When a hack London novelist tries to redeem both his career and his friend’s aimless life, a messiah is accidentally born.
This comic debut introduces author Daniel Bloch, who has written lots of “popular junk” but now wants to offer the masses something artistically substantial. His friend Oscar Babel is a film projectionist and painter who’s lost hope of finding success. Daniel decides to write a story about the Oscar who could be, a man who lives to his fullest potential. In Daniel’s tale, Oscar becomes a life model, posing for other artists, and acquires a cat. Shockingly, reality follows fiction. Through a friend named Lilliana, Oscar meets the enchanting painter Najette, who recommends nude modeling because “the sense of being a lynch-pin for other people’s creativity” inspired her own. Oscar also adopts a cat whom he names Dove. When he and Daniel discover the potent authenticity of their situation, the writer strives for the ultimate indulgence—he conceives of Oscar as a pop philosopher, worshipped by the masses and incapable of doing wrong. Soon, Oscar ends up in the clutches of Ryan Rees, a talent agent who intends to “take a complete nobody and turn him into a prophet.” Daniel, meanwhile, has been hallucinating the phrase “Art can kill.” In this sparkling, darkly humorous novel, Magarian explores the intersection of creativity, romance, and the schizophrenic media that both idolize and destroy. Though Oscar tells the public he’s a fraud—a random man plucked from obscurity—his message resonates. He advocates an “erotic relationship with the world” in which people might “transpose the sensibilities that come to them in lovemaking onto the daily commerce of this dreary planet.” Oscar’s messianic ascent is entertaining (think Stravinsky’s riotous 1913 work The Rite of Spring), but Lilliana’s adventures are nearly as captivating. In a sumptuous illustration of Oscar’s message, she helps a miserable man she’s only just met come out to his parents. By the end, Oscar magically siphons nearly all of the mental and spiritual energy from Daniel, but not without both characters facing grand epiphanies.
A resplendent tale about an unlikely prophet that deserves to be pondered at length and acted on.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.