I thought I’d provide a round-up of all the 2017 books I’ve blurbed, along with one reprint, Lives of the Monster Dogs, that I’ve written a new introduction for. I’m really enthusiastic about all of these titles, and hopefully there’s a little something for everyone! My blurb in italics before a brief description. – Jeff VanderMeer
Lives of the Monster Dogs, Kirsten Bakis (FSG Classics, May)
“An unforgettable meditation on both animals and humans, and the ways in which we are entangled, and the ways in which neither party can escape the methods of our genesis and our upbringing.” – from my introduction
After a century of cruel experimentation, a haunted race of genetically and biomechanically uplifted canines are created by the followers of a mad nineteenth-century Prussian surgeon. Possessing human intelligence, speaking human language, fitted with prosthetic hands, and walking upright on their hind legs, the monster dogs are intended to be super soldiers. Rebelling against their masters, however, and plundering the isolated village where they were created, the now wealthy dogs make their way to New York.
The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington, Leonora Carrington (Dorothy, April)
“The definitive collection of Carrington’s short fiction is a treasure and a gift to this world. A stunning achievement.”
Surrealist writer and painter Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) was a master of the macabre, of gorgeous tableaus, biting satire, roguish comedy, and brilliant, effortless flights of the imagination. Nowhere are these qualities more ingeniously brought together than in the works of short fiction she wrote throughout her life. Published to coincide with the centennial of her birth, the complete stories collects for the first time all of her stories, including several never before seen in print. With a startling range of styles, subjects, and even languages (several of the stories are translated from French or Spanish), this collection captures the genius and irrepressible spirit of an amazing artist’s life.
The Grip of It, Jac Jemc (FSG Originals, August)
“A stunning, smart genuinely creepy page-turner that I couldn’t put down. It’s got depth, thrills, twists, and great writing. I’d recommend this novel to anyone. One of the few haunted house stories that sticks the landing.”
The Grip of It tells the eerie story of a young couple haunted by their new home. Julie and James settle into a house in a small town outside the city where they met. The move?prompted by James’s penchant for gambling, his inability to keep his impulses in check?is quick and seamless; both Julie and James are happy to leave behind their usual haunts and start afresh. But this house, which sits between lake and forest, has plans for the unsuspecting couple.
Tales of Falling and Flying, Ben Loory (Penguin, September)
“Parables, dark fables, quirky flash fictions—call them what you will, Ben Loory has perfected the form and in Tales of Falling and Flying proves once again he can disturb a little and entertain a lot. Easily read, not easily forgotten.”
Ben Loory returns with a second collection of timeless tales, inviting us to enter his worlds of whimsical fantasy, deep empathy, and playful humor, in the signature voice that drew readers to his highly praised first collection. In stories that eschew literary realism, Loory’s characters demonstrate richly imagined and surprising perspectives, whether they be dragons or swordsmen, star-crossed lovers or long-lost twins, restaurateurs dreaming of Paris or cephalopods fixated on space travel.
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Machado (Graywolf Press, October)
“Genius: part punk rock and part classical, with stories that are raw and devastating but also exquisitely plotted and full of delight. This is a strong, dangerous, and blisteringly honest book—it’s hard to think of it as a ‘debut,’ it’s that good.”
Machado’s stories mix sci-fi, horror, frank realism, and fabulism as they shift from urban legend to post-apocalypse and more. 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.
The Twenty Days of Turin, Giorgio De Maria, translated by Ramon Glazov (Liveright, February)
“A chilling novel that conjures up the creepy claustrophobia of The Tenant and the mind-bending epic horror of House of Leaves?except spread across an entire city. Odd libraries, uncanny monuments, horrific deaths, and terrifying puppet shows…even days later, I’m still flinching at shadows, unable to forget the riveting details of a newly unearthed uncanny classic.”
Written during the height of the 1970s Italian domestic terror, a cult novel, with distinct echoes of Lovecraft and Borges, makes its English-language debut. In the spare wing of a church-run sanatorium, some zealous youths create “the Library,” a space where lonely citizens can read one another’s personal diaries but when their scribblings devolve into the ugliest confessions of the macabre, the Library’s users learn too late that a malicious force has consumed their privacy and their sanity.
Creatures of Will and Temper, Molly Tanzer (John Joseph Adams Books, November)
“A delightful, dark, and entertaining romp with serious intent behind it. The writing is so smart and sharp—Molly Tanzer is at the top of her form in this beautifully constructed novel. Sure to be a favorite of readers and critics alike.”
Victorian London is a place of fluid social roles, vibrant arts culture, fin-de-siècle wonders . . . and dangerous underground diabolic cults. Fencer Evadne Gray cares for none of the former and knows nothing of the latter when she’s sent to London to chaperone her younger sister, aspiring art critic Dorina. Unfortunately for Evadne, she soon learns too much about all of it when Dorina meets their uncle’s friend, Lady Henrietta “Henry” Wotton. A semi-respectable aristocrat in public, in private she is secretly in the thrall of a demon obsessed with beauty and pleasure. Combining swordplay, demons, and high society, Creatures of Will and Temper shows a timeless world and adventure readers won’t soon forget.
The Vines That Ate the South, J.D. Wilkes (Two Dollar Radio, March)
“A sly, rollicking Southern phantasmagoria that finds the sweet spot between tall tale and something more dangerous and psychological. Hilarious, profane, entertaining, and sneakily written. The illustrations are brilliant, too.”
In a forgotten corner of western Kentucky lies a haunted forest referred to locally as “The Deadening,” where vampire cults roam wild and time is immaterial. Our protagonist and his accomplice—the one and only, Carver Canute—set out down the Old Spur Line in search of the legendary Kudzu House, where an old couple is purported to have been swallowed whole by a hungry vine. Their quest leads them face to face with albino panthers, Great Dane-riding girls, protective property owners, and just about every American folk-demon ever, while forcing the protagonist to finally take stock of his relationship with his father and the man’s mysterious disappearance.