After its brief hiatus some years ago, the Hard Case Crime imprint has bounced back better and bigger than ever.
In the Margin
The Science Fiction Writers of America bestowed the title of Grandmaster on the late Frederik Pohl. But his contribution to literature went beyond any genre.
“I was living in a small Icelandic town where I felt conspicuous as a foreignor, yet also socially isolated. I didn’t speak any Icelandic at that stage, it was winter, and the days were gripped by darkness for up to twenty hours at a time. It was during this early period of loneliness that I happened to drive through a very striking place called Vatnsdalur, a valley covered in hundreds of small hills. When I asked my travelling companions if the area was significant for any reason, they told me that it had been the site of the last executions in Iceland, which had taken place well over 150 years ago. Immediately curious, I asked them what had happened, and was told that a young man and woman had been led out to the hills and beheaded by broad axe for their role in the brutal murder of two sleeping men.” — Hannah Kent on the genesis of Burial Rites.
Science Fiction, that harbinger of things to come, is a genre alive and well, continuing to serve as an illumination of our greatest hopes and fears for what the future holds. Similarly, the epic tales of the Fantasy genre cast the human experience as one of dueling triumph and devastating defeat, war and serenity, royalty and paupers. These fantastic realms have produced some of 2013’s finest fiction, corralled and admired here at the Review. And so we have compiled a collection of forty-two works comprising the best SF and Fantasy of 2013 (Thus Far), which can be found by clicking here.
What follows is a round-up of four particularly fascinating books from this list, each of which has captured our sense of the surreal, and quenched our thirst for heroes and villains of mythic proportions. — The Editors
Blending consensus historical events and personages with imaginary occult forces is a strong recipe for counterfactual storytelling goodness that combines the best of two worlds: resonant history with wild-eyed fantasy. The formula has worked for Mike Mignola’s Hellboy franchise, as well as Charles Stross’s Laundry series. Ian Tregellis’s Milkweed Triptych is the latest such hybrid, zestily offering a suspenseful take on history rerouted by the uncanny.
There’s lots to like in Caleb Crain’s marvelous debut novel, Necessary Errors. This is a coming-of-age story of exiles and expats finding freedom in post-Velvet Revolution Prague. In elegant prose and with great tenderness, Crain captures all the messiness of twenty-something lives, where exuberance and idealism collide with expectations and indiscretions.
But Crain’s talent isn’t limited to writing novels; for years now, his journalism and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The New York Times, the London Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, and n+1.
Which is why I had to ask: What’s it like to be a critic-turned-novelist?
Few predators rival the shark in fascination. No matter how often we see them, or how much we read about them, humans are always eager to learn more, exhibiting a mixture of reverence, awe and fear.
All of which is to say, who can resist the notion of “Shark Week”? Here’s a week’s worth — seven vital volumes — of squaline lore, ranging from the scientific to the sensationally fantastic, to satisfy that obsession with what just might be out there in the waves.
For many of us, summer reading means the chance to experience exotic locales beyond those frequent-flier miles can reach– or to indulge in a safely imaginary excursion to the shadowy sides of human experience. Why not combine the two? Crime noir from around the world is perfectly suited for the season’s sweltering days and nights. Here are ten tales of international intrigue have captured our attention: whether they accompany you to the beach, on a flight, or even on a late-night stakeout, these cold-blooded tales are just the thing for the journey through a long, hot August.
The first edition of Samuel Delany’s novella Phallos was published by a small press in 2004. Nowadays, it’s a sought-after rarity among Delany fanatics. Although I own all of Delany’s other books, I have never lucked into a copy myself. But now, thanks to the editorial acumen and good taste of Wesleyan University Press (buttressed by several accessibly scholarly essays attached), an affordable new edition is available. Moreover, the text is enhanced and expanded by one-third. Delany fans, rejoice!
Over the course of four previous novels, Max Barry has proven himself a gonzo satirist and a black-comedy inclined futurist of no mean abilities. Deadly funny, with barbs of cultural commentary hidden within his absurdity. As with all such writers—Robert Sheckley, William Tenn, Kurt Vonnegut, Will Self, Christopher Moore and George Saunders, for instance—this exaggerative, extrapolative talent means he also has his sensitive fingertips securely fastened to the pulse of the present, whose more uncanny dimensions he also often explores. For it is only the keen analysis and tracking of “what is” that provides the solid foundation from which “what might be” (however outrageous) can believably arise.
Very few debut novels exhibit the charm, assurance, emotional depth and bravura fabulation which the lucky reader will discover in Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni. Like some agreeable conflation of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Mark Helprin and the anonymous compiler of One Thousand and One Nights, Wecker delivers an ambitious yet gracefully humble novel featuring the best of classic European and Middle Eastern fancies, reimagined and reembedded in a vivid New World milieu, at once numinously odd and groundedly naturalistic. The result is utterly unique and enchanting. Perhaps the famous debut of Susannah Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, might be the last occasion for such rejoicing at a new voice in the genre and beyond.
A new oral history of a groundbreaking comedy troupe, a porn magazine editor’s memoir, short fiction from an award-winning novelist, and more: editor Maris Kreizman joins us to talk about NOOK Snaps.
Angry robots! Aren’t they all? Well, not the line of fine science fiction and fantasy books that comes to readers under the rubric Angry Robot. In fact, their offerings always seem packaged with an appealing extra measure of excitement, zest, and thrills sometimes lacking with more sedate and long-established publishers.
Ethan Rutherford and Matt Burgess (Dogfight: A Love Story) on the writing of Rutherford’s surreal and fiercely funny story collection The Peripatetic Coffin.
I became interested in spies after I met James Jesus Angleton, the legendary head of CIA counterintelligence in 1976. We met in Kensington Nursey outside of Washington DC. Orchids were, as I was to learn, Angleton’s living metaphor for deception. I also learned from Angleton that intelligence services have been known to engage in what he termed “surreptitiously-assisted deaths.”
Edward Jay Epstein on The Annals of Unsolved Crime.