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March 1, 2012 Edition

Running the Rift

Written by Naomi Benaron

Set in the Rwanda of 1994-1998, this is the story of a young Tutsi boy, Jean Patrick, his family, and his Hutu running coach. Jean Patrick is determined to become the first runner from Rwanda to win an Olympic medal, and so he turns a blind eye to signs of ethnic troubles around him. That he carries a Hutu identification card, given to him by his coach, is just a meaningless convenience, and the harassment in school wasn’t so bad – at least he’s allowed to stay in school. But when the genocide begins, the country’s borders close and chaos reigns – and running may not be enough to save Jean Patrick from the horrifying, brutal reality that Rwanda has sunk into.

Miserere

Written by Teresa Frohock

There is Hell, and there is Heaven. And in between the two, there are Earth, and its protector dimension, Woerld. Long ago, Lucian nearly lost his life in rescuing his twin, Catarina, from Hell, only to find that she’d been there of her own accord, striking a deal with the fallen angel, Mastema. Now, Catarina is firmly on Hell’s side, gathering Mastema’s forces in a bid to take over Earth, while Lucian lives on in Woerld, tortured by the memory of the lover he sacrificed to gain Caterina’s supposed freedom. But a new foundling has appeared, a girl who has wandered across the Veil that separates Earth from Woerld, who needs training to use the gifts she carries – and protection while she trains, and Lucian finds he might yet have reason to live.

Alien Contact

Written by Marty Halpern

The old classics of science fiction are great, but how about a more modern take on aliens? Some of the best contemporary science fiction writers are collected here in this satisfyingly thick one-volume collection of stories about alien contact. The stories range from the absurd (the insufferably correct aliens of George Alec Effinger) to the ominous (Jack Skillingstead’s shuffler of probabilities) to the poignant (Stephen Baxter’s end-of-the-world scenario). Look for stories from Neil Gaiman, Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross, Elizabeth Moon, and Karen Joy Fowler, among others.

The Postmortal

Written by Drew Magary

Thanks to John Farrell, readers can preview life after “the cure” – and what a disaster it is! John got his gene therapy cure on the black market – just three simple elephant-needle sized shots and he’s never going to age a day – without really asking himself the hard questions. Like: if I don’t get any older, when do I get to retire? As he blogs about his life as a Postmortal, we see society change as politicians campaign for, and then against, legalization of the cure, and against, and then for, euthanasia (by the end, suicides even get tax credits). The cure touches every part of humanity, from international relations to prisons to marriages to jobs to religions. How many people can comfortably live on Earth? Black comedy for the armchair philosopher.

How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive

Written by Christopher Boucher

Lovers of metaphor, language play, and shifting landscapes, listen up! Taking its chapter titles from the old how-to manual of the same name, this is a surreal novel with panache. As if making balloon animals, Boucher twists familiar words into new shapes that are instantly recognizable, but strange. It’s the story of a man whose father is killed by a hungry Heart Attack Tree, who is facing the challenges of raising his son (an electric blue Volkswagen Beetle) alone, and who is trying to make ends meet as an independent journalist. Like a jazz improvisation with words, this novel asks the big questions – and sometimes even answers them.

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