Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Attention Continues for EXIT WEST

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

9780735212176_8834cCritical attention continues to build for Mohsin Hamid’s newest novel, Exit West (PRH/Riverhead; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample). The book review aggregator LitHub excerpts fifteen consumer reviews and several libraries are showing high holds ratios on light ordering. UPDATE: The New Yorker adds to the reviews, calling the novel “Instantly Canonical” and Entertainment Weekly gives it a straight A.

As we noted in Titles to Know for this week, Michiko Kakutani gave it a laudatory early review in the daily NYT, saying that, like Hamid’s earlier works, the novel explores, “the convulsive changes overtaking the world, as tradition and modernity clash headlong, and as refugees — fleeing war or poverty or hopelessness — try to make their way to safer ground.”

Considered important enough for double coverage, it is also be featured on the cover of the upcoming NYT Sunday Book Review, in  another strong review by Viet Thanh Nguyen [not available online yet], whose own novel about refugees, The Sympathizer (Grove Press, April 2015) won him a Pulitzer Prize and even landed him among the celebrities on late night TV. He praises Hamid’s ability to “exploit fiction’s capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world.”

NPR does a double take as well. Steve Inskeep interviews Hamid on Morning Edition and frequent NPR reviewer Michael Schlub calls Exit West “breathtaking” and “haunting” and says it is “at once a love story, a fable, and a chilling reflection on what it means to be displaced, unable to return home and unwelcome anywhere else.”

Inskeep and Hamid talk about immigration and draw parallels between Pakistan and America, with Hamid saying:

“I think America needs to be very careful. America has built something with great difficulty over a large period of time. And for America to start to become the kind of democracy that Pakistan is would be an incredible loss for America and for the world.”

 

Ted Chiang Takes Off, Again

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

9781101972120_4afa1The film Arrival was nominated for eight Oscar awards but nabbed just one, for Sound Editing. However, clips from the film, shown during the Academy Awards show, served to prime audiences for the film’s On Demand debut on Saturday.

In turn, the the collection that included the short story it is based on, Stories Of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang (originally published in 2002 by Macmillan/Tor; re-released by PRH/Vintage in 2016; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample) is moving up Amazon’s sales ranking again. Demand is also strong in libraries we checked, with most systems topping 4:1 ratios.

This marks a second wave of interest in the collection, after the film’s release in November, when the paperback appeared on the NYT Best Seller List for several weeks.

The formerly under-the-radar Science Fiction writer has since received a even more attention. Wired picked the collection last month for their book club, saying the lead story is so moving that it made participating staff members cry in public.

The New Yorker featured Chiang in January and Syfy Wire published an interview in the lead up to the Oscars.

DOWNTON Gone Ghastly

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

97803124299669781250023902Benedict Cumberbatch will star, reports Deadline Hollywoodin a new five-episode limited series for Showtime called Melrose, based on a series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn, Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, and At Last.

David Nicholls, author of the best seller One Day and screenwriter for the subsequent film, is writing the adaptations and Cumberbatch will executive produce.

Each episode will be based on one of the novels which The Atlantic has called “short, remarkably compressed … (most take place in just 24 hours or so).” The 2014 roundup review begins with a summary that Hollywood could lift, “Imagine a family like the Downton Abbey clan gone bad.”

The novels chronicle the horribly abusive life of aristocrat Patrick Melrose, a drug addict who endured a tortuous childhood. The Atlantic says they are “both harrowing and … hilarious … St. Aubyn has a cut-glass prose style, a gift for unexpected metaphor, and a skewering eye.”

“Although reviewers liken Edward St. Aubyn to Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde,” writes The New Yorker‘s esteemed critic James Woods, “he is a colder, more savage writer than either … his fiction reads like a shriek of filial hatred; most of the posh English who people his novels are virulently repellent … [the books have] an aristocratic atmosphere of tart horror, the hideousness of the material contained by a powerfully aphoristic, lucid prose style.”

The collected volume of the first four books, The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk (Macmillan/Picador; OverDrive Sample), spent three weeks on the extended NYT paperback list. The fifth novel, At Last (Macmillan/Picador; OverDrive Sample) hit the LA Times list, peaking at #16.

Cumberbatch has long wanted to play the role according to Deadline. In 2013 he listed Melrose as the answer to an online Q&A session about the role he would most like to play.

As we noted earlier, Cumberbatch has another adaptation in the pipeline. He will also star in and serve as EP for a TV version of Ian McEwan’s The Child In Time.

TOMORROW AND TOMORROW Moves Towards Screen

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

9780425275412_1459eThe film rights to Tom Sweterlitsch’s debut novel were optioned at nearly the same time the cyberpunk crime novel hit shelves in 2014.

The project just got a big boost with the news that Matt Ross, the director of Captain Fantastic has signed on to direct the adaptation, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow (PRH/Putnam; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample) is set in a near future version of Pittsburgh, after a catastrophe reduces it to rubble. A virtual-reality version of the city, called the Archive, allows characters to visit again, including John Blaxton, who lost his wife and unborn child in the disaster. He also investigates cold cases and finds one very much alive within the digital world of the Archive.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow is prescient, it posits a world not so dissimilar from today, a direction we are all clearly headed, where technology has altered the ways in which we interact with each other and the world around us,” Ross said in a statement. “I hope to examine, following the book’s lead, the degree to which our lives are enhanced, and deeply compromised, by the technology that is already an inseparable part of our daily existence.”

The Hollywood Reporter says that Lynette Howell Taylor, who produced Captain Fantastic and is working on a remake of A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, is on board to produce. So is Mark Gordon, one of the figures behind Saving Private Ryan who is currently working on the all-star update of Murder on the Orient Express.

Librarians chatted with the author as part of our Penguin Random House EarlyReads program (read the chat here). It was picked by LJ as a SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month and as one of 2014’s Summer’s Best Debuts.

The Verge reports that this may not be the only novel by Sweterlitsch to head to the movies. Fox bought the rights to The Gone World in 2015 and Neill Blomkamp (District 9) is in talks to direct.

Late Nite Lit, Deux

Friday, February 24th, 2017

9781250083258_90d43Just two weeks after hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen on his show, Seth Meyers continued his Late Night literary salon yesterday with Paul Beatty, calling the author’s novel The Sellout (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) “fantastic” and noting its glowing critical reception.

Beatty, the first US author ever to win the Man Booker Prize, thanks him for the praise but says he hates writing, so much sho shocked his students at Columbia when he opened his first class with that admission.

The book rose nearly 100 places on Amazon’s sales rankings today.

Saunders a Bestseller, Again

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aLincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample), George Saunders’s first novel, debuts at #9 on the USA Today list. Expect to see it in the top five on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list when it arrives tomorrow.

Saunders made the leap from well-respected short story writer to household name four years ago when the NYT Magazine declared on its cover, “George Saunders Has Written the Best Book You’ll Read This Year.” That book, the short story collection Tenth of December then landed at #26 on USA Today‘s list.

Glowing reviews continue to mount for Lincoln, adding to those we rounded up two weeks ago. In the Chicago Tribune, author Charles Finch says it is “profound, funny and vital, a meditation on loss and power … The work of a great writer.” It was People’s “Book of the Week. They call it “Devastatingly moving.” Tor.com writes that the book “will still be necessary in three hundred years.” The NPR reviewer says “there are moments that are almost transcendently beautiful, that will come back to you on the edge of sleep.”

Saunders continues to make the talk show rounds as well. Filling in for Charlie Rose, Saunders talks with Seth Meyers on the Charlie Rose show.

Holds are growing and there is pent-up demand for the audio. In libraries we checked, where audio copies have yet to enter into circulation, holds are running as high as 115 to 1.

THE WHITE PRINCESS
Release Date Set

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

9781501174926_7136bStarz’s The White Princess will premiere on April 16. It’s the sequel to The White Queen, which aired on Starz in 2013, and was based on the first four books in Philippa Gregory’s The Cousins’ War series, about the long-running War of the Roses. It won both Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.

The new series adapts the fifth title and final volume in the historical fiction series. Gregory outlines the chronology of the novels on her website.

Deadline notes “The White Princess picks up three days after the conclusion of The White Queen, as a new generation ascends to the throne … The historical drama is told from the perspective of the women waging the ongoing battle for the English throne.”

The tie-in cover depicts Princess Elizabeth of York’s bloody hands gripping a white rose, the symbol of the House of York. In the book she is forced to marry into the House of Tudor.

A trade paperback tie-in will be released on March 28: The White Princess, Philippa Gregory (S&S/Touchstone; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample; also in mass market).

Nebula Nominees

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

The nominees have been announced for one of the most prestigious awards in genre fiction, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 51st Annual Nebula Awards.

The buzziest of the five nominees for Best Novel are All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (Macmillan/Tor; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample) and The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin (Hachette/Orbit; Hachette Audio; OverDrive Sample).

9780765379955_d589bAll the Birds in the Sky was selected as a best book of the year by Amazon, Kirkus, The Washington Post, and Time, where it was #5 on their list of “Top 10 Novels” of 2016.

It got rave reviews generally as well. NPR wrote “With All the Birds in the Sky, Anders has given us a fresh set of literary signposts — and a new bundle of emotional metaphors — for the 21st century, replacing the so many of the tired old ones. Oh, and she’s gently overturned genre fiction along the way.”

Anders, until recently, was the founder and co-editor of the science fiction site io9.com. She won the Hugo in 2012 for the novelette Six Months, Three Days.

9780316229265_b53adThe Obelisk Gate is the second novel in the Broken Earth series. We wrote about its reception earlier and Naomi Novik reviewed it for the NYT BR, praising its “intricate and extraordinary world-­building.”

Jemisin won the Hugo for the series launch, The Fifth Season, and she won the Locus award for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. She is a notable voice in the field, sharing her opinions on the genre and writing reviews for the NYT column “Otherwordly.”

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Somewhat more under the radar but still making end of the year best lists is Borderline by Mishell Baker (S&S/Saga; S&S Audio; OverDrive Sample), which was an Library Journal top pick for the year. Tor.com said it is “dark and creeping and smart as a whip.

The final nominees are Everfair by Nisi Shawl (Macmillan/Tor; Tantor Audio; OverDrive Sample) and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (S&S/Solaris; Recorded Books; OverDrive Sample).

The website The Verge picked both as among their 2016 recommendations.

The Washington Post says of Everfair, it is “a beautifully written and thrillingly ambitious alternate history … It’s a tribute to Shawl’s powerful writing that her intricate, politically and racially charged imaginary world seems as believable — sometimes more believable — than the one we inhabit.”

In her NYT column, Jemisin says of Ninefox Gambit, “Readers willing to invest in a steep learning curve will be rewarded with a tight-woven, complicated but not convoluted, breathtakingly original space opera. And since this is only the first book of the Machineries of Empire trilogy, it’s the start of what looks to be a wild ride.”

As The Verge notes, the list highlights a welcome diversity, “three of the five nominees for Best Novel are authors of color, and four out of the five are women.

The winners will be announced during the annual Nebula Conference, which runs from May 18th-21st in Pittsburgh. The full list of nominees is online.

Reviews Swell for
THE DARK FLOOD RISES

Monday, February 20th, 2017

9780374134952_139acThe focus of critical attention, Margaret Drabble’s newest novel, The Dark Flood Rises (Macmillan/FSG; OverDrive Sample) explores death and old age, but is enlivened by humor and enriched by deeply dimensional characters. The central figure is 70-something Fran who spends her time examining retirement homes for those older and more infirmed than she. The novel follows her circle of friends and family, all suffering in their own ways.

NPR’s reviewer says the novel “is a beautiful rumination on what it means to grow old [populated by] an unforgettable character [Fran], steely but likable … This isn’t a sentimental book, but it’s a deeply emotional one [asking readers] to consider how sad, how funny, how genuinely absurd aging is.”

The Washington Post‘s Ron Charles says “Margaret Drabble has written a novel about aging and death, which for American readers should make it as popular as a colostomy bag. That’s a pity because Drabble, 77, is as clear-eyed and witty a guide to the undiscovered country as you’ll find.” He continues, “the novel’s humor vaccinates it from chronic bleakness.”

The Guardian says “With their echoes of Simone de Beauvoir and Samuel Beckett, this quiet meditation on old age seethes with apocalyptic intent” and continues, that while not much happens in terms of plot, the characters are “brilliantly drawn.”

In its front page NYT Sunday Book Review, Cynthia Ozick calls it “humane and masterly.”

Perhaps fulfilling Ron Charles’s prediction, holds are light in most of the libraries we checked, but Salon points out the grimness of the topic is not the point of the novel, “A vein of black humor pulses in Margaret Drabble’s The Dark Flood Rises, which, thankfully, makes the novel’s reflections on how we age and die as entertaining as a conversation with a dear friend.”

More NEVERWHERE

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

9780062371058_4efe1Over twenty years since it first published, Neil Gaiman is writing a sequel to his beloved Neverwhere (HC/William Morrow; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). It will be titled The Seven Sisters.

Neverwhere takes place in an underground London, a fantastical place with real London landmarks populated by those who have fallen through the cracks.

The Guardian reports that Gaiman was “prompted to write the sequel both by the changes in the world over the past 20 years and his work with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). Under the latter’s auspices, he has visited refugee camps in the Middle East and spoken to people displaced by the conflict in Syria.”

He told an audience in London recently:

Neverwhere for me was this glorious vehicle where I could talk about huge serious things and have a ridiculous amount of fun on the way. The giant wheel has turned over the last few years and looking around the work I have been doing for UNHCR for refugees … I decided that it actually was time to do something. Now I had things I was angry about. I cared about things I wanted to put in and I’m now a solid three chapters in.”

The Guardian says the title “takes its name from an ancient area of the real north London replete with myths and legends. The name comes from seven elm trees planted in a circle there, with suggestions of pagan places of worship dating back to Roman times.”

No word when the book will be published.

Best Seller Debut: UNIVERSAL HARVESTER

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

9780374282103_b809eJohn Darnielle’s second novel debuts on the NYT Hardcover Fiction list at #10.

Universal Harvester (Macmillan/FSG; Macmillan Audio; OverDrive Sample) received strong advance publicity, including two starred prepub reviews and listed as a most anticipated novel by sources as diverse as The Millions, Tor.com, and Bustle.

The author is also known as the singer/songwriter for the cult indie rock group Mountain Goats. His debut novel, Wolf in White Van (Macmillan/FSG, 2014), was longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction.

Set in the Midwest, his new novel opens with a horror novel premise, someone has spliced creepy footage into mainstream movies rented from the local video store. But after that, it turns into something far more subtle, filled with shifting questions, taking place over multiple time periods, and ending as the Spin reviewer puts it, “in a more tender place than I could’ve anticipated.”

Booklist says the “masterfully disturbing [novel] reads like several Twilight Zone scripts cut together by a poet.”

NPR says it is full of “knife-jab sentences” and is “a fairy tale — an old, un-Disney-fied one — filtered through the fragrant, dusty Iowan air; a ghost story that’s all too real; a detective story with no simple solution.”

More from Darnielle is on the way. Publishers Weekly reports in a profile of the author, that “FSG has already signed Darnielle for two more novels” and they plan to “release a limited vinyl edition of the Harvester audiobook, with the author narrating and providing original instrumental music.”

NORSE MYTHOLOGY A Best Seller

Friday, February 17th, 2017

9780393609097_a8601Neil Gaiman lands at #1 on the NYT Hardcover Fiction bestseller list for his newest work, Norse Mythology (Norton; HarperAudio; OverDrive Sample). It is also doing very well against other formats and categories, debuting at #2 on the USA Today list.

The strong sales track alongside high demand in libraries and largely glowing reviews. The Guardian says “The halls of Valhalla have been crying out for Neil Gaiman to tell their stories to a new audience. Hopefully this collection will be just the beginning.” Tor.com calls it a must read.”

The book marks something of a full circle for the bestselling author. Last summer he told the NYT that the stories “have accompanied me through pretty much everything I’ve done.”

Gaiman discusses the book with NYT Book Review editor, Pamela Paul, on the “Inside the New York Times Book Review” podcast.

Colbert Loves Saunders

Thursday, February 16th, 2017

9780812995343_73f0aCalling him “quite possibly my favorite living author,” Stephen Colbert hosted George Saunders on The Late Show yesterday to discuss his debut novel, Lincoln in the Bardo (PRH/RH; RH Audio/BOT; Overdrive Sample).

Colbert asks why, after a successful career writing short stories, Saunders wanted to write a novel. He decided to try his hand, he replies, because he had heard a story about president Lincoln holding the body of his dead son in a graveyard crypt and could not get it out of his mind. 

Colbert calls the novel “heartbreaking” even as he jokes about all the white space on the page, caused by the line breaks between the 166 speakers in the novel (which led to the audio with a celebrity-studded cast of an equal number of narrators. In addition, the NYT has created a virtual reality adaptation).

The two also talk about the concept of the bardo, a space of transition where. Saunders explains. all the regrets, issues, and concerns one has while living are magnified and must be worked through before a soul can move on.

The book  been racking up an impressive number of rave reviews, as tracked by Book Marks. In a NYT Book Review cover piece Colson Whitehead says:

“It’s a very pleasing thing to watch a writer you have enjoyed for years reach an even higher level of achievement … George Saunders pulled that off with The Tenth Of December, his 2013 book of short stories. How gratifying and unexpected that he has repeated the feat with Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel and a luminous feat of generosity and humanism.’’

Check your holds. After a slow start they are climbing in several systems.

Live Chat with
Eleanor Wasserberg,
Author of FOXLOWE

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

Today’s chat has concluded. Read the transcript, below.

And please join us for the next chat, with Gail Honeyman, the author of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine. Read more about it and sign up for the program here.

Live Blog Live Chat with Eleanor Wasserberg: FOXLOWE
 

EXPATRIATES To TV

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

9780143108429_de82bNicole Kidman has optioned Janice Y.K Lee’s sophomore novel, The Expatriates (PRH/Penguin, 2016; Penguin Audio/BOT; OverDrive Sample), for a planned TV series, reports Deadline Hollywood.

Lee’s debut, The Piano Teacher (PRH/Penguin, 2009), was a hit, selling well and landing on the NYT bestseller lists in both hardback and paperback. In paperback it spent 18 weeks on the list in total, 7 weeks in the top 10, and rose as high as #2.

The Expatriates did not do as well, spending only one week on the NYT hardcover list before falling off. It did get some notable attention. USA Today wrote, “Raise a glass: The first great book-club novel of 2016 has arrived” and the NYT wrote Lee is “A female, funny Henry James in Asia … vividly good on the subject of Americans abroad.” The LA Times highlights her novel’s strong sense of place.

The novel is about three women, all members of the Western expat community, who connect and circle around each other as their relationships deepen.  Alice Bell (Suburban Mayhem) will write the adaptation and Kidman is considering a lead role.

Kidman, and her Blossom Films partner, Per Saari, will executive produce and Deadline says “The project will be shopped to premium networks and streaming-services.”

Like her frequent collaborator Reese Witherspoon, Kidman has become a powerhouse in literary adaptations. Blossom Films created the big screen adaptation of Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang and are behind the HBO series Big Little Lies, based on Liane Moriarty’s bestseller. The company is also working on a big screen adaptation of another of Moriarty’s hits, Truly Madly Guilty, as well as the upcoming adaptations of A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife and Kimberly McCreight’s Reconstructing Amelia.