Welcome to the second part of the first ever Outlandish Lit (mostly) full year fiction preview! The list of 50-ish fiction books to look for continues from April on. Much of what's coming out in the fall is still an exciting mystery. Once again, I tried to leave out the big ones you probably already know about (new Murakami, Gay, Ward, Oates, etc. etc.) and also books that are in a series, but are not the first of it. If you love N.K. Jemisin or Sylvain Neuvel, you probably already know you're getting new installations this year.
Borne - Jeff VanderMeer
Mother fucking Jeff VanderMeer!!!! Author of the Southern Reach Trilogy AND MORE, the king of weird and of my heart is back with a stand-alone novel (as far as I know). I really don't want to know too much about it before I go in, but I know it's post apocalyptic, and there is a talking bear (I think). And there's also a creature named Borne. I don't know what it is, but it seems weird. It's going to be great and no doubt have amazing environmental themes.
Proof of Concept - Gwyneth Jones
This sounds like a pick for my WestWorld loving friends. It's a novel about a cyborg (sort of). We're set in an overcrowded Earth that's taken some serious hits from climate change. The government is trying to keep everybody chill and potentially get them to a habitable exoplanet. The main character is a human who hosts an AI, Altair, in her brain. So they are two characters. "But Altair knows something he can’t tell. Kir, like all humans, is programmed to ignore future dangers. Between the artificial blocks in his mind, and the blocks evolution has built into his host, how is he going to convince her the sky is falling?"
American War - Omar El Akkad
In 2074, a second civil war breaks out in America. TOPICAL! This book sounds like a bummer with its government drones, global warming, and despair. The main character goes to a place called "Camp Patience" which sounds like an internment camp to me despite its super fun name. I guess we'll have to read and find out just how badly America will ruin itself.
The Boy in the Earth - Fuminori Nakamura
I don't know anything more about this book than the description, so I may as well just show you: "An unnamed taxi driver in Tokyo ... cannot stop daydreaming of suicide, envisioning himself returning to the earth in what soon become terrifying blackout episodes. His live-in girlfriend, Sayuko, is in a similarly bad phase, surrendering to alcoholism to escape the memory of her miscarriage. He meets with the director of the orphanage where he once lived, and must confront awful memories of his past and an abusive family before determining what to do next." I LOVE FUN BOOKS.
Tender: Stories - Sofia Samatar
Sofia Samatar, author of Stranger in Olondria (a book I haven't read yet but really want to) is releasing her debut collection of short stories. Samatar is a sci-fi fantasy powerhouse, and they will all be amazing I'm sure.
Tell Me How This Ends Well - David Samuel Levinson
Here's another topical one for you. It's 2022, and due to a flood of Israeli refugees entering America, there is anti-Semitism abound. In this tense environment, a Jewish family is planning a reunion, but they are also plotting the murder of one of the family members. This book seems very dark and funny, and I am excited to check out this Jewish author.
Hekla's Children - James Brogden
The cover of this book is what drew me in. "A decade ago, teacher Nathan Brookes saw four of his students walk up a hill and vanish. Only one returned – Olivia – starved, terrified, and with no memory of where she’d been. After a body is found in the same woodland where they disappeared, it is first believed to be one of the missing children, but is soon identified as a Bronze Age warrior, nothing more than an archaeological curiosity." Then some shit goes down. WHAT.
Beneath - Kristi Demeester
Wow, there is next to no information about this book out at the moment, but from the author's mouth herself: "It’s what I like to call my apocalyptic, snake-handling novel. It’s about a journalist sent to write a story on a snake-handling church in Appalachia. She uncovers what initially looks to be some kind of possession or mental illness, but is something much, much older and darker." Yes, please.
Marlena - Julie Buntin
I love love love intense stories about female friendships. Marlena and Cat meet in a rural Michigan town in their teens. Marlena is quirky, beautiful, and over medicated. Cat is innocent and plain and so willing to do whatever it takes to be Marlena's friend. They form a bond incredibly quickly and in less than a year Marlena has died. As an adult, Marlena looks back on how this friendship shaped her life, which was darker than it often seemed. I'm ready to cry.
Fen - Daisy Johnson
What some of these strange short stories are about: "Amid the marshy paths of the fens, a teenager might starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl and grow jealous of her friend. A boy might return from the dead in the guise of a fox." Love it.
Black Mad Wheel - Josh Malerman
Malerman's first horror novel was Bird Box, a book heavily focused on hearing instead of seeing. Continuing the hearing theme, we've got Black Mad Wheel. A band is approached by an army agent who asks them to go to an African desert to find the source of "a mysterious and malevolent sound." Creepy weird sounds, desert, conspiracy?? Say no more.
Broken River - J. Robert Lennon
This book sounds like a haunted house story to me, but it also seems far to literary to refer to itself as that. But maybe I'm projecting. There is for sure a "spectral presence" watching an old house. After being empty for a few years after some sort of incident, a new family moves in. Some of the family members become obsessed with murders that occurred in that very house. It seems dark and it also promises to be "comic." I love just about anything like this, tbh.
Little Sister - Barbara Gowdy
This novel has a Helen Phillips blurb (author of The Beautiful Bureaucrat)!! Main character Rose has intense dreams about being in another woman's body. Is it just a dream or is it real?? Her mother has dementia, her sister died when she was young, and now Rose is intent on helping a woman she hasn't met. According to Phillips "Brilliantly, devastatingly, Barbara Gowdy unveils the alternate possibilities hidden within the everyday."
The Answers - Catherine Lacey
In an effort to cover costs of a New Age treatment that actually helps Mary who is "all but paralyzed with pain," Mary finds a job on Craigslist. But this isn't just any job. It's called the "Girlfriend Experiment." Each woman involved in this experiment created by an eccentric actor is meant to fill a different role. "Mary is hired as the “Emotional Girlfriend”—certainly better than the “Anger Girlfriend” or the “Maternal Girlfriend”—and is pulled into Kurt’s ego-driven and messy attempt at human connection." Bonkers. I want to read.
Kintu - Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Makumbi promises with this novel to give us a truly Ugandan experience, and I am so hyped. "In 1750, Kintu Kidda unleashes a curse that will plague his family for generations. In this ambitious tale of a clan and of a nation, Makumbi weaves together the stories of Kintu’s descendants as they seek to break from the burden of their shared past and reconcile the inheritance of tradition and the modern world that is their future." Reviewers say that everyone should read it, and we fall into that category.
Mapping the Interior - Stephen Graham Jones
Oops, do we have another haunted house book already? Ok, I don't know if this one is necessarily haunted. It sounds more like a House of Leaves situation. A 15-year-old boy discovers that the house is bigger than he originally knew it to be, so he sets out to map it out. But at what cost??? Stephen Graham Jones is a big player in literary horror, and the family in this novel is explicitly Native American, which is awesome.
Stephen Florida - Gabe Habash
If a book has a cover this good AND a blurb by Hanya Yanagihara, there is literally no reason not to read it. This is a character study set in the American West about a college wrestler named, you guessed it, Stephen Florida. The more he wrestles and improves during his final season, the more unstable he gets. Yanagihara says, "in Stephen, he’s created a singular character: funny, ambitious, affecting, but also deeply troubled, vulnerable, and compellingly strange."
You Should Have Left - Daniel Kehlmann
Getting some The Shining vibes from this book, tbh, but I'm not sure if it's creepy or just weird. The main character is a writer who brings his family to stay in a house in the mountains of Germany for seven days. And it may or may not defy the laws of physics. Was I wrong about The Shining?? At only 128 pages, I imagine this will be an intense read.
Attic - Katherine Dunn
Yes, you read that right. KATHERINE DUNN. Author of Geek Love, my favorite book, who died in 2016. She didn't write much fiction at all, but her debut that I had never heard of is being reissued this year! It sounds like it's a very short fictional journal of a insane woman basically. People either think it's a masterpiece or they hate it entirely. If you are somebody who needs a book to have a plot, beware.
The Dark Dark: Stories - Samantha Hunt
Mr. Splitfoot absolutely blew me away last year, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Hunt's short stories. They're going to be weird af. For example: "An FBI agent falls in love with a robot built for a suicide mission. A young woman unintentionally cheats on her husband when she is transformed, nightly, into a deer. Two strangers become lovers and find themselves somehow responsible for the resurrection of a dog...Thirteen pregnant teenagers develop a strange relationship with the Founding Fathers of American history." Her writing is beautiful and she has a knack for weird plots that come together in mind blowing ways.
Found Audio - N.J. Campbell
Now this is my kind of plot. A mysterious man brings Amrapali Anna Singh, historian and expert audio recording analyst, three cassettes "that bear the stamp of a library in Buenos Aires that may or may not exist." They contain the deposition of an adventurer who was obsessed with finding the "City of Dreams." There are so many questions about where this came from and who made it, that Singh sends it to a friend. Then she disappears. Just like the man who gave the cassettes to her. This book is the transcription of the recordings. BRING IT ON. Also, this book has a blurb by Christian Kiefer, an author who I stalk for book recs.
Goodbye, Vitamin - Rachel Khong
God, do I ever shut up about blurbs? This book has one written by Miranda July. OK, THAT'S ALL I'LL SAY. A thirty-year-old woman, Ruth, whose engagement recently fell apart quits her job to move in with her parents, because her father as diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Life didn't seem to be going the way Ruth planned and her father is only getting worse. Helping her father regain his memory is something new for Ruth to focus on and learn from. This book sounds funny and sad and sweet and I'll probably cry the whole time, who knows, I'm always crying.
Dichronauts - Greg Egan
If you are looking for a sci-fi book that is nearly impossible to explain to friends or strangers or anyone at all, boy, do I have the book for you. Seth has a friend named Theo, who happens to be a "leech-like creature running through his skull who tells Seth what lies to his left and right." Seth can only see in certain directions. If he turns certain directions, his body begins to stretch. Everybody is always moving, searching for a safe place to live, because the habitable zones change. Cities are moved and rebuilt constantly to stay in habitable zones. What am I even talking about anymore?? If this wasn't bad enough, there's a fissure in the surface of the world. GREAT. I hope everything works out for Seth and his leech skull friend.
The Goddesses - Swan Huntley
Hawaii, baby!! See, I don't know if this is a book I would love or hate, but I'm too intrigued not to mention it. Sidenote: Swan Huntley sounds like the name of a goddess. Unfair. Anyway, a family moves to Hawaii for a fresh start after Nancy's husband cheated on her and her twins have been obnoxious. Life is getting better, but Nancy forms a very strong relationship with a yoga teacher named Ana. Nancy starts leaving the twins on their own to hang out with Ana and doing anything Ana asks her to do. But it's just because she's happy, there's definitely nothing menacing about this relationship at all!! God, I really want to know what happens in this "mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation." Also, I like Hawaii.
The Grip of It - Jac Jemc
One last haunted house book. I swear this is the last one. A young couples moves in and tries to be cool despite some slight personal problems but, OF COURSE, "The architecture—claustrophobic, riddled with hidden rooms within rooms—becomes unrecognizable, decaying before their eyes. Stains are animated on the wall—contracting, expanding—and map themselves onto Julie’s body in the form of bruises; mold spores taint the water that James pours from the sink." Ew. They've clearly got some stuff to figure out about who lived there before, and probably a little bit to figure out about themselves, if I'm being honest.
Carmen Maria Machado is an author I know nothing about, but this collection of short stories sounds veeeery interesting. She mixes sci-fi, horror, realism, and fabulism - MY FAVORITE THINGS. And here is the glorious list of highlighted topics in her stories: "A woman lists her sexual encounters as a plague spreads across the world. A resident at a writers’ colony is haunted by the memory of a long-ago night at Girl Scout camp. A young wife refuses to remove the green ribbon from her neck, despite her husband’s pleading. And the centerpiece is the virtuosic novella “Especially Heinous,” in which Machado recaps every single episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, dropping Benson and Stabler into a phantasmagoria of doppelgängers and girls-with-bells-for-eyes."
If you missed it, part one is here.
May your 2017 reading be the weirdest yet.
May your 2017 reading be the weirdest yet.