The 13th House, a first novel by Pakistani-born Adam Zameenzad (New York: Random House, 202 pp., $21.95), is a surreal account of a "set of lives…tyrannized by corrupt politics, bureaucracy, and religious powers." Publishers Weekly likens Zameenzad's biting, imaginative style to that of Jonathan Swift.
Another surrealistic gem is Soviet writer Vladimir Sorokin's The Queue (New York: Readers International, 200 pp., $16.95/$8.95). Sorokin's portrayal of people spending days and nights in a Moscow queue—waiting for we know not what—conveys a glimpse of the broader Soviet reality. The tale is one long sequence of dialogues among those who wait endlessly. As good as the dialogue itself is the brilliant introduction by Soviet specialist Sally Laird.
In his latest novel, Solomon's Knife (New York: Franklin Watts, 288 pp., $18.95), Viktor Koman fashions a science fiction thriller around a revolutionary surgical procedure, "transoption." Through this procedure, a fetus can be transferred from the womb of one woman to that of another. Koman's tale turns on the drama resulting from the pioneering, but clandestine, use of the procedure and evokes controversies similar to those now attached to abortion, surrogate motherhood, and other reproduction technologies.
On a lighter note is Florence King's collection of essays, Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye (New York: St. Martin's, 198 pp., $15.95)—an antidote to those who forever take things seriously. In her opening essay, King takes on "two nonbeach books, Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch and The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom." Calling herself a Bloom and Hirsch girl, she goes on to recount her own educational experiences, which, among other things, left her qualified at the end of college "to do nothing except crossword puzzles in ink." King's book is a good read through and through, especially for those who can still laugh about our foibles.