This doorstopper of an anthology will surely entertain fantasy fans.

THE BIG BOOK OF MODERN FANTASY

A companion volume to The Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019), Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s latest anthology—and last together, according to the introduction—explores modern fantasy and its evolution from the end of WWII to 2010 with a shelf-bending collection featuring 91 stories from some of the genre’s biggest luminaries, including Ursula K. Le Guin, George R.R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, and J.G. Ballard.

The VanderMeers do an adept job of giving readers a comprehensive view of the narrative scope of fantasy—which they describe as “one of the broadest genres imaginable”—over the last six-plus decades with an impressively wide variety of stories. In addition to featuring iconic adventure fantasy works (Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story “Lean Times in Lankhmar”; “The Tales of Dragons and Dreamers,” a Tales of Nevèrÿon story by Samuel R. Delany; and Michael Moorcock’s introduction to Elric of Melniboné in “The Dreaming City”) and classic “literary” short stories like Vladimir Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols” and “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” by Gabriel García Márquez, the anthology also contains a conspicuous number of dragon-powered stories. Finnish author Tove Jansson’s illustrated all-ages story “The Last Dragon in the World” includes her signature Moomins characters in a delightful tale about a tiny dragon, and Patricia McKillip’s “The Fellowship of the Dragon” follows five armed women as they embark on a perilous quest to find a missing harpist who has been allegedly imprisoned by a dragon. Many of the book’s strongest selections come from international fantasy, with translated stories from Mexican writer Alberto Chimal (“Mogo”), French author Manuela Draeger (“The Arrest of the Great Mimille”), and Belarusian writer Abraham Sutzkever (“The Gopherwood Box”).

This doorstopper of an anthology will surely entertain fantasy fans.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56386-0

Page Count: 864

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

THE LAST GRADUATE

A teenage witch with a natural affinity for dark magic prepares to run a deadly graduation gauntlet in this sequel to Novik's Deadly Education (2020).

Galadriel "El" Higgins has finally reached her senior year at the Scholomance, putting her one step closer to her ultimate goal: get back home or die trying. After getting a sneak peek at the monster-packed hallway she must survive if she wants to graduate, the witchy teen returns to her classes and cliques with scarcely more insight than before. El knows enough to realize that her mana stores are a fraction of what they should be—come graduation, she will lack the magical juice she needs to kill monsters and make it out alive. Her fake-dating relationship with Orion proves to be a lucky "in," netting her a new string of tenuous alliances as well as access to a wellspring of free mana. But what could be a compelling adventure story falls apart here, as the novel relies on relentless bouts of infodumping to keep readers up to speed on where the Scholomance's monsters come from and what they can do to unsuspecting students. None of these paragraphs-long blasts of information recount the details of El's last excursion, however, and so readers who have forgotten Novik's previous novel, or who have never read it at all, will find no springboard ready to help them dive into the author's newest offering. Those who stumble upon this volume risk being unmoored, as the narrative picks up immediately following the events of its predecessor, without stopping to introduce anything, including the narrator. Ultimately, El's seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of every monster in the school, combined with her continued refusal to enter into any genuine alliance with classmates, leaves readers to wonder what she could possibly have left to learn—or fear—in the Scholomance.

A sequel that repeats the mistakes of its predecessor while failing to break new ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12886-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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