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THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY 2019

A strong collection that will inspire, disturb, and, yes, give pleasure.

The chosen becomes the chooser: Machado, the award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties (2017) and a contributor to last year’s anthology, serves as guest editor for the 2019 volume.

Every one of these 20 tales shines; there’s not a lackluster one in the bunch. They cover a variety of overlapping subgenres, from haunted-house horror to speculative social fiction to alien invasion to apocalyptic fantasy, and feature some of the most notable and rising writers in these overlapping areas, including Seanan McGuire, Daryl Gregory, P. Djèlí Clark, Sofia Samatar, and last year’s editor, N.K. Jemisin, among others. In her introduction, Machado declares her intention to ignore any artificial lines drawn between those stories considered “literary” and those labelled as “genre,” and she says that her chief criterion in selecting these works was whether they provided her with pleasure. That doesn’t mean these stories offer happy endings or simple answers. If there’s one theme that unites them, it’s the characters' desire to escape: from that haunted house (Adam-Troy Castro’s “Pitcher Plant”), the forces of time itself (Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s “Through the Flash” and Adam R. Shannon’s “On the Day You Spend Forever With Your Dog”), the restrictions of expected fictional tropes (Ada Hoffman’s “Variations on a Theme From Turandot”), racism and classism (LaShawn M. Wanak’s “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” and P. Djèlí Clark’s “The Secret Lives of the Nine Negro Teeth of George Washington”), misogyny and the associated bonds of social convention (Sofia Samatar’s “Hard Mary,” Kelly Robson’s “What Gentle Women Dare,” Theodore McCombs’ “Six Hangings in the Land of Unkillable Women,” and Lesley Nneka Arimah’s “Skinned”), and of course, foolish and dangerous preconceptions about the world that everyone holds in some measure (that’s just about every story).

A strong collection that will inspire, disturb, and, yes, give pleasure.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-60437-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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