Annihilation, by Jeff VanderMeer (FSG, February 4): The publisher blurb for this begins, "If J.J. Abrams, Margaret Atwood, and Alan Weisman collaborated on a novel . . . it might be this awesome." That's a big claim, but if it lives up to the hype, it really will be awesome. The first in a planned trilogy, the second and third volumes are due to be published in 2014, so the wait won't be long.
Marshlands, by Matthew Olshan (FSG, February 4): An unnamed man is released from an unidentified military prison to a country he no longer recognizes as his own. As this novel moves backwards in time, the man's crimes are revealed--as is the haunting world of a country at war with its occupiers. I've already read this one, and while it's rather quiet, it resonates with our current political situation despite its lack of identifying details.
The Secret of Raven Point, by Jennifer Vanderbes (Scribner, February 4): World War II history promising a "war saga capturing the experiences of soldiers after the battles have ended." And told from the perspective of a woman? Yes, please.
Strange Bodies, by Marcel Theroux (FSG, February 4): The Millions Most Anticipated Books of 2014 article stated, "This smart novel’s central conceit is that we are all, like books, made of words." What's not to love about that?
The Martian, by Andy Weir (Crown, February 11): One of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars is left behind by his crew... and will quickly become the first man to die on the surface of Mars. An interesting twist on our concept of "Martians," yes?
The News: A User's Manual, by Alain de Botton (Pantheon, February 11): Alain de Botton, founder of the School of Life (which has a corresponding book series worth checking out), tackles our obsession with the news in his latest work. In the age of the 24-hour-news cycle, this couldn't feel more relevant.
The Good Luck of Right Now, by Matthew Quick (Harper, February 11): The author of The Silver Linings Playbook is back in an epistolary novel told entirely in letters to Richard Gere. The letter-writer, Bartholomew, starts his missives after the death of his mother--and just keeps going. I've already read this one, and while it's not what I think people will be expecting, it's heartfelt and engaging.
Bark: Stories, by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, February 25): I've never read Lorrie Moore, but after all the praise that has been heaped upon her, I don't plan to miss this collection.
Kinder Than Solitude, by Yiyun Li (Random House, February 25): Another one picked up from The Millions' list of 2014 titles, this one promises to be a literary dive into the whodunit--or rather, the "what really happened" and the "does it even matter." I love novels that turn the classic crime story on its head, and this fits that bill in more ways than one.