Scotto Moore’s BATTLE OF THE LINGUIST MAGES (Tordotcom, 441 pp., $28.99) is completely wild, a wacky dance battle of a guide with a wry, grounding edge. Isobel Baillie has devoted the final eight years of her life to being queen of the online game Sparkle Dungeon, a rave-themed virtual-reality dungeon crawler and its three sequels, topping the leaderboards at the price of her job and her girlfriend. However her notoriety results in a chance with the sport’s advert company, Jenning & Reece. On the pretext of performing usability testing for Sparkle Dungeon 5, she is taught “energy morphemes” — methods to condense layers of which means into summary sounds that may bend real-world physics, shattering glass and folding space-time. Her lecturers name these “fight linguistics,” however the titular linguist mages — together with politicians, cult leaders and gaming executives — have competing ends in thoughts, and Isobel is instrumental to all of them.
It is a stand-alone novel with materials sufficient for six, leaping from rung to rung of an escalating plot like — effectively, like a video-game character parkouring her means via an auto-runner. By the midway level, it had blown my thoughts twice and accrued such cavalcades of incident that I couldn’t fathom the place it had left to go — however it discovered locations, and it went there. Hyperbole is Moore’s organizing precept, and puncturing it with granular mundanity is his utilized arithmetic; the result’s an audacious, genre-bending whirlwind.
IN THE SERPENT’S WAKE (Random Home, 512 pp., $18.99), Rachel Hartman’s newest fantasy epic, is a direct sequel to “Tess of the Highway” and set in the identical world as “Seraphina” and “Shadow Scale.” Publicly, Tess is on a quest: to sail via the Archipelagos to the South Pole and discover the Polar Serpent, for science and for her buddy Pathka, who has an ailment solely the Serpent can ease. Privately, Tess is on a mission for the queen of Goredd: to spy on the neighboring nation of Ninys’ actions within the Archipelagos and report any aggression in opposition to its Indigenous peoples.
Hartman’s novels are notable for the compassion she brings to constructing a layered world, developed via commentary and argument with our personal. However that compassion shouldn’t be cozy; it requires discomfiting her protagonists, making them scratch at their beliefs and assumptions as at a shedding pores and skin. In Hartman’s first duology, Tess’s sister Seraphina needed to be taught to like and settle for the components of herself she’d been taught to maintain hidden, whereas “Shadow Scale” compelled her to be taught uncomfortable truths in regards to the world that had been hidden from her. Tess follows the same trajectory in her books, therapeutic from household trauma in “Tess of the Highway” solely to seek out herself, within the sequel, getting a crash course in settler colonial idea (and follow).
In step with its predecessors, “Within the Serpent’s Wake” is fantastic, immediately immersive and deeply affecting. However whereas the earlier novels stored a decent concentrate on their protagonists, this one has a extra expansive solid, higher serving its wider ambitions: to problem settler assumptions about civilization and id, tales and their tellers. The place actuality obscures, erases and elides reality, it falls to fantasy to appropriate the document.
Delilah S. Dawson’s THE VIOLENCE (Del Rey, 498 pp., $28) takes place in a post-Covid Florida, on the cusp of a really totally different pandemic. It’s 2025, and Chelsea Martin lives an apparently idyllic life in a gated group along with her rich husband, two daughters and small trendy canine. In actuality, Chelsea’s husband is bodily and emotionally abusive, and has systematically lower her off from any pals or help programs other than her merciless and self-absorbed mom. However as a brand new illness referred to as the Violence spreads — inflicting transient, particular person episodes of amnesiac rage throughout which the contaminated beat the closest residing factor to demise — Chelsea sees a chance to free herself and her daughters.
Dawson’s prose is a type of knife work: quick, sharp stabs after agonies of teeth-clenching stress, whether or not in Chelsea’s marriage, her teenage daughter Ella’s relationship along with her boyfriend, or her mom’s relationship along with her personal highly effective husband. The virus intersects in surprising, transformative methods with the casually accrued and painfully sublimated violence of their every day lives. What might have been a flimsy allegory is as a substitute a fastidiously and surprisingly angled mirror: Some individuals are falsely accused of being contaminated; some falsely declare an infection as an excuse for his or her actions; some wrestle to regulate the Violence, whereas others attempt to induce it.
Whereas portray a chilling portrait of home abuse, “The Violence” additionally seems like the primary actual Covid novel I’ve learn, and never solely as a result of it acknowledges a latest previous of masks and lockdowns. It additionally makes viciously specific two twinned and reverse pandemic fears: the worry of killing individuals along with your sickness, and the worry of being killed by the sickness of others. There’s a dizzyingly efficient passage through which a gaggle of contaminated individuals unburden themselves by naming the individuals they’ve murdered — their companions, their mother and father, their youngsters. It’s inconceivable to not learn, in that, a type of reckoning with the realities of our present pandemic and the way we’ll consider it sooner or later.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/07/books/evaluate/scotto-moore-rachel-hartman-delilah-dawson.html A Gamer Learns to Weaponize Sounds in This Style-Bender