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

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ALARIC THAIN'S HISTORY OF THE 21ST CENTURY

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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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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