Short stories

May 28, 2009
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Pygmy

Chuck Palahniuk

Doubleday, $24.95/hardcover

Before being humorous and enjoyable, Chuck Palahniuk's 10th novel, Pygmy, is work. The entire text comes as dispatches in blundered English from a 13-year-old foreign-exchange student, who also happens to be a key figure in a terrorist cell ready to unleash "Operation Havoc" upon an unassuming National Science Fair crowd. The preposterous plot setup proves comedically brilliant and worthwhile, highlighted by raw, perverse internal monologues: "Could be fists of operative me execute Punching Panda ... then execute Pumping Rabbit Maneuver distribute own seed among various appropriate vessel. Exit shrine. Seek midday nourishment. Visit memorial acclaimed war hero Colonel Sanders." Palahniuk leads his propagandized protagonist Pygmy through everything from a spelling bee to church and a school dance. With patience, it's a sex-crazed riot. — Matthew SchniperPurchase the book: Pygmy

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Love and Obstacles

Aleksandar Hemon

Riverhead Books, $25.95/hardcover

The brutality of war and semi-precious memories from before it comprise this collection tied to Aleksandar Hemon's native Sarajevo. Hemon possesses a firm, moody voice; his words are clear and simple yet so startlingly precise, it's hard to believe he didn't learn English until adulthood. Furthermore, Hemon threads his stories together with objects that reappear — a spider brooch, a poem — offering a sense of wholeness to otherwise hopeless scenarios. Hemon is not for the faint of heart; the unrelenting violence and coarse language are shocking. His novel, The Lazarus Project, now in paperback, better showcases his signature cadence and control of words. In both, the main characters are the same Hemon-crafted, anguished anti-hero. Each book's first-person narrative endears us to him, despite his ultimately heartbreaking decisions. — Edie AdelsteinPurchase the book: Love and Obstacles

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Santa Olivia

Jacqueline Carey

Grand Central Publishing, $13.99/paperbackRelease: May 29

The Kushiel's Legacy historical fantasy series by Jacqueline Carey relates the journey of courtesan and spy Phèdre nó Delaunay. While fans will recognize Carey's voice in Santa Olivia, they'll be brand-new to a storyline that comes nowhere near Phèdre's erotic Night Court. Born and raised within Outpost No. 12, a military-occupied buffer zone between Texas and Mexico, Loup Garron is the daughter of a "wolf-man" genetically engineered by the government. She must learn to control an inherited superhuman nature, as she struggles to comprehend the circumstances that caused the people of her community to become and stay forgotten. Adults (Carey doesn't completely leave sex out of Santa Olivia) who enjoyed James Patterson's Maximum Ride series will swallow this novel whole — and wait impatiently for a sequel. — Kirsten AkensPurchase the book: Santa Olivia

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