The Boy in the Earth

Fuminori Nakamura is one of the most intriguing contemporary novelists out of Japan, but I’m glad his works are short. It would be much too difficult to wrap your head around the darkness his characters inhabit if his works were 500 pages long instead of his more usual 200 pages or less. His austere plot lines are inhabited by intensely well-drawn characters, but the characters themselves are “hollow.” Not in the sense that they aren’t fully realized, but in the sense that almost every character is damaged, has an aspect of loss to them, a hole that cannot always be filled.

THE BOY IN THE EARTH opens with our protagonist provoking a motorcycle gang, willing them to beat him into a pulp, which they gleefully do.

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Music for Love or War

Canadian-born novelist, journalist, screenwriter and director Martyn Burke combines his experiences covering the war in Afghanistan with his mordant observations of Hollywood and American pop culture – viewed from the vantage point of his part-time Southern California home – in his latest novel, MUSIC FOR LOVE OR WAR.

It’s a whirlwind story, equally hilarious and heartbreaking, about the various kinds of love and war — and quite unlike any novel you’re likely to read.

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The Transmigration of Bodies

transmigrationMexican-born author Yuri Herrera’s latest novel, THE TRANSMIGRATION OF BODIES, is just over 100 pages, yet amazingly accomplishes things expected of works twice its length. It creates an allegorical world populated with convincing characters, and relates its simple yet memorable plot in a relentless noir style (aided by Lisa Dillman’s insightful translation).

An unnamed Mexican city is suffering from a plague that has killed many of its resident’s. Those who survived stay indoors as much as possible, or wear medical facemasks if they dare venture outside.

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The Relic Master

relicmasterBest fiction book I’ve read in the last 12 months? That’s easy. It’s Christopher Buckley’s THE RELIC MASTER, a bizarre mix of MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, swashbuckling fantasy à la Alex Bledsoe, tinged with historical intrigue and a giant dollop of Catholicism.

It’s also really, really funny.

The titular relic master is one Dismas, who scours the world for physical holy relics, things like the patella of St. Anne, the shoulder blade of St. Francis, a true splinter of the cross, etc. He has two very rich, very powerful clients, and he manages to hate only one of them.

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Sweet Nothing: Stories

sweetnothingReaders who first experienced Richard Lange through his 2013 novel, ANGEL BABY, may not know that his first published work was the short story collection, DEAD BOYS. SWEET NOTHING is Lange’s second collection of short fiction and reaffirms his mastery of the form.

Most of the 10 pieces are set in contemporary Los Angeles and, while not strictly speaking crime stories or mysteries, focus on individuals at a crossroads or transition in their lives due to a serious, sometimes illegal transgression or addiction.

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The Collector of Lost Things

collectorlostThe sea was a notable but occasional location in British author Jeremy Page’s first two novels. In THE COLLECTOR OF LOST THINGS, Page’s third and latest work, the sea is practically a secondary player in this character-driven, highly literary story of suspense and betrayal.
 
The year is 1845. Elliot Saxby, a British naturalist researcher, is hired to undertake an expedition to the Artic to search for the remains of the Great Auk, a large flightless bird believed to be extinct. He books passage aboard the Amethyst, an aging but dependable hunting ship equipped to travel through the icy Artic waters.

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Erotic Lives of the Superheroes

eroticlivesThe author of EROTIC LIVES OF THE SUPERHEROES has an interesting premise: What happens to superheroes when they get older? It’s not an entirely original idea, but when you’re dealing with a genre that’s more than 70 years old, how much originality can you expect? But let me begin with a small bit comic-book trivia:

When Alan Moore was pitching the story that would become WATCHMEN to DC Comics, he originally intended to use a group of characters that DC had acquired from the defunct Charlton Comics. Since Moore’s storyline would ensure that many (if not most) of the characters would be unusable afterward, DC requested that he create his own. Moore’s solution was to come up with characters that were analogues to Charlton’s.

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theNewerYork Book III

neweryork3‘Tis rare, but sometimes it feels like the only way one can a review a book is simply to share the fact that it exists. THENEWERYORK BOOK III is one of those times.

The 82-page “literary anthology” is like a zine in paperback format. What it’s about is practically left open for you to decide, as the contents vary and waver in a way that suggests a stream-of-consciousness approach, except that this is not the product of a single mind and voice. (If it were, it would risk being committed.)

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Generations

generationsAny new work from long-renowned author and screenwriter Richard Matheson is cause for interest and excitement. The fact that Gauntlet Press promotes GENERATIONS as “an autobiographical novel” raises the anticipation bar even higher, as his body of work has yet to include an autobiography. None of his novels, short stories or screenplays (or interviews, for that matter) tells us much about his formative years.

Unfortunately, neither does GENERATIONS, and that is one of several curious and unsatisfying characteristics of this latest work.

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Zombie

I had a love affair with this book. Like most love affairs, it ended badly.
         
ZOMBIE, the title of J.R. Angelella’s novel is misleading. It’s not a horror novel, although the story inexplicably heads that way in the second half, and it’s not really about zombies. Really, what Angelella’s novel is, at its heart, is a coming-of-age tale.

Jeremy Barker is starting high school at an all-boys’ Catholic school. His cold and distant father is prone to disappearing in the middle of the night and returning home without explanation. His mother is a pill-popping junkie who has left the family for what she believes is greener pastures. Jeremy’s older brother is a sex-addicted narcissist.

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