Out of Oz (William Morrow, $26.99), the eagerly awaited conclusion to the Wicked Years, has arrived. A battle for the future of the Thropp dynasty is under way, as Elphaba and Nessarose’s younger brother, Shell, the Emperor Apostle, increases his influence; and the political power struggle continues in the Emerald City and spreads into a civil war, as the witch Mombey, who changes her heads as others change hats, challenges his ambitions. A former acting ruler of Oz, Glinda is placed under house arrest; the Lion, Candle, and Liir are on the run to protect the otherworldly Grimmerie. As always, the future depends on children: Rain, a broom girl from Glinda’s entourage; a young street urchin named Tip; and the legendary Dorothy. Gregory Maguire has an amazing knack for honoring the L. Frank Baum tradition while integrating new characters who both complicate and deepen that magical reality.
Fans of zombie movies know that the genre is all about the breakdown of civilization. We’re riveted by the likes of George Romero, who takes delight in dissecting human interaction when the world literally goes to hell. Colson Whitehead delivers the literary equivalent with aplomb in his latest novel, Zone One (Doubleday, $25.95). His smooth narrative gives us the gory daily minutiae in a post-zombie, post-apocalypse Manhattan where an armed civilian team is sweeping through the city to rid it of the last vestiges of the dead. Our narrator, Mark Spitz, is a fascinating character, continually dodging death. Whitehead’s writing is cerebral, moving, and insightful. This is a deeply thought-out psychological survey of an everyman as the ultimate survivor, facing the wasteland.
In Bruce Machart’s short-story collection, Men in the Making (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24), the characters are so real and so flawed you feel as though you have met them before. These pieces show how men live with their choices—the ones they regret, and they ones they prize. The stories also capture how men teach each other the things they know, often with words, for better or worse. If you are a man, or want to understand one better, this is the book for you.