Welcome to the fiction newsletter for July. A great selection of new novels from all genres ensures some fabulous reading over the next month. New Zealand fiction features in our ‘other genres’ section. We have chosen the best from contemporary fiction to graphic novels, deciding what to read first will be the most difficult decision.
This great selection of new novels includes Michael Frayn’s new, very funny novel, that has been longlisted for the 2012 Mann Booker prize. Very highly recommended is the award winning novel, HHhH by Laurent Binet, the most original ‘non-fiction novel’ ever.
HHhH / Laurent Binet ; translated from the French by Sam Taylor.HHhH
“Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services, ‘the hangman of Prague’, ‘the blond beast’, ‘the most dangerous man in the Third Reich’. His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’, which in German spells HHhH. All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how can you resist the temptation to make things up.” – (adapted from adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
Canada / Richard Ford.
“In the late 1950s, in Great Falls, Montana, teenage twins Dell and Berner Parson have different concerns: Berner’s is whether to run away with her boyfriend; Dell’s is chess and beekeeping. Their comically mismatched parents, rakish, smalltime schemer Bev and brooding, Jewish Neeva, have problems beyond a joyless union. Bev’s stolen beef scheme goes awry, leaving him owing his Cree Indian accomplices. In desperation he robs a bank, roping his wife into the crime, and Dell, peering back much later, chronicles every aspect of the intricate but misguided plan, which left his parent incarcerated and he and Berner alone. Berner runs away, and Dell ends up in the care of a shady family friend at a hunting lodge in Canada, living an even more barren and lonely existence than he had in Great Falls.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Skios : a novel / by Michael Frayn.
“On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation’s annual lecture is to be given by Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. He turns out to be surprisingly young and charming, not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting. The Foundation’s guests are soon eating out of his hand. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the attractive and efficient organiser. Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki’s old school-friend Georgie waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with, and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality, everything he possesses apart from the flyblown text of a well-travelled lecture on the scientific organisation of science.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
This month’s selection of new Graphic Novels includes the highly recommended collection of stories titled, It’s dark in London. If you read nothing else do read Alexei Sayle’s very short story, My Life as a Cat. It is very clever and very funny.
My friend Dahmer : a graphic novel / [text and illustrations] by Derf Backderf ; [editor, Charles Kochman].
“My Friend Dahmer is the hauntingly original graphic novel by Derf Backderf, the award winning political cartoonist. In these pages, Backderf tries to make sense of Jeffery Dahmer, the future serial killer with whom he shared classrooms, hallways, libraries and car rides. What emerges is a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a young man struggling helplessly against the urges, some ghastly, bubbling up from the deep recesses of his psyche. The Dahmer recounted here, although universally regarded as an inhumane monster, is a lonely oddball who, in reality, is all too human. A shy kid sucked inexorably into madness while the adults in his life fail him.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
The Red Wing / by Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitarra, with Rachelle Rosenberg.
“To stay alive in the future, the best fighter pilots in the world not only have to perfect their skills and master their aircraft, they also have to know how to travel through time. The Red Wing is the story of the greatest battle in the history of three worlds.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
It’s dark in London / edited by Oscar Zarate.
“Its Dark in London features the work of Alan Moore, NeilGaiman, David McKean, Ilya, Carol Swain, Dix, Melinda Gebbie, in tandem with the stories of London writers like Iain Sinclair, Graeme Gordon, Christopher Petit and Stella Duffy. This fusion produces a portrait of London that captures the city’s fundamental essence as an exquisite mixture of lofty towers and gutter sleaze, of suburban gentility and urban depravity, of private vices and public philanthropy.” – (adapted from Amazon.com summary)
This selection of new mysteries includes the latest romp from Janet Evanovich and highly recommend, Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner, translated from the German by the brilliant Anthea Bell.
Winter of the lions / Jan Costin Wagner ; translated from the German by Anthea Bell.
“Every year since the tragic death of his wife, Detective Kimmo Joentaa has prepared for the isolation of Christmas with a glass of milk and a bottle of vodka to arm himself against the harsh Finnish winter. However, this year events take an unexpected turn when a young woman turns up on his doorstep. Not long afterwards two men are found murdered, one of whom is Joentaa’s colleague, a forensic pathologist. When it becomes clear that both victims had recently been guests on Finland’s most famous talk show, Kimmo is called upon to use all his powers of intuition and instinct to solve the case. Meanwhile the killer is lying in wait, ready to strike again. In Kimmo Joentaa, prizewinning author Jan Costin Wagner has created a lonely hero in the Philip Marlowe mould, who uses his unusual gifts for psychological insight to delve deep inside the minds of the criminals he pursues.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Wicked business : a Lizzy and Diesel novel / Janet Evanovich.
“Lizzy Tucker’s once normal life as a pastry chef in Salem, Massachusetts, turns upside down as she battles both sinister forces and an inconvenient attraction to her unnaturally talented but off-limits partner, Diesel. When Harvard University English professor and dyed-in-the wool romantic Gilbert Reedy is mysteriously murdered and thrown off his fourth-floor balcony, Lizzy and Diesel take up his twenty-year quest for the Luxuria Stone, an ancient relic believed by some to be infused with the power of lust. Following clues contained in a cryptic nineteenth-century book of sonnets, Lizzy and Diesel tear through Boston catacombs, government buildings, and multimillion-dollar residences. On their way they’ll leave behind a trail of robbed graves, public disturbances, and general mayhem. Diesel’s black sheep cousin, Gerwulf Grimoire, also wants the Stone. His motives are far from pure, and what he plans on doing with the treasure, no one knows . . . but Lizzy Tucker fears she’s in his crosshairs… Treasures will be sought, and the power of lust will be unmistakable as Lizzy and Diesel attempt to stay ahead of Anarchy, Grimoire, and his medieval minion, Hatchet, in this ancient game of twisted riddles and high-stakes hide-and-seek…” – (adapted from from Amazon.co.uk summary)
Dead men and broken hearts / Craig Russell.
“November 1956. The world is in turmoil. While the Suez Crisis and the Hungarian Uprising boil away in the background, Lennox has more immediate concerns, like getting his personal life, and his business, back on track. So, when a woman comes into Lennox’s office and hires him to follow her husband, whom she suspects of leading a double life, it seems the perfect case. Straightforward, typical – if a little sordid – and most of all, legal. But as he begins to dig deeper, Lennox realizes that this is no ordinary case of marital infidelity. He finds himself caught by the police in a room with a dead body; pursued by shadowy members of the intelligence community; and once more a target of the Three Kings, the crime bosses who between them run Glasgow’s underworld. Lennox must again draw on the violent, war-damaged part of his personality that he has tried to keep buried, in order to survive…” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
The highlight of this selection is the ‘just brilliant’ new Kim Stanley Robinson, 2312, although 1636: the Kremlin games is a clever take on the alternate history theme.
1636 : the Kremlin games / Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, Paula Goodlett.
“The latest installment Ring of Fire series (after 1636: The Saxon Uprising), chronicling an alternate history in which the modern-day American town of Grantville is transported to the 17th century. Auto mechanic Bernie Zeppi, is hired by Russian prince Vladimir Gorchakov to bring the prince’s country up to speed technologically. There’s a great deal of charm to the reactions of 21st-century Americans when confronted by things they’ve only read about in history books, and likewise in 17th-century Russians trying to decipher Bernie’s gadgets. Technology’s not the most dangerous thing he’s brought, though: his American ideas threaten to bring down Russia as its nobility knows it.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The thousand emperors / Gary Gibson.
“Archivist Luc Gabion has finally achieved his life’s goal of bringing down Winchell Antonov, head of the Black Lotus terrorist organisation, and the scourge of the Tian Di’s stellar empire for countless years. But instead of feeling victorious, the encounter has left him scarred. Forcibly implanted with a technology far in advance of anything he’s encountered before, Luc sees and hears things he knows he’s not supposed to. Worse, the technology is killing him, slowly. So when he finds himself investigating the murder of one of the Tian Di’s ruling clique, the Thousand Emperors, he knows he’s in real trouble. Any one of them could be the killer, and any one of them could have him put to death on a whim. Worse, the dead man was the architect of the coming Reunification: two great civilisations, separated for centuries by old enmities, that are about to reunite in a new age of peace and prosperity.” – (adapted from Amazon.co.uk summary)
2312 / Kim Stanley Robinson.
“In a spectacularly depicted future of interplanetary colonization, humanity has spread across the entire solar system, from miniature biomes in hollowed-out asteroids to a moving city racing the fatal rays of the sun on Mercury. Mercurian artist and biome designer Swan Er Hong is struggling to cope with her grandmother’s death and an unexpected meteor strike when she gets caught up in a scientific conspiracy that touches on both the political and economic schemes of space-based humans, including Saturn’s ring-surfing moon dwellers and the secretive factions controlling slowly terraforming Venus, as well as the quasi-independent quantum computers called qubes.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The selected New Zealand novels for July includes the new dark novel from Julian Novitz, Little Sister and the latest mystery from Vanda Symon.
The widow’s daughter / Nicholas Edlin.
“Peter Sokol, an artist living in San Diego, is haunted by his past. In 1943 Captain Sokol is a surgeon in the U.S. Marines stationed in Auckland, New Zealand, where he and his longtime nemesis have fallen in love with the same beautiful enigmatic woman, Emily Walters. Dismissive of Emily’s suspiciously British mother and violent brother, the two vie for her hand. When Emily’s brother is discovered murdered, Sokol is prime suspect. As he fights to prove his innocence, he finds that the woman he loves is not who she seems and the blood of another might be on his hands.” – (adapted from Book cover summary)
Little sister / Julian Novitz.
“At 11.06 pm, on 6 September 2001, eighteen-year-old Shane stands near the house of his girlfriend’s father, staring at the hilt of a sword stabbed into the ground. The next morning, his best friend Will is sitting in a police station, trying to explain the tangled relationship between him, Shane, and Shane’s girlfriend Eileen. Ten years later, Eileen is living in a distant city under an assumed name. As she faces the tenth anniversary of the murder that re-defined her life, she is confronted by a young woman who claims to be the little sister that Eileen abandoned, all those years ago… And, on the morning of 7 September 2001, a failed teacher and father wakes up on his couch, unaware of what has transpired the night before and that he alone holds the key to these past and future events.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The faceless / Vanda Symon.
“Bradley is a middle-aged man trapped in middle-class New Zealand. He is in a job that he hates, working day after day to support his wife and two children. One day when it has all gets too much, Bradley picks up a teenage hooker in downtown Auckland. Unfortunately he can’t keep it up and then she laughs at him. That was a mistake. He beats her, ties her up and takes her to an abandoned warehouse that he owns. But then he doesn’t know what to do. Max is homeless. He eats from rubbish bins, bums cigarettes from anyone and anywhere, including the footpath, and he doesn’t smell that fresh. But Max has one friend and she has gone missing. If he is to find her he is going to have to call on some people from his past life and re-open old wounds that have remained unhealed for a long time.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)