A few weeks ago, I reached out to the smart and cool people behind Hazlitt, an exceedingly interesting online magazine that’s created in a broom closet somewhere in the bowels of publisher Random House Canada. Hazlitt have begun publishing little e-books called Hazlitt Originals, bite-sized pieces of journalism that I found had a nice resonance with what we were doing. Though we haven’t yet worked out how to give away e-books as prizes, they were very kind to send some actual dead-tree books for us to use. All of these sound fantastically interesting, so I thought I’d share the synopses with you here.
The wise attendee will read these in order to know which book to choose should he or she be a lucky winner tomorrow night. We’ll have some other prizes to give away as well. And some short films to show you, too!
Advance tickets are still on sale for just $8 but only until midnight! You can still buy tickets at the door for $10.
Edge – Koji Suzuki
Edge begins with a massive and catastrophic shifting of the San Andreas fault. The fears of California someday tumbling into the sea—that have become the stuff of parody—become real. But even the terror resulting from this catastrophe pales in comparison to the understanding behind its happening, a cataclysm extending beyond mankind’s understanding of horror as it had previously been known. The world is falling apart because things are out of joint at the quantum level, about which of course there’s never been any guarantee that everything has to remain stable.
Koji Suzuki returns to the genre he’s most famous for after many years of “not wanting to write any more horror.” As expected from Suzuki, the chills are of a more cerebral, psychological sort, arguably more unsettling and scary than the slice-and-dice gore fests that horror has become known in the US. Never content to simply do “Suzuki”—as it were—but rather push the envelope on what horror is in general and for which readers have come to know him, Edge borders on being cutting-edge science fiction. The author himself terms this novel, which he has worked on for some years, a work of “quantum horror.”
Gods Without Men – Hari Kunzru
In the desert, you see, there is everything and nothing…it is God without men.
— Honoré de Balzac, Une passion dans le désert, 1830
Jaz and Lisa Matharu are plunged into a surreal public hell after their son, Raj, vanishes during a family vacation in the California desert. However, the Mojave is a place of strange power, and before Raj reappears inexplicably unharmed—but not unchanged—the fate of this young family will intersect with that of many others, echoing the stories of all those who have traveled before them.
Driven by the energy and cunning of Coyote, the mythic, shape-shifting trickster, Gods Without Men is full of big ideas, but centered on flesh-and-blood characters who converge at an odd, remote town in the shadow of a rock formation called the Pinnacles. Viscerally gripping and intellectually engaging, it is, above all, a heartfelt exploration of the search for pattern and meaning in a chaotic universe.
Zone One – Colson Whitehead
In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead.
Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuilding civilization under orders from the provisional government based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams working in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigours of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.
And then things start to go wrong.
Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One brilliantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.
The Dead Are More Visible – Steven Heighton
An astoundingly original and tightly curated collection of stories from the award-winning author of Every Lost Country and Afterlands.
It is remarkably easy to accept Al Purdy’s assertion that Steven Heighton—renowned for his craftsmanship, risk-taking, insight and range—”is one of the best writers of his generation, maybe the best.” The Dead Are More Visible highlights his strengths at writing fiction that does not sacrifice humour, depth and emotion for the sake of brevity. These 11 profoundly moving and finely crafted stories encapsulate wildly divergent themes of love and loss, containment and exclusion. In the title story, a parks & rec worker faces an assailant who does not leave the altercation intact. A medical researcher and his claustrophobic fiancée are locked in the trunk of their car after a failed carjacking (the thief can’t drive standard). A young woman enters a pharmaceutical trial in the outer reaches of suburbia and slips between sleeping and waking with increasingly alarming ease. Pairing the cultural acuity of Lost in Translation with the compassion and reach of The World According to Garp, Heighton breathes new life into the short story, a genre that is finally coming into its own.