Bender’s gifts as an author are prodigious, and with each story, she moves the reader in surprising, not to say startling,...

THE COLOR MASTER

STORIES

Stories that range from fairy tales to quasi-erotica, all showing Bender’s versatility as an author.

“Appleless” starts us out with an allegorical tale of a girl who refuses to eat apples, a lack of appetite that makes her suspect in an apple-eating world. She eventually inspires such suspicion that she’s assaulted by a pack of apple eaters, and in response, the orchard withers. (One startling and disconcerting note in this story is that the narrator identifies as one of the pack of attackers.) The titular story also verges on fairy tale. In it, the Color Master is consulted whenever a dyeing job of particular importance is needed—the duke’s shoes, for example. One day, the narrator, a lowly apprentice, gets a request for a dress the color of the moon, a task made more challenging because the Color Master has become ill. Bender mines a more sensual vein in stories like “The Red Ribbon,” in which a woman spices up intimacy with her husband by insisting on being paid for sex (this after hearing her husband recount an incident about his college roommate once bringing in prostitutes). Her entire marriage then starts to work on the basis of quid pro quo, even down to washing the dishes. “On a Saturday Afternoon” involves the narrator’s indulgence in a sexual fantasy in which she invites two male friends to come to her apartment so she can get turned on by watching them kiss.

Bender’s gifts as an author are prodigious, and with each story, she moves the reader in surprising, not to say startling, ways.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-53489-5

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more