The watch list

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.

I have been too busy lately to keep up with news of recent releases in spec fic, so both books on my list this week are older publications.

Sketch-Book-icon The watch list

Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler

Sarah CanaryWhen black cloaked Sarah Canary wanders into a railway camp in the Washington territories in 1873, Chin Ah Kin is ordered by his uncle to escort “the ugliest woman he could imagine” away. Far away. But Chin soon becomes the follower. In the first of many such instances, they are separated, both resurfacing some days later at an insane asylum. Chin has run afoul of the law and Sarah has been committed for observation.

Their escape from the asylum in the company of another inmate sets into motion a series of adventures and misadventures that are at once hilarious, deeply moving, and downright terrifying.

I have an old hardback edition waiting patiently for my attention, and it has also been republished as part of the SF Masterworks series.

The Fixed Period by Anthony Trollope

The Fixed PeriodThe Fixed Period by Anthony Trollope is an unusual early science fiction novel, originally published anonymously. It is part utopia, part dystopia, part dark satire, with overtones of modern “steampunk” and quaint technological devices.

In this amazing visionary work by the British Victorian master of social mores and relationships, Britannula is an imaginary “futuristic” island country and a one-time British colony near New Zealand, and the story is narrated by the President. In Britannula, a law has been passed decreeing that all citizens who have reached the age of 67 must be removed to “The College” to undergo euthanasia, for the good of society.What happens when the first and oldest man reaches the end of his “Fixed Period” and must prepare for his “humane” death is a fascinating study of moral and social impossibility.

David Lodge, writing in The Guardian, assures me this novel has been unfairly overlooked. I am a bit of a sucker for overlooked books (and dogs with three legs, and cats with one eye … ) so this is now on my list. First published in 1882, the book  “received mixed, somewhat baffled reviews, and sold only 877 copies, making a loss for its publisher. It has not been any more popular since then.” I suspect part of the problem is the awful cover …

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