Quill and Quire

Books of the Year

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Q&Q’s picks for books of the year 2014



The Troop
Nick Cutter
(Simon & Schuster Canada)

The debut novel by Cutter (one of the pseudonyms of Canadian literary novelist Craig Davidson) is straight-ahead horror at its loudest and most extreme. Five Boy Scouts and their Scoutmaster travel to an island off Canada’s East Coast, where they are beset by a creature that has both biological and human-made provenance. The gore is plentiful – readers will need a strong stomach – but this is the most energetic book I read all year. – SWB

The Search for Heinrich SchlogelMartha Baillie(Pedlar Press)

The Search for Heinrich Schlögel
Martha Baillie
(Pedlar Press)

What first drew me to Martha Baillie’s The Search for Heinrich Schlögel was the Schlögel Archive, an online accompaniment to the novel, which is narrated in fragments by an archivist chronicling the disappearance of a missing man. The digital ephemera – an art project in its own right – is strange and surreal, much like the book itself. – JB


Fire in the Unnameable CountryGhalib Islam(Hamish Hamilton Canada)

Fire in the Unnameable Country
Ghalib Islam
(Hamish Hamilton Canada)

Borges, Kafka, Orwell, and Burroughs haunt the pages of this novel: not a typical roster of influences for a Canadian novelist. But the Bangladeshi-born Islam has not written a typical Canadian novel. Magic realism, self-reflexivity, and modernist trappings abound in this highly unusual story about terrorism, the surveillance state, and American military intervention abroad. Kudos to Hamish Hamilton Canada for taking a chance on such a risky title. – SWB


The Stonehenge LettersHarry Karlinsky(Coach House Books)

The Stonehenge Letters
Harry Karlinsky
(Coach House Books)

Another work of postmodern playfulness, Karlinsky’s novel takes the form of an academic treatise that begins by investigating why Sigmund Freud never won a Nobel Prize, but turns into an exploration of an obscure codicil in Alfred Nobel’s will, offering a cash reward to the Nobel laureate best able to unravel “the mystery of Stonehenge.” Karlinsky’s polyphonic, psychologically acute, highly intelligent novel is a lot less obscure – and a hell of a lot more fun – than a simple plot description makes it sound. – SWB