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In the stacks: New fiction for adults

Posted: April 25, 2013 - 12:05am

New fiction for adults includes “Bad Glass,” a surreal and horrific fantasy set in Spokane, and “Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail,” an unsettling story about three lone pilgrims on the trail, each hoping that they can change by the time they’ve hiked through, and, of course, the titles listed below.

“The Last Policeman,” by Ben Winters.

Asteroid 2011G is coming for Earth – in six months, our planet will be no more. As you can imagine, there’s panic and a fraying of society, and lots and lots of suicides. But this suicide is somehow different and Detective Hank Palace is determined to figure out what. The insurance guy, like so many others, is obviously dead by his own hand, er, belt, but something makes Palace look twice. The closer he looks, the more he’s sure that Peter Zell was murdered, and Palace feels the need to find the killer. No one else understands: who cares who the perp is, when the courts aren’t even in session? The murder and investigation take second place to the way Winters imagines human society would change under threat of annihilation, from the many sudden “bucket list” retirements and uncharacteristically risky behavior of some, to the steadfastness of those who will remain on schedule until the very end, even as the lights flicker and phones fail. First in a (short-lived) trilogy.

“Chinese Whiskers,” by Pallavi Aiyar.

This charming all-ages story of two Chinese cats from different backgrounds living in a hutong in Beijing will remind readers of The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat, by Susan Schaeffer. As in Foudini, the story is told from the perspective of the cats themselves and humans and their activities appear distant and alien, and sometimes kind. Soyabean is the Little Emperor of his household – until Nai Nai, the human grandmother of the house, is forced to find another home for him. Tofu was born in a dustbin, one of five kittens, who is snatched away by a well-meaning neighborhood woman. They both end up as the pampered pets of two foreigners, where Soyabean, by far the larger and more self-confident, keeps an eye out for his much smaller, less-trusting companion. The events of the Ren world hardly disturb them, until a mysterious human illness begins sweeping the city and cats are believed to be the cause.

“Butter,” by Anne Panning.

In just one year, eleven-year old Iris’s life changes dramatically. She goes from being the beloved only daughter of a small-town creamery owner and his wife to living with her Grandma Laura after her father’s suicide and her mother’s disappearance. Along the way, she discovers she was adopted, becomes a little sister, witnesses her cousin’s sexual abuse, and watches her parents split up and her father’s business fail. Set in the 1970s, this story has a strong sense of place (small town Minnesota) and time (the advent of chain groceries and single-parent families). Its quiet poignancy will have readers rooting for Iris, whose passage to maturity is all too bumpy.

“Stray Souls,” by Kate Griffin. Think Black Adder with wizards. Think Monty Python’s dragons come alive to terrorize Londoners, especially those of the wizardly variety. Now imagine you’ve just discovered that you’re a powerful shaman with a strong tie to the city of London – and you’ve formed a support group of magic-users to help you try and deal with your new senses and powers. Everyone in the group has got their own problems, from the necromancer’s skin-sloughing disease to the clairvoyant’s loneliness to the fact that no one ever thinks of inviting trolls to dinner, but several of the members are having the same one: they are noticing that the spirit of the city of London is disappearing. Mysterious creatures are on the hunt, and no mortals seem to realize what’s going on. It’s up to Sharon Li and her more or less intrepid group of therapy-goers to sort things out once and for all – or die trying.

•••

Join library staff for this month’s Culture Days, featuring Ishmael Hope, tonight, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library. He’ll be talking about his apprenticeship as an indigenous storyteller, language learning, and spending time with Elders. There will be time for questions at the end.

On Saturday, April 27, at 3 p.m. at the Douglas Library, deceptionist extraordinaire Richard Hatch will be performing his book Taro-San the Fisherman and the Weeping Willow Tree, accompanied by his wife on violin.

For information about upcoming programs, visit www.juneau.org/library or call 586-5249.

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