World-building has long been considered the arena of science fiction and fantasy. From Harry Potter to Star Wars, we’ve all been transported to expansive, fictional universes but there are so many more examples beyond these genres. The following are several examples of different types of novels, including historical, coming-of-age, and much more, that bring the settings to vivid and in-depth life and effortlessly immerse us in unforgettable stories.
It isn’t often that we get to experience a zombie apocalypse from the zombies’ perspective, but WARM BODIES isn’t your typical zombie book. Introspective and romantic, it follows R as he encounters a living woman and finds himself reluctant to eat her. Instead, she awakens something inside him . . . something that’s been dead for as long as he has. R’s evocative, genuine voice shows us a world that is simultaneously familiar and foreign, scary and comforting.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
“Gruesome yet poetic…highly original.” —The Seattle Times
“Dark and funny.” —Wired
“A mesmerizing evolution of a classic contemporary myth.” —Simon Pegg
“A strange and unexpected treat…elegantly written, touching, and fun.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
“Has there been a more sympathetic monster since Frankenstein’s?” —Financial Times
In Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion’s New York Times bestselling novel that inspired a major film, a zombie returns to humanity through an unlikely encounter with love.
“R” is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization.
And then he meets a girl.
First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.
An unforgettably hypnotic novel, LET US DESCEND explores the power of Black grief and joy set against the horror of American slavery. Sold by the white man who fathered her, Annis travels through the American South and finds comfort in the epic tales, history, and beliefs from her African heritage. An arresting blend of historical fiction and magical realism, you will be submerged in this haunting world from the first page.
From Jesmyn Ward—the two-time National Book Award winner, youngest winner of the Library of Congress Prize for Fiction, and MacArthur Fellow—comes a haunting masterpiece, sure to be an instant classic, about an enslaved girl in the years before the Civil War.
“‘Let us descend,’ the poet now began, ‘and enter this blind world.’” —Inferno, Dante Alighieri
Let Us Descend is a reimagining of American slavery, as beautifully rendered as it is heart-wrenching. Searching, harrowing, replete with transcendent love, the novel is a journey from the rice fields of the Carolinas to the slave markets of New Orleans and into the fearsome heart of a Louisiana sugar plantation.
Annis, sold south by the white enslaver who fathered her, is the reader’s guide through this hellscape. As she struggles through the miles-long march, Annis turns inward, seeking comfort from memories of her mother and stories of her African warrior grandmother. Throughout, she opens herself to a world beyond this world, one teeming with spirits: of earth and water, of myth and history; spirits who nurture and give, and those who manipulate and take. While Ward leads readers through the descent, this, her fourth novel, is ultimately a story of rebirth and reclamation.
From one of the most singularly brilliant and beloved writers of her generation, this miracle of a novel inscribes Black American grief and joy into the very land—the rich but unforgiving forests, swamps, and rivers of the American South. Let Us Descend is Jesmyn Ward’s most magnificent novel yet, a masterwork for the ages.
For nearly thirty years, William Kent Krueger has weaved unforgettable tales set in the most picturesque locales in Minnesota, making it seem that we are right beside his remarkable characters. In this stand-alone novel, a murder rocks a small town in the state, revealing dark secrets and suspicions. Suspenseful and unputdownable, THE RIVER WE REMEMBER is a masterly exploration of home.
In 1958, a small Minnesota town is rocked by the murder of its most powerful citizen, pouring fresh fuel on old grievances in this dazzling standalone novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the “expansive, atmospheric American saga” (Entertainment Weekly) This Tender Land.
On Memorial Day, as the people of Jewel, Minnesota gather to remember and honor the sacrifice of so many sons in the wars of the past, the half-clothed body of wealthy landowner Jimmy Quinn is found floating in the Alabaster River, dead from a shotgun blast. Investigation of the murder falls to Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated war hero who still carries the physical and emotional scars from his military service. Even before Dern has the results of the autopsy, vicious rumors begin to circulate that the killer must be Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran who has recently returned to Jewel with a Japanese wife. As suspicions and accusations mount and the town teeters on the edge of more violence, Dern struggles not only to find the truth of Quinn’s murder but also put to rest the demons from his own past.
Caught up in the torrent of anger that sweeps through Jewel are a war widow and her adolescent son, the intrepid publisher of the local newspaper, an aging deputy, and a crusading female lawyer, all of whom struggle with their own tragic histories and harbor secrets that Quinn’s death threatens to expose.
Both a complex, spellbinding mystery and a masterful portrait of midcentury American life from an author of novels “as big-hearted as they come” (Parade), The River We Remember is an unflinching look at the wounds left by the wars we fight abroad and at home, a moving exploration of the ways in which we seek to heal, and a testament to the enduring power of the stories we tell about the places we call home.
There are few authors who can transport us to the past as effectively and lyrically as Philippa Gregory. In this first book of her Fairmile historical fiction series, she takes us to 17th-century England. Alinor is a woman trapped in societal limbo after her husband’s death when she encounters a mysterious young man. She has no idea that their paths crossing will send her on a dangerous and life-changing journey.
This New York Times bestseller from “one of the great storytellers of our time” (San Francisco Book Review) turns from the glamour of the royal courts to tell the story of an ordinary woman, Alinor, living in a dangerous time for a woman to be different.
On Midsummer’s Eve, Alinor waits in the church graveyard, hoping to encounter the ghost of her missing husband and thus confirm his death. Until she can, she is neither maiden nor wife nor widow, living in a perilous limbo. Instead she meets James, a young man on the run. She shows him the secret ways across the treacherous marshy landscape of the Tidelands, not knowing she is leading a spy and an enemy into her life.
England is in the grip of a bloody civil war that reaches into the most remote parts of the kingdom. Alinor’s suspicious neighbors are watching each other for any sign that someone might be disloyal to the new parliament, and Alinor’s ambition and determination mark her as a woman who doesn’t follow the rules. They have always whispered about the sinister power of Alinor’s beauty, but the secrets they don’t know about her and James are far more damning. This is the time of witch-mania, and if the villagers discover the truth, they could take matters into their own hands.
“This is Gregory par excellence” (Kirkus Reviews). “Fans of Gregory’s works and of historicals in general will delight in this page-turning tale” (Library Journal, starred review) that is “superb… A searing portrait of a woman that resonates across the ages” (People).
Is this the future we can expect? With visionary prose, Michelle Min Sterling takes us to a rescue camp in northern Canada, which is filled with those who have been displaced by climate change. Together they must adapt to a new normal or face dire consequences in a rapidly heating world. But in any isolated, small community, secrets and plots abound. One young woman quickly learns that everyone has an agenda, and this new way of life is just as complicated as the previous one . . . only the stakes are higher.
In a near-future northern settlement, a handful of climate change survivors find their fates intertwined in this mesmerizing and transportive novel in the vein of Station Eleven and The Power.
In the far north of Canada sits Camp Zero, an American building project hiding many secrets.
Desperate to help her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother, Rose agrees to travel to Camp Zero and spy on its architect in exchange for housing. She arrives at the same time as another newcomer, a college professor named Grant who is determined to flee his wealthy family’s dark legacy. Gradually, they realize that there is more to the architect than previously thought, and a disturbing mystery lurks beneath the surface of the camp. At the same time, rumors abound of an elite group of women soldiers living and working at a nearby Cold War-era climate research station. What are they doing there? And who is leading them?
An electrifying page-turner where nothing is as it seems, Camp Zero cleverly explores how the intersection of gender, class, and migration will impact who and what will survive in a warming world.
No one can bring horror to life like Stephen King. He’s vividly taken us to ‘Salem’s Lot, the Overlook Hotel, and the Dark Tower, among other locations. But few places he’s created are as terrifying and realistic as Derry, Maine. The story of this small town and its haunting by Pennywise is an iconic tale that sinks its teeth into you from the very first page. Take a visit with the Losers Club, if you dare.
For fans of “Stranger Things”
Teeming with the best kind of ‘80s nostalgia, the perfect follow-up read to this summer’s Netflix hit “Stranger Things” is Stephen King’s classic thriller IT. Seven adults are forced to revisit the horrors they once experienced when they were teens, battling an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. With the town’s terrible history repeating, they must once again face the evil monster.
This enchanting prequel to the beloved Practical Magic series whisks us to 17th-century England and Salem, Massachusetts, as the origins of the infamous Owens curse is revealed. A vibrant story of magic, love, and betrayal, MAGIC LESSONS is perfect for both new and longtime fans of the evocative Alice Hoffman.
In this “ bewitching” (The New York Times Book Review) novel that traces a centuries-old curse to its source, beloved author Alice Hoffman unveils the story of Maria Owens, accused of witchcraft in Salem, and matriarch of a line of the amazing Owens women and men featured in Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic.
Where does the story of the Owens bloodline begin? With Maria Owens, in the 1600s, when she’s abandoned in a snowy field in rural England as a baby. Under the care of Hannah Owens, Maria learns about the “Nameless Arts.” Hannah recognizes that Maria has a gift and she teaches the girl all she knows. It is here that she learns her first important lesson: Always love someone who will love you back.
When Maria is abandoned by the man who has declared his love for her, she follows him to Salem, Massachusetts. Here she invokes the curse that will haunt her family. And it’s here that she learns the rules of magic and the lesson that she will carry with her for the rest of her life. Love is the only thing that matters.
Magic Lessons is a “heartbreaking and heart-healing” (BookPage) celebration of life and love and a showcase of Alice Hoffman’s masterful storytelling.
Visit an iconic California theme park where nothing is quite what it seems in this haunting debut. Tasked with shutting the park down after a death on the grounds, employee Delphi has no idea that there are two siblings investigating why so many workers there have disappeared. And what will happen when the park finally empties? Read this creepy and thrilling genre-bending novel to find out.
In this haunting debut novel—perfect for fans of Iain Reid, Jeff VanderMeer, and Julia Armfield—a loyal employee at a collapsing theme park questions the recent death of a celebrity visitor, the arrival of strange new guests, her boyfriend’s erratic behavior, and ultimately her own sanity.
Delphi has spent years working at a vast and iconic theme park in California after fleeing childhood trauma in her rural hometown. But after the disturbing death of a beloved Hollywood starlet on the park grounds, Delphi is tasked with shuttering The Park for good.
Meanwhile, two siblings with ties to The Park exchange letters, trying to understand why people who work there have been disappearing. Before long, they learn that there’s a reason no one is meant to see behind The Park’s curtain.
What happens when The Park empties out? And what happens when Delphi, who seems remarkably at one with The Park, is finally forced to leave?
At once a novel about the uncanny valley, death cults, optical illusions, and the enduring power of fantasy, Reiche’s debut is a mind-bending teacup ride through an eerily familiar landscape, where the key to it all is what happens at the end of every day.
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