all the people who stood by and never raised a finger to stop the horror of nuclear war …
Sometimes [often], it’s just the cover art that does it for me.
Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
In a far-future, post-apocalyptic Saharan Africa, genocide plagues one region. When the only surviving member of a slain village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand, and instinctively knows her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?” in an ancient African tongue.
Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers she possesses a remarkable and unique magic. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to confront nature, tradition, history, the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and eventually to learn why she was given the unusual name she bears: Who Fears Death?
It’s always refreshing to see non-Western/non-Euro-centric genre fiction. This one has been distantly on my radar since it was released in 2010, and I am finally getting a copy via my local library. It won 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Fantasy Novel and gained lots of other awards, kudos, and attention. Chapters one and two are posted over on the Fantasy Hotlist blog (with the author’s permission).
And all going well, the story will eventually be on the big screen! You can follow updates on Facebook at Who Fears Death: The Movie.