A thought-provoking but uneven tale with some intriguing ideas about the future.


A debut work of speculative metafiction offers a time traveler’s view of the rest of the 21st century.

This book, written by time-traveling history professor Alaric Thain, actually won’t be published until 2864, and is meant to give readers of that time period some insight on how people lived in the 21st century. Alaric himself was born at the end of the 21st century. Although the what and how of the major historical events of that century are well documented, the professor (who has a unique insight into the way people of that era thought and felt) endeavors to provide the why. Of course, for 21st-century readers, the what and the how are just as interesting. What, for example, were the long-term effects of the Trump administration? Did people ever figure out what to do about climate change? How did humans develop Artie, “the last great invention of humankind, for since then, all non-artistic inventions have been made by Artie hirself”? Alaric delivers information on people and events that have not yet happened, like the rise of Destiny Holt, one of the preeminent “heroes that come down to us from the 21st century.” Most importantly, Alaric reveals how the trends of history—even those apparent today—led inevitably to the future of tomorrow. The book exhibits more than a bit of self-awareness. (The foreword, written in 2864 by one Faustina Dax, assures readers that the volume is “a masterpiece.”) But for the most part, it is a work of analytical history—and a fairly dry one at that. Author Thain takes readers through a summary of human society up to the current moment before engaging most directly with some of the pressing social concerns of the present, like global warming, wealth inequality, populism, and technology. In speculating about how these issues play out over the coming decades, he deftly reinforces the idea of how seriously readers should take them in the present and delivers several captivating concepts. His future reveals his own political readings and preferences—Donald Trump’s successor is Kamala Harris and humans will get to enjoy a version of universal basic income. Essentially a futurist work wrapped in fictional trappings, the lengthy (over 400 pages), somewhat self-indulgent book never matches the level of fun that it initially seems to promise.

A thought-provoking but uneven tale with some intriguing ideas about the future.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73338-960-0

Page Count: 443

Publisher: Alaric Thain Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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