Two Tales of Murderous Children

This year I’ve read a slew of speculative fiction, some of it fantastic, some of it lackluster. Here’s two of the good ones from 2015.

Book cover showing the sihlouette of a young womans' face

The Country of Ice Cream Star

Sandra Newman

Ecco, February 10, 2015

The Country of Ice Cream Star takes place in a dystopian Massachusetts, after a plague that only affects adults has devastated the United States. All that remains are children who are not even old enough to drink. There’s Game of Thrones-level violence and politics, as well as well as a similarly epic reach, but here it’s all contained in one volume. Is this future realistic? Would children really behave the way they do in this novel? Probably not, but the storytelling is so good, I don’t really care. Same for the language. The children speak a pidgin Frenglish that at times caused me to roll my eyes, but other times it was moving poetry that couldn’t exist without the same eccentric vocabulary and rhythms. This book is beautiful and brutal and surprising and funny. Highly, highly recommended.

A book cover showing a girl standing on a dark fantasy mountain top

Archivist Wasp

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Small Beer Press, May 12th 2015

This one also takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, one with semi-corporeal poltergeists. The Archivist named Wasp is religiously charged with finding, studying, and killing these ghosts. She meets one ghost who still has memories of his distant life and together they go on a journey through the underworld to help him uncover the truth about his last days. This is apparently a YA novel, but I, not very familiar with modern YA, couldn’t tell until I saw it described that way on Goodreads. It’s dark without often being graphic. Its themes of loneliness, death, and betrayal make it richer than most of the other fantasy books I’ve read this year, YA or otherwise.