The end of the year is almost upon us, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a shortage of intriguing-looking books due out on indie presses to close out 2023. Instead, the last two months of this year abound with some of 2023’s most intriguing reads to date—from an unexpected work of ecological horror to a bizarre vision of the Ozarks in the future. Here’s a look at a number of indie press titles due out between now and the end of the year. Whether you’re looking for a classic dystopian tale or a dreamlike take on detective fiction, you might just find your next favorite read here.
File Under: Weird Noir
This summer saw the publication of the second volume of Chris McKinney’s trilogy about an underwater city and a world-changing technology. With the end of the year comes the final installment, titled Sunset, Water City. Here, McKinney completes a pivot from futuristic detective narrative to a work set in a full-on post-apocalyptic landscape (or seascape). It’s a haunting conclusion for an ambitious series. (Soho Press; December 2023)
Described by its publisher as “a transhumanist noir,” Thomas Kendall’s new book How I Killed the Universal Man sends its journalist protagonist on the trail of a potentially groundbreaking medication—and into a world where body modifications abound and the nature of consciousness is forever altered. Kendall’s previous novel The Autodidacts featured a very different kind of literary mystery, and it’s exciting to see what he might do here. (Whisk(e)Y Tit, Dec. 2, 2023)
Bennet Sims has previously told a zombie story with no other in the book A Questionable Shape. With the new collection Other Minds and Other Stories, Sims pushes his fiction into fascinating new places—including one of the most surreal private detective stories you’re likely to read. Sims’s use of dream logic and surrealism blend with a cerebral quality; the overall effect is thoroughly compelling. (Two Dollar Radio; Nov. 14, 2023)
File Under: The Planetary Scale
The protagonist of Amin Maalouf’s novel On the Isle of Antioch—translated by Natasha Lehrer—has a quiet life on an isolated island when the book opens. Soon enough, things take a series of ominous turns, including a crisis that puts the world on the verge of ending and the arrival on the scene of mysterious beings seeking to avert a disaster. Is there more happening here than meets the eye? (World Editions; Dec. 5, 2023)
It’s been a big year for Tiffany Morris, who also had work featured in the anthology Never Whistle at Night—and whose story “Wapnintu’tijig They Sang Until Dawn” was praised in these pages as “[a] beautiful story about climate change, Indigenous beliefs and practices, and the intersections between them.” Green Fuse Burning tells the story of an artist whose immersion in a haunted space touches on both ecological themes and horrific imagery. (Stelliform Press; Nov. 1, 2023)
Following the crew of a soon-to-be-decommissioned space station, Samantha Harvey’s novel Orbital offers a singular perspective on life both on the planet and making its way above it. What’s it like to hurtle through space thousands of feet above the planet’s surface? Harvey’s novel blends the technologically breathtaking with the quietly quotidian. (Grove Press; Dec. 5, 2023)
File Under: The Mythological
In an interview published earlier this year, Chịkọdịlị Emelụmadụ explained the genesis of her novel Dazzling. “I wanted a book that represented the strange mix of world in which I grew up in contemporary south-eastern Nigeria, with its mores, hierarchies, and beliefs,” she said—and this novel, where humans and spirits traverse the same paths and bodies are malleable—is the result. (The Overlook Press; Dec. 5, 2023)
Writing on the subject of Appalachian SFF in these pages in 2021, Linda H. Codega noted that Manly Wade Wellman’s stories of John the Balladeer “are hard to find, but worth it.” Now, a new edition of John the Balladeer should help these tales of a traveling musician crossing paths with the supernatural find a broader audience. (Valancourt Books; Nov. 1, 2023)
File Under: Utopias and Dystopias
In an interview last year, Jane Alberdeston described the thoughts that provided the underpinning for a course she was teaching at Binghamton University. “It’s also thinking about exile, imprisonment, solitude—all those themes that have come up in the past couple of years,” Alberdeston said—a description that could also apply to her novel Colony 51, about a community of young women living in an isolated dystopian society and the recent arrival looking to spark change there. (Jaded Ibis Press; Nov. 2, 2023)
A winner of the Otherwise Award in 2019, Gabriela Damián Miravete’s latest project is the novel They Will Dream in the Garden, here translated by Adrian Demopulos. This novel chronicles, as per the publisher, “the disconcerting experience of living as a woman in Mexico”—which, in this book, involves everything from linguistic preservation to transcendental experiences. (Rosarium Publishing; Dec. 5, 2023)
In his blurb for Matthew Mitchell’s novella Chaindevils, Laird Barron invoked “The Road, Warhammer 40k, and pulp westerns”—and your response to those three points of comparison should serve as a pretty good guide as to what you’ll make of this book. Do you like your speculative fiction set in a violent futuristic version of the Ozarks? This might be the next addition to your to-read pile. (Weirdpunk, Nov. 11, 2023)
I’m on record as being a huge admirer of Kang Young-sook’s novel Rina, a haunting tale that followed its protagonist through a devastated and hostile landscape. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to hear that a new book of Kang’s is due out in translation (in this case, by Janet Hong). The collection At Night He Lifts Weights offers readers a cross-section of Kang’s work, featuring settings ranging from fraught urban landscapes to plague-ridden suburbs. (Transit Books; Nov. 1, 2023)
File Under: Uncanny Locales
The protagonist of Gemma Amor’s novel The Folly struggles in the wake of multiple tragedies: the death of her mother and the wrongful incarceration of her father for her murder. Daughter and father begin working as caretakers for an isolated tower—the “folly” of the title—when things take a turn for the weird. Specifically, someone shows up who may have an uncanny connection to the murdered woman—which ups the stakes considerably. (Polis Books; Dec. 5, 2023)
Reading the works of Mathias Énard can involve revisiting the life of Michaelangelo or chronicling the horrors of the 20th century. With The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild, Énard and translator Frank Wynne take things in a more metaphysical direction—with a narrative in which a researcher’s trip to a small French town coincides with a temporary shift in the balance between death and life. (New Directions; Dec. 5, 2023)
Michael Jeffrey Lee’s fiction has been published in the likes of Fairy Tale Review, Conjunctions, and the anthology XO Orpheus: Fifty New Myths. Lee’s new collection, My Worst Ideas, features the natural world turning bizarre—including a hostile river and a headless pigeon with strange properties—amidst a pervasive sense of widespread alienation. (Spurl Editions; Nov. 1, 2023)
I first learned of the writings of Stefan Grabinski via this fascinating overview of his work by John Coulthart. The new collection Orchard of the Dead & Other Macabre Tales features translations by Anthony Sciscione and an introduction by Brian Evenson; it’s a great introduction to a writer who’s been compared to both Poe and Lovecraft, and who summoned up a sense of dread at the excesses of industry.
Tobias Carroll is the managing editor of Vol.1 Brooklyn. He is the author of the short story collection Transitory (Civil Coping Mechanisms) and the novel Reel (Rare Bird Books).