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

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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