A strange, beguiling collection about the perils of desire in all its forms.

THE FOOL

AND OTHER MORAL TALES

In three mysterious tales, Serre explores the moral implications of self-destructive impulses, storytelling, and sexual taboo.

Serre (The Governesses, 2018), one of France's finest fabulists, returns in full force in this slim, freshly translated collection. In "The Fool," an unnamed narrator considers the first card in the Major Arcana of the tarot, linking the image to her drive for self-destruction and her ability to fall in and out of love. Caught between "fear and ecstasy, ecstasy and fear," she knows only too well how to keep this rapturous back and forth at bay—and how to call it down upon herself. In "The Narrator," the subject of storytelling is debated by friends vacationing in a chalet. With her customary wit, Serre has created two competing narrators—the title character, who has no control over the story he's in, and the narrator of the story itself, who dishes up metacommentary on the morality of narration: "To feel holier-than-thou with your precious images, yes, yes, that's all very fine. But to feel smug simply because you're alone, simply because you're different from others and in possession of a secret—morally, that's not so good." As characters discover how they've been portrayed throughout the story, they begin to revolt, pushing the title character to give up his power as a storyteller in order to live in the world. But the crown jewel of this collection is the perverse, absurd, and affecting story "The Wishing Table," in which a young woman looks back on her childhood as a member of an incestuous family. Although the narrator rejects the idea of sexual abuse and embraces the "moral chaos" of her upbringing, her social isolation and strangeness permeate her adult relationships. Only after the death of her parents and years of celibacy does she uncover how to marry love with desire by reconciling her past. "[You] had only—as I had always known and believed—to pay close attention for a terrible joy to be born, for a work of art to emerge from your body, your hands, your eyes, your poor broken heart," she thinks at last.

A strange, beguiling collection about the perils of desire in all its forms.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2716-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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