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September 10, 2021

George Ernsberger
Posted 9/10/21

Revelator by Daryl Gregory (Knopf).

Fine big historical horror novel, set in the Smoky Mountains, in Tennessee, over a couple of timelines in the 1930s and ’40s. The Revelator we get to know …

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September 10, 2021

Posted

Revelator by Daryl Gregory (Knopf).

Fine big historical horror novel, set in the Smoky Mountains, in Tennessee, over a couple of timelines in the 1930s and ’40s. The Revelator we get to know is a bootlegger, descended from women who bore that title. They communed with “the God in the Mountain” called Ghostdaddy, and so does she, but only long enough to scare herself away for good. The Revelators, she can’t help noticing, have short lives. She is called back, of course, some years later, and finds herself ensnared in her family’s destiny. This is, by the way, terrific plain historical fiction, to begin with; two different timelines smoothly interlaced, locales and characters made real and warmly present; a real writer’s at work, here, not just a trickster. Which makes the supernatural element all the more real. You’ll put the book down with regret, and also with goosebumps.

What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz (Atria).

Smart, carefully told novel (another with more than one timeline: set in Bangkok in the 1970s and in Washington, about now). A “family’s story” novel; not generations, but we get to know and like a family with an ongoing story that’s interesting and still developing now—maybe like ours, though sometimes, as here, more glamorous, and even a touch exotic around the edges. So, people and their relationships to be known, recognized, understood for their own sake. No more ironic than real life, but that’s plenty; revelations are sometimes dramatic but never sensationalized.

Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton (Grand Central).

If you believed me a year ago when I told you you’d love her fiercely funny Hollow Kingdom, you won’t need much more than some assurance that this is, indeed, a sequel. That same foul-mouthed, irreverent crow whose name is a sort of double-vulgarism, so with no place in this respectable paper, is every bit as funny and a pleasure to hear from. The invention hasn’t slackened, even a little; this world continues to change, and I wouldn’t be sorry if a whole series came out of it. It’s science fiction, of a sort—set in a future, certainly, and the satire is based on real things in our world that might still be averted, as is typical of s-f, but with elements of pure horror fiction, as well. And did I mention funny? Science fiction is usually too earnest to be so funny.

You Can Run by Karen Cleveland (Ballantine).

Terrific, complicated espionage thriller (though family life is part of it; in the best of this kind of fiction, spies have real lives to live, too—more consistently where writer and central character are women. For some reason.) Very high-energy, twisty, but intelligible throughout, this is a very accomplished first novel--so well done, we might suspect the author worked in CIA for some years just so she could write it (she did work there, for some years).

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