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The 10 Best New Books to Read This April

Some of 2017's most-anticipated novels will hit shelves in a few weeks, including Omar El Akkad's debut novel about a second American Civil War and Jeff VanderMeer's much-hyped follow-up to the Southern Reach trilogy (it's gooooooood).

april

If you thought March was a great month for books, wait til you see April. Some of 2017’s most-anticipated novels will hit shelves in a few weeks, including Omar El Akkad’s debut about a second American Civil War and Jeff VanderMeer’s much-hyped follow-up to the Southern Reach trilogy (it’s gooooooood). Plus, some fantastic translations, experimental fiction, a “graphic memoir,” and a steampunk novel that’s supposedly “The Man in the High Castle with a Caribbean flavor” (take all my money, please).


9780451493583American War by Omar El Akkad
Knopf, April 4 (Fiction)

“Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.”


9780231166010_44bbdRemains of Life by Wu He
Translated by Michael Berry
Columbia University Press, April 11 (Fiction)

“On October 27, 1930, during a sports meet at Musha Elementary School on an aboriginal reservation in the mountains of Taiwan, a bloody uprising occurred unlike anything Japan had experienced in its colonial history. Before noon, the Atayal tribe had slain one hundred and thirty-four Japanese in a headhunting ritual. The Japanese responded with a militia of three thousand, heavy artillery, airplanes, and internationally banned poisonous gas, bringing the tribe to the brink of genocide. Nearly seventy years later, Chen Guocheng, a writer known as Wu He, or “Dancing Crane,” investigated the long forgotten Musha Incident to search for any survivors and their descendants. The result is Wu He’s novel Remains of Life, which imagines the impetus behind this disturbing event and questions its legitimacy and accuracy. In his novel, Wu He walks a tightrope between the primitive and the civilized, beauty and violence, fact and fiction.”


9780374285067_d7867Void Star by Zachary Mason
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, April 11 (Fiction)

“Not far in the future the seas have risen and the central latitudes are emptying, but it’s still a good time to be rich in San Francisco, where weapons drones patrol the skies to keep out the multitudinous poor. Irina isn’t rich, not quite, but she does have an artificial memory that gives her perfect recall and lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs, which are complex to the point of opacity. It’s a good gig, paying enough for the annual visits to the Mayo Clinic that keep her from aging. Kern has no such access; he’s one of the many refugees in the sprawling drone-built favelas on the city’s periphery, where he lives like a monk, training relentlessly in martial arts, scraping by as a thief and an enforcer. Thales is from a different world entirely—the mathematically inclined scion of a Brazilian political clan, he’s fled to L.A. after the attack that left him crippled and his father dead. A ragged stranger accosts Thales and demands to know how much he can remember. Kern flees for his life after robbing the wrong mark. Irina finds a secret in the reflection of a laptop’s screen in her employer’s eyeglasses. None are safe as they’re pushed together by subtle forces that stay just out of sight. Vivid, tumultuous, and propulsive, Void Star is Zachary Mason’s mind-bending follow-up to his bestselling debut, The Lost Books of the Odyssey.


9781250095282_7429fIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Flatiron Books, April 11 (Fiction)

“Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago. As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life. When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless. Beautifully written with a thrilling plot, If We Were Villains is a story of friendship, passion, and obsession.”


9781101870839_4a93bImagine Wanting Only This by Kristen Radtke
Pantheon, April 18 (Graphic Nonfiction)

“When Kristen Radtke was in college, the sudden death of a beloved uncle and the sight of an abandoned mining town after his funeral marked the beginning moments of a lifelong fascination with ruins and with people and places left behind. Over time, this fascination deepened until it triggered a journey around the world in search of ruined places. Now, in this genre-smashing graphic memoir, she leads us through deserted cities in the American Midwest, an Icelandic town buried in volcanic ash, islands in the Philippines, New York City, and the delicate passageways of the human heart. Along the way, we learn about her family and a rare genetic heart disease that has been passed down through generations, and revisit tragic events in America’s past. A narrative that is at once narrative and factual, historical and personal, Radtke’s stunning illustrations and piercing text never shy away from the big questions: Why are we here, and what will we leave behind?”


9781938604584_b3698Dreamlives of Debris by Lance Olsen
Dzanc Books, April 18 (Fiction)

Dreamlives of Debris is a hybrid retelling of the Theseus and Minotaur myth. Here the Minotaur is a little deformed girl—she calls herself Debris—hidden away from public view in the labyrinth beneath Knossos. She possesses the ability to hear the flood of thoughts and see the flood of memories, desires, and futures of others throughout history from Herodotus and Pliny to Borges and Edward Snowden. Her labyrinth takes the form of an impossible liquid architecture bearing no center and hence no discernible perimeter. Dreamlives of Debris explores such impossible architecture as a way of knowing — an extended metaphor for our current sense of lived experience: the feeling, for instance, of being awash in massive, networked data fields that may lead everywhere and nowhere at once. The lyrical narrative takes the form of a collage composed of multiple voices and genres from multiple time periods.”


9780374115241_f1ca2Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, April 25 (Fiction)

“In a ruined, nameless city of the future, Rachel makes her living as a scavenger. She finds a creature she names Borne entangled in the fur of Mord, a gigantic despotic bear that once prowled the corridors of a biotech firm, the Company, until he was experimented on, grew large, learned to fly, and broke free. Made insane by the company’s torture of him, Mord terrorizes the city even as he provides sustenance for scavengers. At first, Borne looks like nothing at all—just a green lump that might be a discard from the Company, which, although severely damaged, is rumored to still make creatures and send them to far-distant places that have not yet suffered collapse. Borne reminds Rachel of the island nation of her birth, now long lost to rising seas. She feels an attachment that she resents: attachments are traps, and in this world any weakness can kill you. Yet when she takes Borne to her subterranean sanctuary, Rachel convinces her lover, Wick—a special kind of dealer—not to render down Borne as raw genetic material for the drugs he sells. But nothing is quite the way it seems: not the past, not the present, not the future. If Wick is hiding secrets, so is Rachel—and Borne most of all. What Rachel finds hidden deep within the Company will change everything and everyone. There, lost and forgotten things have lingered and grown. What they have grown into is mighty indeed.”


9780811226073_cb8edThe Teeth of the Comb by Osama Alomar
Translated by C. J. Collins
New Directions, April 25 (Short Fiction)

“Personified animals (snakes, wolves, sheep), natural things (a swamp, a lake, a rainbow, trees), mankind’s creations (trucks, swords, zeroes) are all characters in The Teeth of the Comb. They aspire, they plot, they hope, they destroy, they fail, they love. These wonderful small stories animate new realities and make us see our reality anew. Reading Alomar’s sly moral fables and sharp political allegories, the reader always sits up a little straighter, and a little wiser.”


9780765394293_76ca5Buffalo Soldier by Maurice Broaddus
Tor.com Publishing, April 25 (Fiction)

“Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari. Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone. Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.”


9781571311245_eea0fIsland Home by Tim Winton
Milkweed Editions, April 25 (Memoir)

“From boyhood, Winton’s relationship with the world around him—rock pools, sea caves, scrub, and swamp—has been as vital as any other connection. Camping in hidden inlets, walking in high rocky desert, diving in reefs, bobbing in the sea between surfing sets, Winton has felt the place seep into him, and learned to see landscape as a living process. In Island Home, Winton brings this landscape—and its influence on the island nation’s identity and art—vividly to life through personal accounts and environmental history. Wise, rhapsodic, exalted—in language as unexpected and wild as the landscape it describes—Island Home is a brilliant, moving portrait of Australia from one of its finest writers. ‘I grew up on the world’s largest island.’This apparently simple fact is the starting point for Tim Winton’s beautiful, evocative, and sometimes provocative memoir of Australia’s unique landscape, and how that singular place has shaped him and his writing.”

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