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Evil Eye, Shaman, Narcoland

Short Stories

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Evil Eye

Joyce Carol Oates

The Mysterious Press, $23/hardcover

I had to double-check the door and window locks around the house before I went to bed after finishing Evil Eye: Four Novellas of Love Gone Wrong. It was probably unnecessary since the tales multi-awarding-winning author Joyce Carol Oates tells here are all based on intimate or familial relationships, but I was duly creeped out and wasn't going to take any chances. Oates' engaging and skilled prose brings the reader smack into the middle of issues like domestic violence, stalking, child sexual abuse and mental illness — each wrapped in a paper of reality and tightly tied with a bow of eerie fantastical elements. You'll find yourself identifying with each protagonist — from fourth wife to teenage girlfriend to college-age son to young woman with a secret — wondering how, if love is supposed to be such a wondrous thing, can it go so, so wrong? — Kirsten Akens

Shaman

Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit, $27/hardcover

Author Kim Stanley Robinson moves from the distant future — his last book, 2312, was set 300 years from now — to the far, far-distant past of the Paleolithic Era. Shaman is the coming-of-age story of Loon, a young man who has been chosen to be a shaman for his pack. Beginning with his "wander," a month-long survival test in which he is sent out naked and unarmed into the forest, the book tracks his struggle with destiny. An orphan, Loon has been raised by his adoptive parents Thorn, the tribe's shaman, and Heather, an herb-healer, to take Thorn's place. But, like a contemporary teenager, Loon is not really sure that's what he wants. This detailed study of where we came from, including our rivalry with our Neanderthal predecessors, offers insight into who we are, wrapped in a fascinating tale about a boy coming into manhood. — Kel Munger

Narcoland

Anabel Hernández; translated by Iain Bruce

Verso, $26.95/hardcover

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández has broken many major stories; by far the biggest — and the most dangerous for her — has been the cycle of cooperation and collaboration between Mexico's drug cartels and its political infrastructure. Even the so-called "reform" administration of Vicente Fox was built on the cartels; Hernández's reporting shows that the government's "war on drugs" has actually financially benefited the drug lords while at the same time taking the lives of 80,000 Mexicans in the past decade. With its detailed (and probably the best) account of the career of Sinaloa kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, clear connections between the government and the traffickers, and even a reminder of the crucial role played by the U.S. — starting with the Iran-Contra affair — Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers is indispensable journalism and necessary truth. — Kel Munger

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