“A vivid investigation of faith, perseverance, and human violence as they exist at the end of the world . . . Scintillating.” —Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling World
This “genre-shredding” (Tor.com) feminist dystopian eco-horror, perfect for fans of The Last of Us, traces a girl’s coming-of-age on a post-apocalyptic trek through the Southwest.
In a bleak, desiccated future, eleven-year-old Magdala and her father are forced to flee through the desolate landscape of the American Southwest, searching for shelter and peace. Pursued by horrors both unnatural and all-too-human, they join a pilgrimage to the holy city of Las Vegas, where it is said that vigilante saints reside, bright with neon power. Magdala, born with a clubfoot, is determined to be healed there. But one by one, the pilgrims and her father fall victim to an eerie, all-consuming sickness—leaving Magdala to fend for herself in the wilderness.
After surviving for years on her own, Magdala grows tired of waiting for her miracle. She turns her gaze to Las Vegas once more, taking an exiled Vegas priest hostage to guide her as she navigates the unsettling expanse of the desert and the hungry, dark ambitions of men. Even as she nears the holy land, Magdala must choose: survival or salvation?
In this moving debut novel, acclaimed short fiction writer Kay Chronister twines the strange, terrible beauty of the desert into a haunting exploration of faith and hope. Bold and disquieting, Desert Creatures is a surreal examination of humanity and the myths we tell ourselves to survive.
About the Author
Kay Chronister is a finalist for the Shirley Jackson and World Fantasy Awards for her short fiction, which has appeared in Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, The Dark, and elsewhere. Her first collection, Thin Places, was published by Undertow Publications in 2020. Originally from Washington State, she has spent time in Virginia, Cambodia, and Arizona. She now lives in the Philadelphia area with her dogs and her husband. Desert Creatures is her first novel.
★ “Chronister’s futuristic, dog-eat-dog Sonoran and Mojave deserts are as devastating as they are inventive. . . . Chronister cleverly deploys and subverts horror, dystopian and western genres alike in this razor-sharp novel.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
“If The Canterbury Tales was set in future Sonoran and Mojave deserts, it might look a little like this . . . [A] strange and frightening vision.” —Publishers Weekly
“Chronister pierces with her prose. You’ll find hope and acts of kindness in an unkind world. Desert Creatures is not a comfort read—it is rife with horror, betrayal, and a landscape that will burn itself on your consciousness. But in the end, this book will comfort you.” —BookRiot’s "Best Books of 2022"
“[Desert Creatures] is a striking new take on the post-apocalypse novel, invigorating an old genre tradition with new vitality and life. And it is a haunting meditation on what it means to retain our humanity under the most adverse of conditions. It is a masterpiece, all the more impressive for being Chronister’s debut.” —The Fantasy Hive
“Genre-shredding . . . Stunning . . . A story of both creation and apocalypse, where characters struggle with both belief and heresy.” —Tor.com
“In [this] distorted version of Las Vegas wherein false saints peddle false promises, . . . a rejected girl takes a wretched journey whose inward dimensions hold the potential for healing. . . . Heartbreaking.” —Foreword Reviews
“A vivid investigation of faith, perseverance, and human violence as they exist at the end of the world . . . Scintillating.” —Brian Evenson, author of Song for the Unraveling of the World
“Incredible . . . pushing the wild weirdness of the Sonoran Desert toward the furthest extremes of possibility. I will never forget this uncanny world, nor brave Magdala’s quest across it.” —Matt Bell, author of Appleseed
“[Desert Creatures] does for the Southwest desert what Jeff VanderMeer did for Florida’s swamps and Algernon Blackwood did for the Danube. . . . Unlike most post-apocalyptic works, the narrative never revels in the downfall of modernity, but scavenges in the remnants of what was and calls forth the twinned opulences of medieval Catholicism and Las Vegas as its guideposts. . . . This is the book of monsters our liminal year deserves.” —Ancillary Review of Books