It’s that time again, time for new and unusual — some say warped or bizarre, but I prefer the term “quirky” — books to arrive on our shelves, waiting for brave and curious souls to take a look at them. And here, to make it easier for you to find the newest and oddest books in the fiction collection, we have some previews.
Sometimes you do pick a book by its title, and in the case of Witches Be Crazy, subtitled A Tale That Happened Once Upon a Time in the Middle of Nowhere, by Logan J. Hunder, it almost doesn’t matter what the book is, because the title alone is so intriguing. The book is, as you might guess, a humorous take on the cliches of epic fantasy: a surly middle aged former blacksmith turned innkeeper turns out to be the only one who can save the kingdom. In the aftermath of the king’s death, a sexy woman claiming to be his long-lost daughter takes the throne, and only our “hero” , Dungar Loloth, can resist her charms enough to figure out that she may be responsible for the deaths of everybody in the neighboring kingdom and may have similar plans for this one. WIth the dubious help of a possibly insane hobo, Dungar must battle pirates, cultists, radical Amazons and all manner of other fantasy troublemakers to save the world.
Along similar lines of fantasy fiction turned on its head and mocked for all its conventions and cliches, we have The Good, the Bad and the Smug, by Tom Holt. If you were lucky enough to read his last book, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice, you need no additional description of this book to encourage you to run out and grab this one. Outsorcerer was extremely funny, well-plotted and the sort of book you enjoyed more the more familiar you were with the usual sorts of characters and plots and plot devices in fantasy novels and movies. If you haven’t already been introduced to Tom Holt, then you’re in for a treat. While this is a sort of sequel to Outsorcerer, you don’t need to have read the first to leap in at this one, a story about a goblin king whose evil rule is being threatened by a massive and surprising influx of gold into the human kingdoms. With all that gold, the humans are beginning to increase their weaponry for their arms race against the goblins, and Mordak, the goblin king, is sufficiently worried that he enlists the aid of an elf, of all creatures, and in addition to the usual problems between elves and goblins (hating each other on general principles), this particular elf is more interested in the article she wants to write for the elf magazine The Face than she is in saving the world. Throw in some humans from an alternate universe who have their own interests in making things happen or not happen, and you have the makings of a wonderful, twisted plot with bizarre, entertaining characters in worlds like and unlike our own.
As Monty Python used to say, now for something completely different: a book entitled Crooked, by Austin Grossman, about — of all people — Richard Nixon. Yes, THE Richard Nixon, but as you’ve never seen or imagined him before. This Nixon tells his own story of how he stumbled onto a supernatural secret of world-altering proportions, and how that changed everything: the Cold War, Watergate, even Nixon’s marriage. Is the world ready for a Richard Nixon who’s a heroic figure fighting to protect the world against a supernatural horror beyond imagining? Speaking only for myself, I can hardly wait to read this alternate history, weird as it may very well be.