Thursday, January 19, 2012

Two More 2012 Upcoming Titles, Karen Thompson Walker and Lauren Groff (by Liviu Suciu)

In the few posts with Upcoming 2012 Titles of great interest (I, II, III, IV) I mentioned I would also look around for debuts that intrigued me - or at least books announced as such since these days with the proliferation of pseudonyms and repackaging of authors under different "brands" - and for good reasons in general - it is sometimes hard to know when a book is a debut or no.

While so far only the Saladin Ahmed title that will be published soon and has already garnered some good early reviews tempts me from the "core genre" arena - title I do not have yet but will look for when published at the latest - and I am not sold on the conceit of The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus (not a "true debut" but like the 2010 Justin Cronin novel below, a sff debut) which I have not yet seen, but will try at least a sample soon, I recently found out about The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, a June novel that seems to have generated some waves (and sold for $$$$$$$) as the Guardian article linked here notes.

I put a request for a review copy and I plan to take a look at this novel asap since in hype at least, it seems to be the 2012 analog of The Night Circus of 2011 and of The Passage of 2010.

Here is the blurb which has some similarities with the Booker nominated The Testament of Jessie Lamb in so far it is about the "apocalypse in slow motion", though here the cause seems to be an earthquake rather than a genetically engineered virus, so a classical "act of God" rather than the more "du jour" "we did it to ourselves", but we'll see...

"Luminous, haunting, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles is a stunning fiction debut by a superb new writer, a story about coming of age during extraordinary times, about people going on with their lives in an era of profound uncertainty.

On a seemingly ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia and her family awake to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the rotation of the earth has suddenly begun to slow. The days and nights grow longer and longer, gravity is affected, the environment is thrown into disarray. Yet as she struggles to navigate an ever-shifting landscape, Julia is also coping with the normal disasters of everyday life—the fissures in her parents’ marriage, the loss of old friends, the hopeful anguish of first love, the bizarre behavior of her grandfather who, convinced of a government conspiracy, spends his days obsessively cataloging his possessions. As Julia adjusts to the new normal, the slowing inexorably continues.

With spare, graceful prose and the emotional wisdom of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker has created a singular narrator in Julia, a resilient and insightful young girl, and a moving portrait of family life set against the backdrop of an utterly altered world."

Edit 1/19/2012 later - my review request was approved faster than I expected so I got a copy of the book this afternoon and I took a look and the prose is indeed beautiful at least from a quick glance. As today was the big day of UK sf releases (McAuley, Reynolds, Meaney) I will be busy for a while with those three which I just bought together with an earlier UK sf release by Chris Beckett that has great reviews so I will probably get to The Age of Miracles in a few weeks (June release anyway), but I have great hopes for it now.


Not a debut and not really sff, but I would be remiss not to also mention Arcadia, the second novel of Lauren Groff after her superb debut The Monsters of Templeton which Robert reviewed here in 2008.

This review was one of the main reasons I started following closely Fantasy Book Critic in early 2008 - you can see the comments there as I even did not have a Google identity at the time and I needed to be anon though I would always sign my name - and then later, entering in more discussions about books with Robert and finding out we have similar sensibilities led to my collaborating here.

As it should be obvious, I also loved this book a lot and Arcadia - about which I found out only a few days ago at the end of last week, but through the magic of Net Galley, I managed to get a review copy this week - and from which I read some 50 pages so far, seems to be as good as the author's debut and I expect I will finish it soon with a review closer to its March publication date, though in the meantime some thoughts will be posted on Goodreads where I keep the journal of books read, reading, considered, wanted...

Here is the blurb:

"In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after."

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