Fall 2014 Fiction Preview: Soldiers, Spies, and Visions of the Future

Fall 2014 Fiction Preview: Soldiers, Spies, and Visions of the Future

The fall’s fiction promises to transport the reader incredible distances, both in terms of geography and in time. Visit the future of your relationship in Gregory Sherl’s The Future for Curious People, or travel into the mind of a famous Chinese spy in Ha Jin’s highly-anticipated new novel A Map of Betrayal. Whether you’re hankering for a good historical fiction about the Civil War, or the latest from the widely-acclaimed Ian McEwan, this preview has got the fall reads to keep your mind off of the shorter days and cooler weather.

Scars that don’t show

Verbal abuse is insidious: It doesn’t announce itself with bruises, though words can leave a mark even more persistent and lasting than any blow. Randy Susan Meyers takes on verbal abuse in Accidents of Marriage, a book about Maddy, a social worker, whose delicate balance between work and home life is upset when her husband, Ben, turns his volatile temper on her and a devastating accident ensues. Meyers paints a vivid and wholly believable picture of a family enduring a crisis. This is a wrenching read, but Meyers tells the story with her characteristic empathy and attention to her characters’ very real, very human flaws.

On shelves: September 2

Future perfect tense

What if you could see into the future with the person you were dating? Will you end up in a beautiful home with happy children and two dogs, or will the future hold something less than what you had hoped for? In Gregory Sherl’s The Future for Curious People, librarian Evelyn has precisely this technology available to her in the form of her local envisionist, Dr. Chin. After seeing what’s in store with her current boyfriend, Evelyn dumps him, and gets more or less addicted to wondering what’s next with every romantic prospect. This is an unconventional love story that lets the reader wonder what he or she would do in a world where we didn’t have to speculate about the future of our relationships.

On shelves: September 2

The kids aren’t alright

He may be best known for his novel Atonement, which became a major motion picture, but Ian McEwan is back this fall with a new novel about patient noncompliance and the things we do to keep our personal lives from falling apart. Fiona May has it all—a high-powered job as a family court judge, and a stable marriage—until she doesn’t. Her husband moves out, and she is faced with one of the most wrenching cases of her career: A teenaged boy will not accept a life-saving medical procedure because it conflicts with his parents’ religious beliefs. McEwan writes a compelling meditation on identity and adversity.

On shelves: September 9

It’s off to war we go

When we talk about the Civil War, we often assume that the soldiers we’re talking about are all men. Not so with Laird Hunt’s Neverhome, which chronicles Ash Thompson’s journey as a Union soldier in the Civil War. Ash is a strong female protagonist in the most literal sense of the word: She’s got brains and brawn, and most importantly, she’s got heart. Hunt doesn’t shy away from painting a realistically horrific picture of war; this is boldly written historical fiction showcases both the best and worst facets of human nature.

On shelves: September 9

Something deadly this way comes

The world is ending—what’s an actor to do? This is the situation in which Emily St. John’s characters find themselves in her buzzed-about novel Station Eleven. Told before and after a massive pandemic that causes civilization to break down, Station Eleven is an unusual story about the the end of the world and sticking together to get through exceptionally difficult times. Things seem peaceful among the band of artists, if far from ideal, until the group encounters a cult and its aggressive leader. One thing is for sure: After Arthur Leander has a heart attack while performing King Lear before an audience of his adoring fans, nothing is ever quite the same.

On shelves: September 9

I have miles to go before I sleep

Joyce Carol Oates isn’t just prolific; she’s good, too. This National Book Award winner has written critically-acclaimed novels including We Were the Mulvaneys and The Accursed, but this fall, fans can look forward to a collection of short stories from Oates. Lovely, Dark, Deep takes its name from a Robert Frost poem, but is much more ominous and sinister than its inspiration. These stories explore relationships in crisis, loss, and deception in Joyce’s characteristically poetic style. Joyce Carol Oates is one of the great living American writers, and this collection is not to be missed.

On shelves: September 9

Game on

Author John Darnielle is a Mountain Goat, but not the kind you think. This acclaimed lyricist of the beloved indie rock band named for the horned North American mammal is now coming out with a novel that combines his pop culture savvy with his gift for storytelling. Sean Phillips is a 17-year-old loner who creates video games. But when two teenagers start to act out his game in the real world, the consequences are enormous. Told in reverse, this is a suspenseful tale that grips you from the first page and doesn’t let go until you’ve turned the last.

On shelves: September 16

Cynicism looks good on you

Paul Theroux is a mainstay in the American literary scene, and his newest short story collection, Mr. Bones, doesn’t disappoint. In it, Theroux meditates on what motivates us, and the answers are often (as one might expect) less than flattering. He finds the strange in the incredibly ordinary, and in doing so casts a peculiar shadow over the workings of people’s everyday lives. Theroux is at his best here, and Kirkus gushes that he writes with “an unassuming brilliance that almost makes you think stories will become popular again.” Plus, you can read the title story here on The New Yorker’s web site.

On shelves: September 30

Don’t worry about a thing

In December 1976, gunmen entered Bob Marley’s house in an assassination attempt and wounded several people, including Marley himself. Marley went on to play a concert two days later, but then—clearly shaken by the incident—left Jamaica and didn’t return for two years. Marlon James steps into the intrigue and mystery surrounding the incident and writes a riveting fictionalized explanation of the events of that day, with ramifications that stretch across decades and continents. James’ vividly-drawn cast of characters also play with broad social issues and political shifts of the time. You don’t have to be a Bob Marley fan to enjoy James’ imaginative tale of music and murder.

On shelves: October 2

Leading a double life

National Book Award? Check. Guggenheim Fellowship? Yep. Two PEN/Faulkner Awards? Believe it. Ha Jin has won a slew of major literary awards for his poetry and prose, and with good reason. Now he’s back with A Map of Betrayal, in which protagonist Lilian Shang discovers her father’s diaries following his death. The journals tell Lilian some things she already knew about her father—namely, that he was a famous mole in the CIA. But she also learns about the hidden personal and emotional cost of her father’s duplicity. This story spans continents and generations, and speaks to the vital role loyalty plays in our lives.

On shelves: November 4

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