Usually, I’m pretty terrible about keeping up with the hot new fiction, especially genre fiction. E.g. I just read Poppy Z. Brite’s darkly fantastic Drawing Blood and that came out in 1994.

But this fall I did manage to read a handful of exciting recent releases, so I thought I would share my impressions in another round of mini-reviews.

1. This Book is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It by David Wong: As it happens, John Dies At The End is one of my favorite sci-horror books ever. I love Dave and John and Amy. I love the near-poetic level of profanity. I love the bizarre, blitzed-out Lovecraftian backdrop. This Book occupies a slightly different space tonally and topically, but I enjoyed it almost as much as the original. (I mean, zombies-but-not-zombies? YES PLEASE.) And I thought it was a worthy development of Dave and John as heroes and hetero lifemates. If there’s a next chapter to their saga, I’m definitely looking forward to it.

2. The Inexplicables by Cherie Priest: The fifth installment in Priest’s Clockwork Century series, The Inexplicables might be my favorite story yet. Priest always makes wonderful character choices, but I was especially intrigued by her choice of Rector “Wreck ’em” Sherman as her protagonist here. He seems like the most anti-hero style character Priest has gone with and I think it brought a new dimension to the zombies and airships and daring ladies of the previous books. The Inexplicables returns us to Blight-infested Seattle for the first time since Boneshaker, where many familiar faces from the series are trying maintain law and order. And there’s a mysterious new creature lurking in the crumbling city…

3. Familiar by J. Robert Lennon: I acquired this book, which was put out by indie superstar Graywolf Press, in the Unstuck kickstarter way back — and I’m so glad I did! Lennon’s work occupies a space between genres in a way I really admire. Yes, this is a story which is possibly about parallel universes. But it is also very much a novel about family and parenthood and the ways in which our choices shape our lives and the people around us. Of course, it helps Lennon is a dynamic prose stylist and the book itself is just an impressively put-together object.

4. Red Rain by R.L. Stine: That’s right, the horror master of our youth has written a book for adults. If you were a Goosebumps fan growing up, this book is absolutely for you — Stine’s using all of his best tricks here. Moreover, I thought Red Rain was an fascinating insight into what the situations in Goosebumps and Fear Street must have seemed like from an adult perspective: childhood, utterly out of control. And like FamiliarRed Rain is an examination of parenthood and how it can make us shortsighted about the world. It’s also a classic “creepy kid” story, a personal favorite of mine.

5. Son by Lois Lowry: I had no idea Lowry had written more in The Giver universe until this fall when I attended National Bookfest and heard her read from the fourth and final book, Son. As you guys know, I adore The Giver. It remains, I think, one of the best examples of dystopian literature. And Son lives up to it. Forget the young adult/children’s designation, Lowry is simply a master storyteller. Mind you, this is a very different kind of novel from The Giver. In fact, Son is the story of someone much less remarkable within Jonah’s Community: one of the birthmothers. And somehow, through satisfying our curiosity, Lowry manages to ask more questions about the nature of life and love and motherhood.

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