2012 was one hell of a year for books. In fact, it might have been a bit too good. With new works from the likes of Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, J.K. Rowling, Christopher Moore, Neal Stephenson, Salman Rushdie, William Gibson, Marilynne Robinson, Justin Cronin, Don Winslow, Dennis Lehane, Michael Chabon, Mark Z. Danielewski, Jonathan Green, Laird Barron, David Wong, and—oh yeah, cough—that one dude Bryce Wilson, who wrote that book Son of Danse Macabre, available on your Nook or Kindle for a miserly $2.99—cough—one might fairly wonder if there is anyone left to write a book this year.
- IMAGE COURTESY OF BRYCE WILSON
- THE ILLUSTRIOUS AUTHOR : Bryce Wilson (pictured) reads things. See more of Wilson’s writing at thingthatdontsuck.blogspot.com.
Fear not, constant reader, for here are seven books to look forward to in 2013—all of which promise to be nearly as good as Son of Danse Macabre.
Memory of Light, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson, $20
It has taken nearly 25 years, 14 volumes, two authors, and countless forests to tell the saga of The Wheel of Time. But this January it all comes to the end (actually it comes to “an end”—there are neither beginnings nor endings on The Wheel of Time, and in further news I am a huge freaking nerd).
To call The Wheel of Time beloved is like calling it long; it just doesn’t quite cover the intensity. Wheel of Time fans make the Song of Ice and Fire fans look like weekend warriors. I’ve seen more Great Serpent tattoos than I care to remember.
Though the series has had its up and downs, Brandon Sanderson (who took over writing duties on the final three books of the series, after the death of series creator Robert Jordan, basing his work off of outlines, notes, and isolated scenes left completed by Jordan) is by all accounts ending the series out on a high note, and the final entry promises nothing short of the geek apocalypse. So choose your Ajah, and pull up your veil. Tug your braid, cross your arms under your breasts, and enter the giddy fantasy world where everyone is either a head taller or shorter than anyone else. Tarmon Gai’don is here.
Doctor Sleep, Stephen King, $30
Belated sequels are always a dicey proposition. Sequels belated by 40 years, based on the author’s most famous work, are an even dicier proposition. Particularly when said author has very public problems with the most famous representation of said work.
So some eyebrows were definitely raised when Stephen King announced he would be writing a sequel to The Shining, one that would involve a grown Danny Torrance working in an old folk’s home, easing his charge’s passage into death (OK, that’s intriguing). More eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the book would also feature Torrance’s battle with “psychic vampire pirates” (…).
Stephen King has been on one hell of a late-career hot streak. Every book he’s produced since 2006’s Cell has been at the very least extremely entertaining. So he’s earned enough credit to try an idea that a less charitable reader might term “batshit crazy.” Whether King’s late-period winning streak will continue or Doctor Sleep ends up being the one that breaks it remains to be seen. Either way it will be one hell of a read.
The Mallet of Loving Correction, John Scalzi, $35
In addition to being a tremendously talented writer, as well as arguably the most accessible sci-fi author ever to strap on a ray gun, John Scalzi is perhaps the sanest man in the universe and my own personal nomination for Emperor of Everything.
His second non-fiction collection, The Mallet of Loving Correction, which takes essays culled from his popular blog Whatever, will presumably showcase this sanity. Scalzi is a writer of extraordinary fairness. He’s a political independent (a real one, not just a codeword for “selfish libertarian”) able to write harshly and fairly about every band on the political spectrum, a staunch atheist who writes about religion with sympathy and respect. He is a practitioner of the lost art of common sense and mutual respect, who believes in humanizing rather than demonizing his opponents. I’m fairly sure he is a wizard.
Of course, it’s not all serious. Scalzi is in possession of a keen absurdist wit and a playful imagination, and many of his sketches make good use of both. But for all the pleasure they bring and all the innovation of his fiction, the main draw of Scalzi remains the uncanny feel of reading the work of someone who respects your intelligence and treats you like an adult. Shame that it’s such a rare commodity.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman, $26
For a writer as beloved and prolific as Neil Gaiman, as a novelist he is awfully fickle. The Ocean at the End of the Lane will be his first novel for adults in eight years and his first full-length novel of any sort in five. Suffice it to say, as Gaiman is one of the finest authors fantastic fiction has ever had, it’s about damn time.
Adding to the intrigue, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is said to be a horror novel, and though Gaiman has dabbled in the genre in short fiction, this will be his first full-length attempt. IT CANNOT POSSIBLY GET HERE FAST ENOUGH.
The Double, George Pelecanos, $28
Two years ago, George Pelecanos introduced Spero Lucas, his Greek Orthodox Iraqi war vet turned private eye, in his novel The Cut, one of the best crime novels of the year. Now he returns to the character in The Double.
Little is known about the book beyond its title, but as it’s Pelecanos, it’ll most likely involve moral compromise, great characters, and a D.C. whose vivid life deserves comparison with James Elroy’s Los Angeles and Dennis Lehane’s Boston. Pelecanos tends to be awful stingy about reoccurring characters (ask me what I think about there only being three Nick Stefanos novels sometime, and after I’m through weeping my bitter tears I will tell you). So chalk this one up to enjoy it while you’ve got it.
You Don’t Know Me But You Don’t Like Me, Nathan Rabin, $16
Nathan Rabin, one of the head writers of the AV Club, has written two books, his memoir The Big Rewind and My Year of Flops, in which he gave a spirited defense of some of the most despised films of all time. For his third book he’s leaving these insular subjects and taking his act on the road. Chronicling his time spent among the cult-like fans of Phish and Insane Clown Posse. Not since Hunter S. Thompson traveled with a gang of Hell’s Angels have I been more excited about the prospect of a dysfunctional, brilliant writer throwing his lot in with a maligned, arguably degenerate subculture.
But those who are expecting a simple mock job of either the smug trustifarian that is your average Phishhead or the white trash who celebrate their disenfranchisement with clown makeup, copious amounts of drugs, hatchet man tattoos, and gallons of Faygo don’t know Rabin. He’s a remarkably empathetic writer, and though his wit is caustic, it’s tempered by a humanism. He may be documenting a cultural wasteland, and, in the case of the Juggalos, a literal one. But he is sure to find much to capture our interest, and perhaps even affection.
Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, David Sedaris, $27
Look, it’s a new David Sedaris book. Is there really anything I can say to you that will sell it beyond that basic fact?
NOS4A2, Joe Hill, $29
And finally comes what is without a doubt my most anticipated book of the year. Joe Hill has been blessed with his father’s skill and mastery of his chosen genre. Unfortunately, “prolific” has not been among the passed down traits. Nos4a2 is only Hill’s third novel. And. I. Cannot. Wait.
This is going to be a big year for Hill; in addition to Nos4a2, he’ll be concluding his long-running comic series Locke & Crack—er … Key. It’s Locke & Key. There are plenty of previews of Nos4a2 floating around, and I’ve successfully avoided every one of them. All I know is that Hill has described the book as epic. And if it’s anything like his other work, it’ll be humanistic and horrific and warm and terrifying and funny and wonderful and fill me with jealousy as I love every blessed sentence of it.
So I suppose you could say that I have a lot to look forward to this year. Hope you’re as excited as I am.
Contributor Bryce Wilson geeks out every week as New Times’ “Blast from the Past” film columnist. Has he mentioned he’s also the author of the horror anthology Son of Danse Macabre? Contact him via Arts Editor Anna Weltner at firstname.lastname@example.org.