Four Novels to Look Forward to in 2017

Last year left us with doom and gloom on the horizon. What’s there to look forward to? At the risk of slipping into pure escapism, there’s always the next pile of books. The ones I’m aware of coming out this year are almost all from authors I’ve read before. (That’s why I’m looking forward to them—we swirl inside the circles.)

Here are the literary silver linings for me in 2017. Check out the links to see reviews of the authors’ previous releases.


Universal Harvester

by John Darnielle

February 7

universal

As the mind behind The Mountain Goats, John Darnielle has been a writer for a long time. But he became a novelist only recently, when his debut Wolf in White Van showed up just over two years ago. The guy is nothing if not prolific, so he’s already put out book number two. His debut explored loneliness, tragedy, disfigurement, redemption, and acceptance. Universal Harvester promises to explore… probably all of those things and then some. I’m hoping for at least a touch of the extraordinary, with the aliens-landing-in-a-cornfield cover art combined with the title itself. Plus, Moon Colony Bloodbath (with John Vanderslice) is one of my favorite releases of The Mountain Goats’ career and I’d love to see something similar done in book form.


Lincoln in the Bardo

by George Saunders

February 14

lincoln

I’m relatively new to the wave of praise for Saunders, and I’m very happy to be a convert. His fiction is strange yet tender, the stories unique but sharply applicable to ourselves. He’s also a first-rate journalist who becomes magnetized to the humanity of his subjects. Apparently people have puzzled over his lack of a novel throughout the years, and in an interview with Daniel Handler at the end of the Tenth of December paperback they touch on the subject. Like a true artist (as in, he has the innate spark—Saunders comes off as far too modest to feel the need to declare himself an artist) he simply acknowledged that he was waiting for a story that would need to be novel-length. The format must fit the telling, after all. I have complete confidence that he’s up to the task. Happy Valentine’s Day to us.


The Exo Project

by Andrew DeYoung

April 4

exo

I met Andrew when we both regularly attended Books & Bars in Minneapolis. I’ve found a few short fiction pieces he has floating around, although a lot of his best writing is the pop culture analysis he has contributed to The Stake. He has a clear love of character and story, a keen eye for what makes something work, and a healthy respect for inventiveness (his VanderMeer recommendation was one of the best book-related things that has happened to me in the past few years; see the next entry). Although The Exo Project is not the first novel he drafted—the guy has already written across multiple genres—it will be his first proper book release. I look forward to supporting what I hope is a long career.


Borne

by Jeff VanderMeer

September 7

borne

The Southern Reach trilogy is by far my favorite set of books in… I feel comfortable saying the past decade. Some of that might have been timing, as I read these while passing dark evenings when my pregnant wife went to bed early. The strange paranoia of the books suits itself to a lonely experience. But they were also the thing I had been looking for all this time: lyrical and artistic, with a stellar plot that was just sci-fi enough to be entrancing, all based on speculative biology and the very idea of humanness. Since finishing the trilogy, I gave time to VanderMeer’s wonderful, messy collection City of Saints and Madmen, and I fully intend to get around to all his work. Of everything in this list, my hopes for Borne are probably highest, and perhaps too high. But so be it.


Wishful thinking bonus:

The Mirror and the Light

by Hilary Mantel

While the reading world claims to be in perpetual agony for the next A Song of Ice and Fire installment (and I’ll read it along with the rest), that’s not the series installment that I’m holding my breath for. Instead, my patience is being tested by the final book in Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy. There’s no cover image for this one because it’s just a rough draft (hopefully) on the author’s desk, and maybe a few files saved on the publisher’s computer. The title sounds like an Arcade Fire song, lovely and evocative and mysterious. The first two books are amazing slow burns that lodge deep into your mind, and knowing that the final story will feature the death of the complicated protagonist just adds to the voyeuristic tragedy of it all. He, Cromwell, will be in our hands and hearts one last time. It’s just a matter of when.

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