Reviews of the Week with N. K. Jemisin, Heather Rose, Anna Burns, and More!

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from November 12–November 16 below.

 

Monday, November 12

How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin

The first short story collection from the widely acclaimed Jemisin (The Stone Sky, 2017) showcases a wide range of fantasy and sf united by her particular vision. There are stories where magic bursts into the real world, as in “L’Alchimista,” about a chef whose art draws the attention of a man bearing wondrous ingredients, or in “The City, Born Great,” where a young man becomes the living, beating heart of New York City. Some stories take place in sf futures, such as “The Evaluators,” where transcripts and messages from a first-contact mission reveal a dangerous and seductive threat, or “Walking Awake,” which revisits the classic trope of alien parasites and human hosts and the grim requirements of freedom. There are also short visits to worlds familiar to fans of Jemisin’s, such as “The Narcomancer” and “Stone Hunger,” which return to the worlds of her Dreamblood and Broken Earth series, respectively.

 

Tuesday, November 13 

 White Stag, by Kara Barbieri

No human can survive for long in the Permafrost, the goblin land ruled by the law of the predator. Janneke is the rare human who has lived there for more than a century, ever since she was kidnapped by the mad goblin Lycian. After Janneke incapacitated her vicious captor with a scrap of deadly iron, Lycian transferred possession of his mutinous prisoner to Soren, his younger rival for the throne. Impressed by Janneke’s resilience, Soren makes her his companion. When the old Erlking dies, Lycian and Soren vie to kill the legendary White Stag and secure the crown. Soren enlists Janneke in the Hunt to spur her transformation from human to goblin. Janneke resists becoming one of the monsters she despises, but she must embrace her darkest instincts during the treacherous Hunt.

 

Wednesday, November 14

The Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose

A “strange hybrid of fact and fiction” is what Australian writer Rose calls this deeply involving novel inspired by famed performance artist Marina Abramović’s The Artist Is Present—a now-legendary 2010 work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art during which she sat in rigorous stillness for 75 long days, facing 1,545 people who, one-by-one, sat across from her in eye-to-eye communion. An intriguing cast of characters are drawn to and mesmerized by this silent ritual, primary among them Arky Levin. A successful film composer, he is now engulfed by guilt and anxiety as his wife, a renowned architect, struggles with a debilitating blood disease in a nursing home. Other regular attendees include a recently widowed, friendly, middle-school art teacher from Georgia; a Japanese-Dutch PhD candidate with “neon-pink hair, red lips, purple contacts”; a strikingly beautiful black, Muslim art critic; the photographer chronicling every sitting; and the ghost of Abramović’s Serbian war-hero mother.

 

Thursday, November 15

Milkman, by Anna Burns

Burns (No Bones, 2002) became the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the Man Booker Prize with this raw, traumatic tale addressing timeless themes of brutality, resiliency, and resistance. It is set in an unnamed city at an indeterminate time, but Burns’ world is clearly the Belfast of the Troubles, even though it can double as any totalitarian society where people live in violent conditions and everyone seems to be suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. The narrator, with her distinctive, conversational voice, is also unnamed, an 18-year-old girl who is pursued, on many levels, by the milkman of the title. He is a shadowy, older figure, creepy to boot, who, we learn early on, is not even a milkman. Instead of driving a milk lorry, he drives flashy cars, and sometimes, significantly, a “small, white, nondescript, shape-shifting” van.

 

Friday, November 16

 Paul Writes (a Letter), by Chris Raschka

Writing a book about St. Paul’s letters is a daunting task, especially when that book is aimed at children. But two-time Caldecott winner Raschka distills the material to its essence and brings close the messages of love and hope. In the vibrant art, with special care taken in the dynamic lettering, Paul remains in one place, at his desk, writing. He pens letters about hope, faith, and most of all, caring for others; he advises his correspondents to meditate on truth and to care for others. “Do not pick fights,” he insists. Adults familiar with Paul know that his letters also reveal a man who was, at times, harsh and pompous, and to Raschka’s credit, the text does hint at Paul’s complicated personality, in both the quotes included and in the art.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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