Beautiful, draining—and entirely unforgettable.

ALL THE NAMES THEY USED FOR GOD

So rich they read like dreams—or, more often, nightmares—the nine stories in Sachdeva’s otherworldly debut center upon the unforgiving forces that determine the shape of our lives, as glorious as they are brutal.

“Wonder and terror meet at the horizon, and we walk the knife-edge between them,” Sachdeva writes in her brief introduction; this is the world of her stories. There are no merciless gods here, not like in the olden days; instead, there is “science, nature, psychology, industry.” But these modern forces are as vast and incomprehensible as any gods were. The stories that follow span time, space, and logic: Nigeria and New Hampshire, the past and the future, realism and science fiction. And yet, for all its scope, it is a strikingly unified collection, with each story reading like a poem, or a fable, staring into the unknowable. In “The World by Night,” a lonely young woman in the Ozarks is abandoned—temporarily, and then forever—by her husband and finds dangerous refuge in a secret cave. “Logging Lake” follows a man in the midst of a post-breakup reinvention on the haunting date that will change the course of his life (whatever you’re thinking, that’s not it). “All the Names for God” follows two Nigerian women now forging “normal” adult lives after having been kidnapped as teens by extremists, their unimaginable history intertwined with the struggles of acclimating to the world they used to know. Equal parts cinematic and nauseating, the dystopian “Manus” is set in a world invaded by alien “Masters,” who demand, as part of their dominion, that human citizens undergo “re-handing”—a painless procedure that replaces hands with metal forks, required for everyone, sooner or later. They are enormous stories, not in length but in ambition, each an entirely new, unsparing world.

Beautiful, draining—and entirely unforgettable.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-59300-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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