Notable books: September 2011

September has arrived, and autumn with it here in the UK (not that it’s particularly distinguishable from summer…); which means: new books! I’m particularly looking forward to these:

David Almond, The True Tale of the Monster Billy Dean

A book that came to my attention as a result of my interest in mainstream-published fantastic fiction, this is the story of a boy in a broken world, written as by Billy with his own idiosyncratic approach to spelling. I’m instinctively reminded of Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking trilogy; I can only hope Almond’s novel is as good.

Gavin James Bower, Made in Britain

I liked Bower’s 2009 debut, Dazed & Aroused, more than I might have anticipated from its subject matter (a model messes up his life againsta  background of glossy superficiality); so I’m intrigued to read his second novel, which focuses on three teenagers growing up in a washed-out northern English town.

Alois Hotschnig, Maybe This Time

A departure for Peirene Press, this is their first collection of short stories. It sounds like dark, borderline-supernatural fiction, which should be right up my street.

Erin Morgernstern, The Night Circus

This tale of a mysterious and magical travelling circus in the late 19th century is being trumpeted as one of the hottest books of the autumn. I’m rather sceptical of the hype, but would love Morgernstern’s debut to live up to it.

Christopher Priest, The Islanders

Priest is one of my absolute favourite authors, so I’m always going to be interested in a new book by him. This, his first novel in nine years, returns to the setting of his Dream Archipelago stories, which also featured in The Affirmation.

The SF Gateway

If anything were ever going to persuade me to read ebooks, this may be it: vast numbers of classic science fiction and fantasy titles being brought back into print by Gollancz as digital editions. A brilliant idea.

Juan Pablo Villalobos, Down the Rabbit Hole

One of the first two titles from new independent publisher And Other Stories, this novel about a Mexican drug baron’s son who wishes for his own pet hippopotamus has made it on to the longlist for this year’s Guardian first book award.

Notable books: August 2011

Another month is here, and as usual I begin it with a list of forthcoming books that have caught my attention…

Marius Brill, How to Forget

This sounds fascinating: a professional magician longs to be able to forget certain events in his past — then learns of an experimental procedure that may allow him to do just that.

Joe Dunthorne, Wild Abandon

I heard Joe Dunthorne read from this novel, about the changing life on a commune and a boy convinced the world is about to end, at an event in March. I enjoyed that reading, and I look forward to finding out what the whole book is like.

Anna North, America Pacifica

This post-climatic-apocalypse novel comes with recommendations from Charles Yu and Jedediah Berry, which is good enough for me.

Adam Roberts, By Light Alone

Adam Roberts is fast becoming one of my favourite authors; his last two novels have been in my top five reads of their respective years. I wonder whether his latest — set in a future where humans have gained the ability to photosynthesise through their hair, and eating food has become a means of signifying one’s wealth — will do the same.

Sarah Salway, Tell Me Everything

Another reissue of a Sarah Salway novel by the Library of Lost Books? That’d go on my to-read list without my even having to read the blurb. But the premise of the book, a woman building (perhaps literally) a new life for herself by telling stories, also sounds intriguing.

Christopher Wakling, What I Did

This could be an interesting exploration of some social issues, as it explores the consequences of a passer-by seeing a father smack his child after the boy ran across a busy road.

Notable books: July 2011

July is upon us, a month about which I’m particularly excited because (as I may have mentioned before, I’ll be taking part in the panel on reading short stories at the ShortStoryVille festival in Bristol on the 16th. For now, though, here’s a selection of the new books that have caught my attention this month:

Ben Brooks, Grow Up

When Téa Obreht won the Orange Prize, the fact that she was just 24 when her book was published attracted some comment. Well, Ben Brooks is 19; I am curious to see what this coming-of-age tale is like.

Enrique de Hériz, The Manual of Darkness

A magician is going blind as he searches for the secrets of a Victorian master pickpocket. Novels about magic tend to intrigue me, and this is no exception.

Helen FitzGerald, The Donor

This promises an interesting expolartion of ethical issues, as a single father finds both his daughters needing a new kidney–and he’s a match for their rare organ type.

Keigo Higashino, The Devotion of Suspect X

The UK publisher’s blurb for this Japanese bestseller is exceptionally cagey, promising a puzzling crime and surprise ending, whilst giving almost nothing in the way of detail. But it’s worked, and made me curious about the book.

Ryan David Jahn, The Dispatcher

I really enjoyed Jahn’s debut, Acts of Violence (recently published in the US as Good Neighbors), but for some unfathomable reason, I’ve never got around to reading his follow-up, Low Life–I must rectify that at some point. Anyway, this is the author’s third novel, about a police dispatcher seeking to rescue his missing daughter; I’d anticipate Jahn putting an interesting twist on the material.

M.D. Lachlan, Fenrir

Sequel to the excellent Wolfsangel, this moves Lachlan’s Viking fantasy to Paris a hundred years later.

Alice LaPlante, Turn of Mind

This could be  powerful: a novel about a former surgeon with Alzheimer’s who is suspected of killing her best friend.

Amos Oz, Scenes from Village Life

I’ve never read Oz before, but this does sound interesting– a set of linked stories mysterious happenings in an Israeli village.

Jonathan Trigell, Genus

From the author of Boy A comes a novel of a near future in which genetic enhancements are readily available to anyone who can afford them. I’m always interested in mainstream-published speculative fiction, so this goes on my reading list.

Notable books: June 2011

It’s the first day of summer, and as good a time as any to cast an eye over some new books on their way this month.

Alice Albinia, Leela’s Book

A family drama set in Delhi, complete with  appearances from Ganesh. Sounds delightfully intricate from the synopsis.

John Burnside, A Summer of Drowning


Was the drowning of two boys on an Arctic island an accident, or the wok of supernatural forces? I hope this is as atmospheric as it sounds.

Richard T. Kelly, The Possessions of Doctor Forrest

A doctor goes missing, and two of his old friends and colleagues investigate. The publisher’s synopsis is rather vague about what ensues beyond a general promise of strangeness, but strangeness is fine with me.

Helen Oyeyemi, Mr Fox

For some reason, I was originally under the impression that this was a short story collection, but the synopsis makes it sound like a novel, yet the ShortStoryVille programme describes it as ‘linked stories’. I will just have to read this tale of a writer and his (imaginary, or possibly all-too-real) muse to find out.

Jan van Mersbergen, Tomorrow Pamplona

A boxer and a father meet on the way to the Pamplona Bull Run, each trying to escape from something. The latest novella from Peirene Press, this is particularly interesting to me because I know the translator, Laura Watkinson.

David Whitehouse, Bed

The winner of last year’s To Hell with Prizes for unpublished novels, this is the story of a boy who’d like to change the world, but won’t get out of bed, and begins to change. Very intriguing.

Notable books: May 2011

My usual monthly look at some forthcoming titles.

Essie Fox, The Somnambulist

A Victorian-set ‘gothic mystery’. I like a good old spooky story; this could well be worth a look.

Rachel Genn, The Cure

An Irish builder, now based in London, finds himself in a police cell, beaten up, with no memory of what happened, and (I infer from the synopsis) discovers secrets about his life. Intriguing.

China Miéville, Embassytown

After several novels with a London setting, Miéville is heading back to more exotic fantastical territory with this one. I’ll be interested to see how that works out.

Adam Nevill, The Ritual

I loved Banquet for the Damned, Nevill’s debut novel, when I read it a few years ago. It had a strong sense of place and atmosphere; this new book is set more in the wilderness, and I really think the author could do something great with that kind of backdrop.

Katie Ward, Girl Reading

This sounds an unusual debut — a series of linked novellas about the painting of portraits of girls and women reading, moving through history into the near future.

Luke Williams, The Echo Chamber

I’ve been intrigued by the sound of this novel, about a woman who can hear everything, and remember what she’s heard, ever since I first learnt about it — and still am.

Alexi Zentner, Touch

Sounds like a novel with the atmosphere of a fairy tale, set in the Canadian wilderness.

Notable books: April 2011

It may be the first of April, but I’m not joking when I say that I am looking forward to the following books this month.

Robert Jackson Bennett, The Company Man

Bennett’s first novel, Mr Shivers, was one of my favourite reads of last year, a really smart fusion of fantasy, horror and historical fiction. His new book is a tale of industrial corruption set in 1919, and I look forward to reading it very much.

John Boyne, The Thief of Time

A reissue of Boyne’s 2000 debut novel about an unageing man who has lived since the eighteenth century.

Glen Duncan, The Last Werewolf

A werewolf novel, yes, but one published by Canongate, who can usually be relied upon to have interesting books. True, this is pretty flimsy reasoning; but Canongate published an interesting vampire novel last year in The Radleys, so why not?

Sebastian Fitzek, Splinter

Sounds intriguing – a man loses his wife in a car crash, then finds her alive but with no idea who he is, just as he seems to be slipping out of (or losing his grip on) reality.

Shehan Karunatilaka, Chinaman [link is to PDF extract]

I read an extract from this novel, about a dying journalist’s quest to find a missing cricketer, when I was going through the Waterstone’s 11 — and was absolutely blown away by the prose. There is no question that I’ll be reading this as soon as possible.

Sam Leith, The Coincidence Engine [link is to PDF extract]

Another of the Watertsone’s 11 that I want to read, though this time it’s the concept (it features the ‘Directorate of the Extremely Improbable’) that attracts me most.

Paul Murray, An Evening of Long Goodbyes

Skippy Dies was one of the very best books I read last year, so I certainly want to read this, his 2003 debut, now being republished.

Monique Roffey, Sun Dog

Another new edition of a debut, this one from 2002. August Chalmin has an affinity with the weather, one day discovering frost on his arm…

Naomi Wood, The Godless Boys

This debut novel takes us to the 1980s of an alternate England in which secularists have been banished to an offshore island. I first heard about The Godless Boys when Wood was on a panel for Picador Day at Foyles last May, and now I get my chance to read it.

Notable books: March 2011

This month’s list of forthcoming books that have caught my eye.

Kevin Barry, City of Bohane

This novel of a near-future Ireland has been on my list of books to investigate ever since I first heard about it. After reading a sample chapter when the book was selected for the Waterstone’s 11, I was left undecided as to whether I wanted to read the whole thing; but I will be keeping an eye on its reviews.

Kevin Brockmeier, The Illumination

An interesting concept — pain and illness begin to produce light.

Stuart Evers, Ten Stories About Smoking

I’m intrigued by this book for a number of reasons, from the mere fact that it’s a debut short story collection appearing from a mainstream publication, to its packaging (designed to resemble a box of cigarettes), and the fact that I’ve followed Evers on Twitter for some time and been curious to see what his work is like.

Tom Fletcher, The Thing on the Shore

Fletcher is, in my view, one of the most exciting new horror writers around. I’ve loved everything I have read by him so far; naturally, then, I’m keen to read his new novel.

Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife

This enigmatic-sounding novel would have caught my interest even had it not been selected for the Waterstone’s 11; that I liked the sample chapter so much has only increased my interest.

Karen Russell, Swamplandia!

Theme parks, alligator-wrestling, an affair with a ghost… sounds delightfully odd, and therefore right up my street.

Conrad Williams, Loss of Separation

Williams is another key horror writer, consistently excellent as far as I’ve read him; I’m very much looking forward to reading his new novel.

Sarah Winman, When God Was a Rabbit

Another of the Waterstone’s 11 that went straight on my to-read list, and one for which the quality of the sample chapter was the deciding factor.