Fans of Shirley Jackson are sure to savor Andrew Michael Hurley’s Gothic horror novel The Loney (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25). The tale is set mostly on Britain’s desolate Lancashire coast, where the 15-year-old narrator, his family and certain members of his church take a retreat every Easter.
The boy’s mother is a devout Catholic who uses this time to pray and fast for her oldest son, Hanny, in an effort to cure him of his muteness. But there are sinister warnings that all is not right at this seaside retreat. While the mother and priest talk of hellfire and damnation, the tides themselves seem to be possessed of something otherworldly. The narrator gets pulled into darker machinations of the townspeople, and it is soon a question of just how far he will go to help his older brother finally speak again. Tight, suspenseful writing makes this masterful novel unsettling in the most compelling way.
Intergalactic space travel meets outrageous, biting satire in Super Extra Grande (Restless; paperback, $15.99). Its author, José Miguel Sánchez Gómez, who writes under the pen name Yoss, is one of the most celebrated — and controversial — Cuban writers of science fiction. His previous book, “A Planet for Rent” (2015), was a thinly veiled political critique that imagined a not-so-distant future when alien capitalists threaten to colonize an Earth in disrepair. Here he presents us with another farce laced with reality: Two ambassadors involved in peace talks accidentally get swallowed by an extra-large sea worm, and our hero, an 8-foot veterinarian named Jan Amos Sangan Dongo who travels through space treating giant animals (of which there are many), must devise a way to rescue them without causing political unrest. Reminiscent of Douglas Adams — but even more so, the satire of Rabelais and Swift — Yoss mocks racist and sexist stereotypes while critiquing Western environmental policies via his enormous, bumbling narrator who somehow manages to save the day.
Guy Gavriel Kay’s Children of Earth and Sky (NAL, $27) is a sweeping epic fantasy with a robust cast of characters caught in a deadly war in an alternative version of Renaissance Europe. Seressa is a country known as Queen of the Sea yet plagued by pirates loyal to a god known as Jad. And everyone must keep an eye on Gurçu the Destroyer, who is ready to launch his own attack upon the West. Warriors and lost souls from all sides must make unlikely alliances if they hope to survive. One is Danica, a fighter desperate for both revenge and redemption as she tries to find out what happened to her kidnapped brother. Others include Pero, an artist whose paintings might actually help start, or stop, a war; Leonara, a widow is who really a spy and ends up assisting Pero; and Marin, a merchant who becomes embroiled in all this political intrigue. Despite the vast array of names, countries and shifting allegiances, this novel is an accessible tale about how various characters create spiritual narratives to deal with survival and loss.
Nancy Hightower reviews science fiction and fantasy every month and is author of “The Acolyte.”