Mort(e), by Robert Repino (Soho, $26.95), catapults the reader into a wild, apocalyptic world where giant ants infect animals with a virus that causes them to become feral while also attaining a human-like intelligence. Questions of animal rights and environmental ethics play out as these newly enhanced creatures try to annihilate the human race, which had previously enslaved and domesticated them as pets and food sources. Caught up in the fray is Sebastian, an ordinary house cat who changes his name to Mort(e), which means “death” in French — but that “e” in parentheses leaves open the possibility that he could be “a regular guy . . . who was meant for a life surrounded by loved ones.” Even as he becomes a vicious killer, Mort(e)’s overriding desire is to be reunited with Sheba, the neighborhood dog who once showed him unconditional love. His journey to find her, set against the backdrop of an ideological war between pure rationality and mysticism, makes for a strangely moving story.
Alex Gordon’s impressive debut, Gideon (Harper/Voyager; paperback, $14.99), delivers a fast-paced plot that makes you want to finish it in a day, even if you don’t have time. The Midwest town of Gideon is full of witches who guard the living world against demons. An execution gone wrong in 1836 haunts the present-day inhabitants, who are worried about the “thinning” space between the living and the dead. After the sudden death of her father, Lauren Reardon comes to town to find out more about her family history and is troubled to learn that her father wielded great power in Gideon. She must face down the threat of a dead soul ready to rise again and bring most of hell with him. Lauren has the power to stop him, but can she also withstand the grudges and alliances of the townspeople? Gordon’s descriptions of the petty jealousies and insular nature of a small town make this paranormal novel feel scarily realistic.
In Half-Resurrection Blues (ROC; paperback, $7.99), by Daniel José Older, Carlos Delacruz is an “inbetweener” — a man equally dead and alive — who helps keep interactions civil between the living and their ghostly counterparts. But Carlos’s world is turned upside down when he discovers there is another inbetweener, one bent on destroying the delicate balance of these worlds by releasing more dead people among the living. Set in contemporary Brooklyn and featuring a diverse cast of characters, the novel offers a fresh voice in the urban fantasy genre. Carlos is an engaging and entertaining protagonist as he battles destructive imps and a powerful sorcerer while also trying to reclaim memories of his former human life that were erased when he was reborn. The conclusion smoothly paves the way for an anticipated sequel.
Nancy Hightower is the author of “Elementarí Rising.”