Casual readers may be confused by the symbolism and terminology, but lovers of the Victorian gothic genre should enjoy.

THE WHITE FOREST

A young woman can hear the souls of man-made objects, and they’re not exactly singing happy tunes in McOmber’s Victorian gothic debut.

Jane Silverlake, an isolated young girl who lives with her father at Stoke Morrow, is grateful when Madeline Lee befriends her. When Nathan Ashe joins the girls, both develop deep feelings for the privileged young man. Jane, no ordinary girl, possesses a power that makes her very different from others: Ever since her mother’s death when she was 6 years old, she’s had the ability to hear the souls of man-made objects. Wishing to appear fascinating to her two friends, Jane shares her secret with them. Maddy is frightened, but Nathan is intrigued and convinces Jane to conduct experiments to further explore her power. Then Nathan, a veteran of the Crimean War, joins a secret society led by charismatic scoundrel Ariston Day and vanishes during an evening with Day’s followers, the Fetches. Famed French Inspector Vidocq arrives to look into the disappearance, but Maddy convinces Jane that the two need to conduct their own investigation. A trip to Nathan’s home reveals a secret hiding place that contains, among other things, a picture of Maddy and Jane, a pistol, a journal and a white ape’s finger. Armed with Nathan’s journal and haunting images of a white forest when she touches certain objects belonging to him, Jane uncovers hidden truths about Nathan and herself while confronting Day and the Fetches. Teeming with as many twists and turns and shadowy characters as the narrow Victorian streets in which the tale is partially set, McOmber creates a convoluted supernatural mystery that bombards the senses with rich dialogue and imagery; but the story’s flow is often lost amid lengthy explanations about motive and meaning, and the narrative may ultimately prove difficult for some to follow.

Casual readers may be confused by the symbolism and terminology, but lovers of the Victorian gothic genre should enjoy.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6425-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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THE PRINCE OF TIDES

A NOVEL

A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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