Truly crazy, lots of fun, and more than slightly perverse: this reads like an episode of Sex and the City written by Ovid.

THE EMPEROR’S BABE

Holy Po-Mo, Batman! How about a historical, multicultural, transgender novel—in verse, yet!—about a colony of third-century Africans living in London under the empire (the Roman empire, that is).

There are some stories that just can’t be told straight, and newcomer Evaristo doesn’t bother trying. She lets herself go wild in this account of the fabulous life and celebrated adventures of Zuleika, a Sudanese girl (“Illa Bella Negreeta”) whose parents brought her from Khartoum to London—er, make that Londinium—and married her off to a Roman nobleman before she had even come within spitting distance of puberty. Her husband Felix was an old man in his 30s, very rich, and hardly ever in town, and he saw to most of Zuleika’s needs, installing her in a gigantic house with an army of servants to attend to her. The problem was that he attended to other matters himself, and left her completely on her own. So she became a club kid in short order, hanging out at the ultra-hip Mount Venus nightclub with all the trannies and fashionistas and even became tight with transvestite goddess Venus herself. Zuleika soon becomes a fixture of the downtown scene, getting her frocks from the best shops and trading adulterous gossips with her girlfriends. Eventually she is spotted at the theater by the Emperor Septimus Severus, who happens to be passing through his British colonies on a kind of goodwill tour, and the two are struck by a thunderbolt. True love at last! And Felix can hardly complain, even if he were of a mind to, since everybody has to stand aside to let the Emperor cut in. Unfortunately for Zuleika, however, the Emperor is a king as well as a lover, and a soldier as well as a king. And soldiers have a way of dying in battle.

Truly crazy, lots of fun, and more than slightly perverse: this reads like an episode of Sex and the City written by Ovid.

Pub Date: April 29, 2002

ISBN: 0-670-03071-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2002

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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