In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve.
Today’s recommendations are by Sarah Knight. Sarah Knight is a senior editor at Simon & Schuster, where, in addition to her regular S&S list, she also oversees the new speculative fiction imprint Simon451, which launches its first set of titles in October 2014 (among them Gillian Anderson’s debut SF thriller, A Vision of Fire). She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their ill-behaved cat, Doug, and goes by @mcsnugz on Twitter.
My preferences as a reader (and editor) in the speculative category tend toward horror, dystopian, and supernatural stories, so you won’t find any heirs to George R.R. Martin on this list. I suppose there’s a common thread of dark humor and intellectual curiosity in each of the writers and books below (and somehow I think that George would find a lot to like in Strange Flesh…).
- Up first: the entertaining and prolific Chuck Wendig seems to be steadily amassing a loyal readership. But now that his series protagonist Miriam Black is getting her own show on Starz, I hope he’ll get launched into the stratosphere. SFX Magazine said of Blackbirds (the first Miriam Black novel): “Think Six Feet Under co-written by Stephen King and Chuck Palahniuk.” I’m not sure I can improve upon that description, but when I read Blackbirds—and indeed when I first saw its dynamite cover art—I had high hopes for Miriam Black and her particular brand of acerbic wit and steely resolve; she’s the kind of female protagonist there aren’t enough of in fiction.
- On the lighter side, Daniel O’Malley’s much-heralded, fantastical thriller debut, The Rook, despite being anointed by none other than Lev Grossman in TIME, never seemed to catch fire the way I’d thought it would. (That’s not to say its sales aren’t entirely respectable; I just thought I would have seen it pop up on a lot of bestseller lists.) It was a novel I’d read on submission from the literary agent and I thought it was incredibly ambitious, fresh, thrilling, and even funny. Sort of “Alice in Wonderland meets The Office,” the main character, Myfawny (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas is a member of an organization that battles supernatural forces in the U.K., and spends much of the novel trying to discover who among her brethren has betrayed her. I wasn’t lucky enough to publish it, but it’s on my “loved and lost” pile—if you haven’t read it, you’re in for a treat.
- Full disclosure: this next one is a book I edited and published back in 2012. Strange Flesh by Michael Olson, was described by Kirkus Reviews as “a healthy measure of Neal Stephenson crossed with a slice of Warren Ellis with a serious splash of Nicholson Baker’s sex novels.” And Publishers Weekly, in their starred review, announced “Strange Flesh reads like John Fowles’ The Magus reimagined by William Gibson on a Red Bull bender.” I wish I could say that the incredible early reviews led to massive sales and a movie deal, but alas, I think Strange Flesh was ahead of its time. This is a tech thriller narrated by a mercenary hacker whose side gig as a P.I. lands him in the midst of the development of the holy grail of virtual reality: robot sex. Keep in mind, this book came out a full two years before the recent spate of robot sex developments! Smart, fast-paced, and, as my husband says, “required reading for the horny nerd in all of us.”
Stay tuned for the next post where we get reading recommendations from David Barnett!