Pumpkin spice and books that are nice — Fiction titles coming out this October

Might October be our favourite month for fiction? Daring, weird, and entirely uncanny, we have quite the list coming out this month. Read on to know what you should be getting into stock this month!

Near Distance by Hanna Stoltenberg, translated by Wendy H Gabrielsen
Weatherglass Books, 9781739260170, PB, £11.99, 5/10/2023

For fans of Gwendolyn Riley and Rachel Cusk, Near Distance explores the space between a mother and daughter where love should be.

Her whole life, Karin has fled from everything and everyone who wants to possess her. She has a daughter she rarely contacts, a job that demands nothing, and she largely socialises with men she meets on the internet. But when her daughter’s marriage becomes at risk of falling apart, she is forced to confront why she is like this, and what she might do to prevent her daughter leading the same life.

Near Distance is a subtle, poised and devastating account of a mother and daughter’s attempt to reconnect.

Penelope Unbound by Mary Morrissy
Banshee Press, 9781838312688, PB, £12.99, 5/10/2023

For fans of Joycean history and other fictional retellings like Norah by Nuala O’Connor, Penelope Unbound is a new novel by one of Ireland’s finest writers.

On their arrival in Trieste in 1904, James Joyce left Norah Barnacle outside a railway station while he went to scare up money. He got embroiled in a fight with a couple of sailors and was locked up for his troubles. A penniless Norah was left alone for almost an entire day and night sitting on their suitcases at the station in a city where she knew no one and where she didn’t speak the language. In real life, Norah waited for him. This novel asks — what if she hadn’t?

In Penelope Unbound, one of our greatest living novelists weaves a spellbinding speculative history. By unhooking Norah from her famous husband, Morrissy gives her a compelling new voice, with heartbreak and humanity all her own. Sensual, inventive and uproariously funny, Penelope Unbound reimagines a Joycean heroine for the 21st century.

Lamb by Matt Hill
Dead Ink, 9781915368041, PB, £9.99, 12/10/2023

A visceral story of collective memory and moss-coated horror, from Philip K. Dick Award nominated author Matt Hill.

When lorry driver Dougie Alport carries out a deadly attack on his employer’s head office, the reverberations of his actions unleash a grief in his wife, Maureen, that threatens to reveal the secret she has spent years hiding from their son, Boyd. Moving north to start again is Maureen’s best response. But as the walls begin to throb with mould and his mother slips from his grasp, Boyd decides to flee, finding solace with a new friend at the landfill site on the edge of town. Here, a startling discovery upends Boyd’s new life and forces him into a reckoning with his mother, her past, and his future.

A visceral story of collective memory and moss-coated horror, Lamb asks us how far we’d go to protect those we love, and how intensely we are bound to those who have come before us.

Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt
Cipher Press, 9781739220723, PB, £10.99, 12/10/2023

From the author of Tell Me I’m Worthless comes a searing body horror novel of obsession, fetish, violence, and pleasure. For fans of David Cronenberg, Erica Larocca, Clive Barker, and Carmen Maria Machado.

When a transphobic woman bombs Frankie’s workplace, she blows up Frankie’s life with it. As the media descends like vultures, Frankie tries to cope with the carnage: binge-drinking, fucking strangers, pushing away her friends. Then, she meets Vanya. Mysterious, beautiful, terrifying Vanya. The two hit it off immediately, but as their relationship intensifies, so too does Frankie’s feeling that Vanya is hiding something from her. When Vanya’s secrets threaten to tear them apart, Frankie starts digging, and unearths a sinister, depraved conspiracy, the roots of which go deeper than she ever imagined.

Shocking, grotesque, and downright filthy, Brainwyrms confronts the creeping reality of political terror and what the current political climate in the UK means for queer and trans people, while exploring the depths of love, pain, and identity.

The Blue Mask by Joel Lane
Influx Press, 9781914391057, PB, £9.99, 12/10/2023

Neil is a student at Birmingham University, living a typical life of gigs, clubs, politics, sex. One night, after a row with his lover, Neil follows a stranger onto a canal towpath. The stranger turns on him and attacks, viciously carving up Neil’s face and leaving him mutilated beyond recognition. Neil’s recovery is a journey through surgical reconstruction and sexual alienation. His attempt to track down his attacker becoming a search for his own hidden, destructive self; a search that leads him to question values he had always taken for granted.

First published in 2003 and long out-of-print , The Blue Mask is a hardcore emotional trip exploring the trauma of change and the nature of violence and of love.

Girlfriends by Emily Zhou
Littlepuss Press, 9781736716847, PB, £15.99, 17/10/2023

For fans of Kai Cheng Thom, Casey Plett or Lynne Tillman. In seven light-filled prisms of short stories, Emily Zhou chronicles modern queer life with uncompromising and hilarious lucidity.

Attending to the intimacy of Gen Z women’s lives, these stories move from the provinces to the metropolis, from chaotic student accommodation to insecure jobs, from parties to dates to the nights after, from haplessness to some kind of power. Funny and devastating, like a trans Mary McCarthy, Zhou depicts with shocking precision the choices and shifts through which we work on each other and ourselves. A stunning chronicle of modern queer life, spanning the Upper Midwest to New York City, this is an uncompromising and relatable look into Gen Z women’s lives.

Tender, merciless, and gracious, Girlfriends is a breath of fresh air.

Between Dog and Wolf: A Novel by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry
The Indigo Press, 9781911648659, PB, £12.99, 19/10/2023

The hour between dog and wolf is twilight, when it is hard to distinguish between known and unknown, right and wrong.

When one state has ended and another has not quite begun. In 1980s Russia, Soviet policies, cruel but familiar, are giving way to untested concepts such as glasnost and perestroika. Four teenagers — Anya, Milka, Petya and Aleksey, whose lives, like those of their Western counterparts, are fuelled by sex, alcohol, cigarettes and dreams — yearn for a world of Levi’s, Queen, foreign travel and the freedom to choose their fates. Instead, like their ancestors, they encounter heartbreak and tragedy.

With a nod to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, crumbling dachas surrounded by apple orchards, the scenes of idyllic summers, are slated for destruction as capitalism corrupts and corrodes the best of the past without bringing a promise of renewal. Yet while depicting a bloody and desperate era, this exceptional debut novel pulsates with life. It is radiant with friendship and love, the power of international literature, values and politics, as its characters struggle to survive, to save their country and one another.

Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman
Verve Books, 9780857308399, PB, £9.99, 26/10/2023

Saturnalia is a wholly original blend of feminism, cli-fi, suspense and magical realism. A story about environmental collapse and class warfare, and magic: the magic of alchemy and of bravery and forgiveness. Step into an unsettling and propulsive novel that draws on timely generational anxieties about the future.

It’s the winter solstice in a Philadelphia that has been eroded by extreme weather, economic collapse, and disease-carrying mosquitoes. The Saturnalia carnival is about to begin — an evening on which nearly everyone, rich or poor, forgets their troubles for a moment. For Nina, Saturnalia is simply a cruel reminder of the night that changed everything for her. It’s now three years since she walked away from the elite Saturn Club, with its genteel debauchery, arcane pecking order, and winking interest in alchemy and the occult. Since then, she’s led an isolated life, eking out a living telling fortunes with her Saturn Club tarot deck. But when she gets a chance call from Max, her last remaining friend from the Saturn Club, Nina will put on a dress of blackest black and attend the Club’s wild solstice masquerade, the biggest party of the year, on a mysterious errand she can’t say no to.

Before the night is over, she will become the custodian of a horrifying secret – and the target of a mysterious hunter. As Nina runs across an alternate Philadelphia balanced on a knife’s edge between celebration and catastrophe — through parades, worship houses, museums, hidden mansions, and the place she once called home — she’s forced to confront her past so she can finally take charge of her own, and perhaps everyone else’s, future.

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