THE GHOST APPLE

Academic satire meets anti-globalization polemic in Thier’s debut.

The tale of Tripoli College is told piecemeal, in an accretion of memos, newspaper excerpts, diary entries, historical accounts, emails—and slave narratives, old and new. The college, an institution of higher learning that hardly dares call itself elite or Ivy League, manages, in spite of a recession-gutted endowment, to subsist thanks to its robust athletic department and innovative proxy college on St. Renard in the Caribbean. St. Renard, island habitat of the medicinal (or poisonous?) “Ghost Apple” originally cultivated by its first indigenous population, the long extinct Carawak Indians, is still largely dependent on its sugar industry. In short, Tripoli, with its failing finances—the football team is losing steadily thanks to woefully inept kickers—is ripe for corporate takeover by the global snack food/pharma conglomerate Big Anna®. To gain more insight into Tripoli student life, William Brees, Tripoli’s 70-year-old dean of students, goes undercover to live in a dorm and party with a crew of slacker freshmen. He quickly develops a crush on Maggie Bell, an African-American student from a privileged background, whose emails to her twin brother, Chris, reveal that she has a crush on charismatic history professor John Kabaka. Disgusted with Tripoli’s craven acceptance of corporate governance—Big Anna®'s minions muzzle the student newspaper, squelch academic freedom and, in acts of political correctness carried to unimaginable extremes, perpetrate atrocities against a college benefactor descended from slaveholders—Kabaka flees to St. Renard to foment revolt. As Megan and professor Brees soon learn, while they spend an ill-advised semester on the pestilential isle, Big Anna® has, in the name of reducing its carbon footprint, abandoned mechanized forms of sugar production. This forces it to resort to the only other large-scale sugar growing and refining mechanism possible: slave labor. In arch language mirroring everything from annual report puffery to 17th-century castaway journals, Thier manages to lampoon corporate evil without ever underestimating or dismissing it.

An improbable laugh riot.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62040-527-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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