Here are two very different novels for adults that I read earlier this year.
Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip. Penguin, 2008.
At Sealey Head, a bell that no one can see and most of the locals no longer hear rings at sunset every night. Judd Cauley is the innkeeper of the failing inn at Cliffside Sealey Head. He’s pining after local merchant’s daughter Gwyneth Blair, an aspiring writer. Judd is too shy to press his case, especially as Gwyneth is openly courted by the rich farming lord’s son, Raven, who visit often with his sister. In the manor, Aislinn house, we get the perspective of Emma, a maid, who sometimes opens doors to discover a grander, medieval version of Aislinn House. Though neither goes through the doors, Emma meets and befriends Princess Ysabo on the other side. Ysabo is trapped performing a ritual that takes all day, every day, and must never be questioned.
When strangers come to town, the locals, both present and past, must work together to solve the mystery of the bell and prevent sinister magic. If you’ve ever read Patricia McKillip, you’ll know how she’s capable of weaving the oddest bits together into something that feels truly magical, even if you might not be entirely sure why everything happened. This one I read in memory of DeForest and Liz.
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente. Simon and Schuster, 2018.
Hitchhiker’s Guide meets Eurovision as one band is chosen to represent Earth in a contest that will determine if humans are to be considered sentient enough for Earth to be spared destruction. The band is the last choice, but due to the slowness of space travel, the only band still living. It’s the formerly popular band Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes, which is still reeling from the death of its drummer Mira Wonderful Star. It’s dense, thoughtful, twisty, and hilarious – I went in prepared to read every sentence twice, and was glad I was. Here’s a fragment of the sentence that introduces lead singer Decibel Jones: “psychedelic ambidextrous omnisexual gendersplat glitterpunk financially punch-drunk ethnically ambitious glamrock messiah by the name of Danesh Jalo” – who besides having substance problems is also devoted to his Nani. His fellow bandmate went by the stage name of Oort S. Ultraviolet, born Omar, now trying to live a normal life with his wife and daughters trying to be a typical “Englishblokeman.” The book is full of descriptions of alien races and previous Metagalactic Grand Prix competitions. Every page is filled with something complicated and hilarious – if you can parse it. I loved it.