FORMIDABLE FICTION: Elizabeth Kostova will try to equal the blockbuster success of The Historian with The Swan Thieves.
The holidays are over — time to hit the books. Fortunately, with fiction from the likes of international award winners David Malouf and Kenzaburo Oe, history that embraces Billy the Kid and doomed cousins Wilhelm II, George V, and Nicholas II, and a new work from poet laureate Kay Ryan, your assignments will be easy.
Fiction lovers start the year out big with the first novel in more than a decade from DAVID MALOUF, an IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner. Ransom (Pantheon, January 5) re-creates cascading grief during the Trojan War as Achilles slaughters Hector, then faces Hector's father. Coming shortly thereafter: DON DELILLO's Point Omega (Scribner, February 2), with a scholar working for the government who's pursued by an inquisitive filmmaker.
In JOHN BANVILLE's The Infinities (Knopf, March 1), as a famed mathematician lies dying, surrounded by his children and the requisite hated stepmother, the Greek gods come out of nowhere to wreak even more havoc. There's also a troubled family in LOUISE ERDRICH's Shadow Tag (Harper, February 2), wherein a wife derails her artist husband by filling her diary with lies. Yes, she knows he reads it.
Opening in Korea after the war, CHANG-RAE LEE's The Surrendered (Riverhead, March 9) features an orphan and a brash GI who fall under the spell of a troubled missionary wife. In Nobel Prize winner KENZABURO OE's The Changeling (Grove, March 1), Kogito Choko finally patches things up with his brother-in-law, whose subsequent suicide begs the question of friendship.
JOSHUA FERRIS follows up a hit debut, Then We Came to the End, with the story of a man beset by a mysterious illness that forces him to walk compulsively (The Unnamed, Little, Brown, January 18). ANDRÉ ACIMAN's Eight White Nights (Farrar, Straus, February 9), also an anticipated second novel, limns a couple's brief, taut relationship after they meet at a Christmas party.
For short-fiction lovers: AMY BLOOM's Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Random, January 12), SAM SHEPARD's Day out of Day (Knopf, January 8), T.C. BOYLE's Wild Child and Other Stories (Viking, January 21), and JIM HARRISON's collection of novellas, The Farmer's Daughter (Grove, January 5). National Book Award finalist BRAD WATSON returns with Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (Norton, March 22), and STEVEN AMSTERDAM, a newcomer and major award winner in Australia (where he lives, though he's actually American), is generating considerable buzz with Things We Didn't See Coming (Pantheon, February 2).
Finally, for fun, there's TRACY CHEVALIER's Remarkable Creatures (Dutton, January 5), which is about a young girl's fascination with fossils in pre-Darwin England. Having debuted with The Historian, ELIZABETH KOSTOVA tries for another blockbuster with The Swan Thieves (Little, Brown, January 12), the story of an anguished painter. DANIELLE TRUSSONI's Angelology (Viking, March 9), which features the arrogant half-human, half-angel Nephilim, sounds like fluff. But Trussoni wrote the wonderful memoir Falling Through the Earth.