As always, the bookstores promise to overflow this fall with books galore, offering a respite from the terrifying reign of the beach books. Well, perhaps not a complete respite, as a major publisher’s bottom line probably wouldn’t survive without at least a few genre potboilers and thrillers from the likes of James Patterson.
Yet the abundant season holds a number of promising finds, ranging from magic-suffused tales of race relations, to old-favorite authors entering their twilight years, to new comic favorites.
In September, Nick Sagan, son of the famed late astronomer Carl Sagan, debuts with his first novel, Idlewild, a science fiction thriller. High-tech student Gabriel Kennedy Hall, a.k.a. Halloween, suspects someone in his small, prestigious school is trying to kill him — when a fellow student disappears, his suspicions fall on the virtual reality headmaster, Maestro. (Putnam, $23.95)
Race relations, gentrification, jazz, punk, pop art and super heros are only some of the issues that come together in Jonathan Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude, the story of two boys, one white and one black, who grow up together in an African-American Brooklyn neighborhood. The two remain linked through their disparate lives by a magic but hard-to-use ring that can provide them with their own super powers. Promises to be a pop-culture smorgasbord for those hungry for literary high-wire acts.(Doubleday, $26)
The author of Snow Falling on Cedars returns with a fable about faith, Our Lady of the Forest. David Guterson’s novel tells the story of a runaway teen, Ann, who begins having visions of the Virgin Mary in the Northwestern forest where she is an itinerant worker, and those who seek profit or salvation in her. (Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95)
Literary cyber-punk Neal Stephenson follows up his massive novel Cryptonomicon with a trip to the Baroque age in Quicksilver: Volume One of The Baroque Cycle, following a brilliant-yet-unrecognized scientist, a legendary vagabond and a quick-witted harem escapee in their travels across a Europe and America on the verge of historic change.Â Stephenson has shown himself to be a virtuoso talent in a string of high-concept, stunningly-executed novels, including Snow Crash and The Diamond Age, which makes expectations for his latest even higher.(HarperCollins, $27.95)
Move over Ethan Greene — Glen Hanson and Allan Neuwirth’s Chelsea Boys have been grabbing fans in and out of New York, and this collection will bring in the new and old fans alike. (Alyson, $13.95)
Jhumpa Lahiri follows up her Pulitzer Prize winning Interpreter of Maladies with a new novel about a young man’s struggle to exist in the spaces between two different worlds. In The Namesake young Gogol Ganguli is neither an Indian nor American name — his father acquired the first name from rescue workers at a train wreck who pulled it from the book he carried in his hands. Gogol searches for a life that makes sense in the universities and cities of America in this highly anticipated story. (Houghton Mifflin, $24)
There’s a whole lot of lesbian going on in October, kicking off with a trip back to the 1970s with The Bride of Catastrophe, Heidi Jon Schmidt’s tale of a young college student’s sexual discoveries and attempts to disentangle herself from a dysfunctional family. The student, Beatrice Wolfe, leaves behind college and her first lesbian love for a John Irving-like journey through adulthood, replete with radical feminists, tattooed recovering alcoholics, and inopportune lightening strikes. (Picador, $24)
Back in the present day, Alison Bechdel celebrates twenty years of her syndicated lesbian comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For with her tenth collection, Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon Based Life Forms to Watch Out For. One of the more complex strips you’ll find about the experience of gay life, this collection provide plenty to grab on to for fans new and old. (Alyson, $13.95)
Also keep an eye our for They Say She Tastes Like Honey, Michelle Sawyer’s debut novel about a New York lesbian whose life takes unexpected turns after she spots a beautiful woman on rollerblades. Said to be same-sex Sex in the City style romp through the Big Apple. (Alyson, $13.95)
Odd bird author Patricia Cornwell returns to her roots with her thirteenth novel featuring near-fearless medical examiner Kay Scarpetta, Blow Fly. Leaving her beloved Virginia behind to find a peaceful new life, she moves to Florida and finds herself — surprise! — “entangled in an international conspiracy that confronts her with the shock of her life.” Most likely a must-read for Scarpetta fans. (Putnam, $26.95)
What do you think about gay men who choose to marry women and live their lives as heterosexuals? David Leddick may give you some new things to think about with The Secret Lives of Married Men, which collects the stories of 40 gay men in straight marriages. (Alyson, $15.95)
Did someone say “retirement”? Mega-bestselling author Stephen King recently implied that he would be retiring in the near future, but his output has yet to slack. Still, word is that he may be putting the bow on his long career by finishing his Dark Tower fantasy series, considered by many to be his finest and richest work. This November, The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla is the first of the final three projected novels, though no one would be surprised if King decided he needed just one more book to finish the job. The Dark Tower series has increasingly become a thread running through all his novels and stories — it may be most interesting to see how Maine’s favorite son connects his entire body of work. (Scribner, $35)
Finally, local young-adult author Alex Sanchez returns with Rainbow High, revisiting the lives of his three friends from Rainbow Boys, Nelson, Kyle and Jason as they face their fears and possible obstacles to the futures they hope for as gay men. Targeted for young adults, it can also hold insights for the interested older reader to marvel at the changes the world has made for gay youth. (Simon & Schuster, $16.95)