The longlist was heavy on dystopian fiction, said Kwame Anthony Appiah, chair of the 2018 judging panel, and many of the novels were “inspirational as well as disturbing.”

“All of these books – which take in slavery, ecology, missing persons, inner-city violence, young love, prisons, trauma, race – capture something about a world on the brink. Among their many remarkable qualities is a willingness to take risks with form. And we were struck, overall, by their disruptive power: these novels disrupted the way we thought about things we knew about, and made us think about things we didn’t know about,” he said of the longlist.

Here’s what you need to know about the six novels selected as finalists:

Milkman by Anna Burns offers a perspective on Northern Ireland riven by unrest in the 1970s, as seen through the eyes of a young girl. Praised by the judges for being “genuinely experimental” and even “Beckettian” (the gold-standard when it comes to playing with form, perhaps, especially for Irish authors), the book is described as “a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. It is the story of inaction with enormous consequences.”

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan also features a child narrator, this time an eleven-year-old slave on a Barbados sugar plantation. Large in its geographic and historical sweep, Edugyan’s second novel to be shortlisted for the Booker is a highly ambitious exploration of race that the judges called “extremely imaginative, profoundly engaging and filled with an empathetic understanding of characters who are uprooted from places they knew and required to make adjustments in worlds they could barely have dreamt of.”

Readers fascinated by the subject of words and meaning will gravitate to Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, the story of an isolated lexicographer who, as an adult, begins to remember a language invented in childhood. Mythology runs through this book, described as a Sophoclean melodrama. It follows Johnson’s collection of short stories, Fen, which established the author’s unique brand of magical realism.

Judges called The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner “terrifyingly authentic” in its depiction of the “absolute corruption of the American dream.” Gender is at the heart of what the Guardian described as an “unflinching” portrait of what it means to be poor and female in America. It follows Kusher’s 2013 novel The Flamethrowers, one of the books that made it into Vulture’s admittedly premature take on the literature that should make up the 2000s canon, 18-and-a-half years into the century.

Richard Powers was also on the Vulture list with his 2002 novel The Time Of Our Singing, while another of his 12 novels, Orfeo, was longlisted for the Booker prize in 2014. Now he’s been shortlisted for The Overstory. The Booker’s synopsis: “Nine strangers, each in different ways, become summoned by trees, brought together in a last stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.”

Last of the six finalists, each of whom wins £2,500 ($3,268), is Scottish author Robin Robertson. The Long Take follows a World War II veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder trying to orientate himself in a fractured America. Judges describe it as a “film noir on the page.”

The judging panel was made up of Appiah, a philosopher and novelist; crime writer Val McDermid; cultural critic Leo Robson; feminist writer and critic Jacqueline Rose; and artist and graphic novelist Leanne Shapton.

The writer awarded the top prize will receives £52,500 ($69,172) as well as a not-unexpected boom in book sales. The winner of this year’s Man Booker Prize for Fiction will be revealed on Tuesday, October 16th.

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