RaveThe A.V. ClubA handful of living science fiction writers have attained godlike status—N.K. Jemisin, Cixin Liu, and Ann Leckie, to name a few. But Ted Chiang is the only one who’s done it without writing a novel ... oh, his stories. They’re a religious experience ... In Exhalation, which could be subtitled \'Black Mirror For Optimists,\' every story seems crafted with one objective in mind—pure awe ... The three longer stories in Exhalation are Chiang’s finest work to date ... Savor all nine of these stories. Read them one sitting at a time, somewhere still and quiet, and let them sink in.
Charlie Jane Anders
PositiveA.V. Club\"... a stylish sci-fi adventure that combines the social and environmental themes of Le Guin with a Guillermo del Toro creature feature ... It’s all very suspenseful for the first third of the book, as Anders builds expectations for both a social revolution and a heist. But neither of these things happens, and Anders leaves Xiosphant largely unexplored ... Nonetheless, Anders takes the final third of the novel in some interesting and unexpected directions, both geographically and thematically ... The City In The Middle Of The Night is far less ambitious [than Le Guin], but still a fine piece of popcorn sci-fi that will inevitably become a TV series.\
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesJoy’s third novel, The Line That Held Us, may have a lower body count than his first two, but there’s still plenty of gore ... The things that capture Joy’s attention are often grounded in the physical world. He devotes nearly an entire page to the mechanics of fieldstripping a pistol, another half-page to the composition of a concrete block-laying crew, and is often preoccupied with what his characters are doing with their bodies. Lines like, \'Calvin walked back toward the couch with one hand down his sweatpants, the other holding his drink against the center of his chest,\' are common, but don\'t always serve the story ... within Joy’s otherwise powerful, lyrical fiction, Appalachia’s real-life complexity and diversity aren’t often apparent ... Despite some shortcomings, The Line That Held Us is a suspenseful page-turner, complete with one of the absolutely killer endings that have become one of Joy’s signatures.
RaveThe Chicago Tribune\"If depression is a clouded lens that distorts reality, Lacey, who lives in Chicago, is perhaps the finest crafter of these lenses in American fiction ... These narrators, one after the other, would be suffocating were it not for Lacey’s sublime prose. On every page, she slips a tiny gem into your palm, a little miracle of perspective ... This is all to say that Certain American States is exactly what you would expect from Lacey: perfect sentences, penetrating insights, devastating epiphanies. Like the most intense chapters of her novels, reading this collection takes an almost physical toll. Each story inflates like a balloon until, with the very last line, Lacey cuts the string tethering it to the ground.\
PositiveChicago Review of BooksJones writes with great serenity of soul as he constructs a false autobiography: highlighting travels to London and Paris; the separation, contemplation and reunion with his wife in the Italian countryside; morning tea with his daughter and running with his sons; flights with a pioneering aviator father and conversations with a deaf mother.
Edouard Louis, Trans. Lorin Stein
PositiveThe Chicago Tribunea shocking, powerful book that doubles as an indictment of homophobia and racism in French culture — just don’t judge it by the opening sentence, which is so tangled and dense that diagramming it would require a grammatical savant.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"...never mind that I believe Richard Powers’ 12th novel to be a masterwork sculpted from sheer awe. Instead, know that reading “The Overstory” will convince you that we walk among gods every time we enter a forest ... Powers’ greatest achievement here is his ability to convey the genuine magic of trees — specifically, their impenetrable intelligence and sensual delights.\
Veronica Gerber Bicecci, Trans. by Christina MacSweeney
PositiveThe Star TribuneBicecci’s debut novel, Empty Set, is full of secrets...some of which remain hidden after the final page. It’s a fascinating puzzle of a book that I can’t stop thinking about—an experimental mix of prose, diagrams and literary artifacts that is also, somehow, breathlessly plotted.
László Krasznahorkai, Trans. by George Szirtes, Ottilie Mulzet & John Batki
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune\"True to form, Krasznahorkai’s latest collection of fiction is intentionally difficult, if less bleak than some of his vaguely apocalyptic novels. Laced with the dark, existential humor familiar to readers of Kafka and Samuel Beckett ... Make no mistake: Krasznahorkai is an avant-garde stylist with little interest in the traditional short stories we’re all familiar with from literary magazines. The stories in The World Goes On are the reading equivalent of climbing a volcano instead of sitting by the beach on your honeymoon. But the rewards — the sudden, knife-like insights so cerebral they seem the work of an alien intelligence — are worth the effort.\
Bill James & Rachel McCarthy James
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneJames has made a surprising career shift by writing about true crime, and with the help of his daughter Rachel may have stumbled upon something truly spectacular … Though all well told, the chapters begin to feel as relentless and repetitive as ‘The Part About the Crimes’ in Roberto Bolaño’s classic novel, 2666. But the book shines when we get to see the Jameses’ thinking. Like the recent Netflix documentary The Keepers, it’s fun to watch these amateur detectives solve a puzzle. And solve it they do — after 400 pages, when Rachel discovers the killer’s first crime way back in 1898. Did they get it right? I’m pretty sure they did.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star...a quiet, brilliant little novel begging for a Netflix adaptation ... I never realized I wanted a postapocalyptic Amish novel, but the premise is so perfect I can’t believe that it’s never been done before — or that someone did it so well on the first try ... It’s a gorgeous, moving book that’s creepier than you might expect. Williams’ use of tension, suspense and compression is masterful, calling to mind the distilled prose of Ron Rash. In the past decade, pop culture may have become oversaturated with postapocalyptic stories, but this one is fresh, unique and unforgettable.