BY NICO VREELAND
[This feature is a brief summary of interesting books coming out each month. Click the title links to find these books at Goodreads.]
Lexicon, by Max Barry (out 6/18)
I’ve already pre-ordered this book, on the strength of Barry’s last novel, my favorite book of 2011. I’m trying to keep my expectations as low as possible, but Barry’s a rare talent. There’s a prep school where kids are taught “persuasion” instead of math and science—that’s about the first sentence and a half of the flap copy. My usual custom is to avoid any advance marketing for books I’ve already committed to reading, so I know next to nothing about this one. Which should explain why this blurb was a rambling run-on instead of anything useful. Let’s just move on.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman (out 6/18)
Internet darling Gaiman has had a pretty charmed career, from being considered one of the best comic book writers ever, to guest-starring turns writing on sci-fi TV shows like Babylon 5 and Doctor Who. He had a well-received book adaption in 2009’s Coraline (and, to be fair, a much worse adaptation in 2007’s Stardust), and adaptations of American Gods and (my favorite Gaiman book) Neverwhere have been announced. He’s the rare writer that can use the elasticity of sci-fi to dig into universal themes and feelings. He’s China Miéville with a point. So it’s no real surprise that this latest explores the ramifications of suicide using fantasy elements like otherworldly creatures and three ancient sisters.
TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann (out 6/4)
For some reason, I feel like this novel has already been released. The New York Times Magazine just published an interesting profile of the eccentric McCann and the “cupboard” where he writes. The profiler also says TransAtlantic boasts “stunning language [and] psychological acuity [and] humor and imagination” as well as “sheer ambition” as he weaves history and fiction, stretching from Frederick Douglass to the still-living ex-senator George Mitchell. Sounds a bit like E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, one of my all-time favorites.
Doll, by Taylor Stevens (out 6/4)
Taylor Stevens might be the most interesting thriller writer in the world. She was born into a sexually abusive cult and her fiction seems to be reflective of the intricate fantasy life of a traumatized abuse victim. But, since she refuses to read any other books, her fiction is also quite bad. She’s a bit of a double-edged sword. I’m still waiting for her memoir.
Joyland, by Stephen King (out 6/4)
King’s latest is a half-horror half-mystery mashup that he refuses to release an ebook of. I’m reading it now. It’s OK. I should have a review up later this week.
The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls (out 6/11)
The author of the widely acclaimed memoirs Half Broke Horses and The Glass Castle turns to fiction with this novel about two itinerant sisters, one of whom suffers a mysterious trauma (mysterious as in the advance press is keeping mum about it).
Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver (out 6/4)
Shriver’s latest novel follows a woman with a morbidly obese brother and a possibly anorexic husband. Big Brother is “about fat.” Early buzz is understandably mixed.
Engagements, by J. Courtney Sullivan (out 6/11)
If you enjoyed Maine, here’s another one by the same author.
Carnival, by Rawi Hage (out 6/17)
This high-risk high-reward novel might be totally overwritten or might be awesome. It follows a taxi driver who grew up in the circus, and all the weird people he meets. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a (pseudo-)circus book.
The Shanghai Factor, by Charles McCarry (out now)
An evidently well-respected spy novelist’s new book. There are foreign locales, intrigue, an unnamed protagonist, an organization called simply HQ. You know, spy novel stuff.
Taipei, by Tao Lin (out 6/4)
Are people still amused by the Tao Lin schtick? I’ll readily admit that the dude has a rare gift for churning up marketing buzz, but his actual writing makes me roll my eyes after a maximum of one paragraph. Anyway, I’m sure his new book won’t be exactly the same as the others…
Earth Afire, by Orson Scott Card (out 6/4)
Speaking of writers who turned one good idea into a career: Orson Scott Card, ladies and gentlemen! Beyond the fact that Card’s a pretty repulsive human being, he’s also been milking Ender’s Game for his entire life. This one’s flap copy starts: “One hundred years before Ender’s Game, the aliens arrived on Earth with fire and death.” In other words, nothing to do with Ender, but we have to shoehorn him in somehow, because that’s the only reason people read Card. Don’t buy this book.