If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, or if you’ve come to the library and looked at the new fiction over the past year or two, you may have noticed that I have a soft spot for books that are a little different from the run of the mill, a little quirky, possibly even a little odd. If, like me, you have a taste for the unusual, we have some new and quirky books for you to explore here at the library.
Let’s start with a book set in the distant future on another planet, where the main characters are sentient elephants. Sound intriguing? The book is Barsk: the Elephants’ Graveyard, by Lawrence M. Schoen, and the premise is that human beings have long been extinct, but the animals they uplifted to sentient beings have spread throughout the galaxy. Fants, descendants of earth elephants, have long been exiled to the rainy world of Barsk, where they have developed medicines which are vital to other species in other planets. One of the drugs is something called koph, which allows certain users to interact with the dead. Stopping right there in the description, aren’t you intrigued? Wouldn’t you like to see more of the sentient elephants and their dealings with the dead? What if I add that there are shadowy outsiders who are trying to break the Fants’ monopoly on koph, and that the main character is a Fant who can speak with the dead and who has to question his late best friend who committed suicide for unknown reasons years ago, and the other main character is the son of that deceased friend? For a book that’s both out of this world and reflective of deeply human issues, Barsk is hard to beat.
Mr. Splitfoot, by Samantha Hunt, is a gothic story for the modern era. Ruth and Cora are orphans, brought up by a religious fanatic in a house full of abandoned children, and they entertain their fellow children by channeling the dead. That’s one line of the plot. The second line starts decades later when Cora finds herself pregnant accidentally, and Ruth shows up out of nowhere, mute but determined to bring Cora with her across the State of New York to find — what? Where has she been? What happened to her? Where is she taking the two of them? And what did she hide at the end of the road? The supernatural mingles with the natural, the past intertwines with the present, and what you end up with is an extraordinary ghost story.
If you’re the sort of person who loved Life of Pi, and if you’re owned by a cat (the reverse is never true), you might want to try The Wildings, by Nilanjana Roy, a novel about a community of feral cats living in a neighborhood in Delhi, India. The cats, with distinctive personalities and abilities, communicate with each other by mind link and whisker touches, and have made themselves a comfortable life in their neighborhood, until a strange kitten with unusual powers lands in their midst and starts a series of extraordinary events which will end up threatening the whole tribe and everything they hold dear. Imagine Watership Down, in India rather than England, with cats rather than rabbits, and you have an idea of The Wildings.
There’s something intriguing about twins, especially identical twins, the bond between them, their ways of communicating with each other that exclude the rest of the world. Jason Gurley’s Eleanor plays on this fascination with a story of Esmeralda and Eleanor, identical twins who shared their own secret language, until Esmeralda was killed in a terrible accident, and the whole family fell apart, their mother turning to the bottle and rage, their father disappearing altogether. Eleanor discovers to her appalled surprise that she seems to have an ability to step out of this world and when she returns vast amounts of time have passed in this world. On her last and most serious pass between this world and the other one, she comes to learn the truth about Esmeralda’s death, and about her family’s tragic past. It’s up to world-traveling Eleanor to find a way to rescue her parents and herself, while there’s still time.