What the Luck?

Cramer’s (One Calvin, 2013, etc.) comic-adventure novel follows a supernaturally lucky American expatriate through Japan’s mysterious underworld.
Bill Brabham was a financial analyst in Houston until he lost his wife, job and professional reputation following a freak accident. In an attempt to rescue his derailed life, he moves to Japan, a country he knows little about, with the goal of working at the Fukushima power plant. Bill spends almost the entire first half of the book wandering around Tokyo, taking in the scenery and learning about Japanese culture. This section contains travelogue-level detail of cuisine and tourist sights, but little in the way of story. Bill quickly learns the Japanese language, and begins to identify with the culture, although he continues to display some amount of cultural ignorance. The actual plot begins midway through the novel, when Bill acquires supernaturally good luck following a visit to a shrine. He soon meets a Japanese man named Kurokawa who possesses a similar gift, and has learned how to control his power so he can transfer good or bad luck to others. The two lucky men subsequently join forces with a spunky teenage girl, Sakura, and Bill’s intriguing new girlfriend, Natsuko, to use the “superpower” to fight social injustices. Cramer does eventually develop an engaging-enough plot: a mystery involving Bill and Kurokawa’s connection to a sect of monks and the tensions between two rival Yakuza clans. The comedic, sitcom-style banter between the four heroes is frequently amusing. However, the timing and tone of jokes often feels a bit off, and the third-person narration is occasionally awkward; there are many asides and repetitions that could have been excised. For example, late in the novel, in the middle of a tense scene, the narrator inexplicably decides to, “pause the narrative in order to reiterate a few relevant points.” Conversely, important issues—such as why Sakura and Natsuko accept the reality of the men’s fantastic power without more skepticism—are never fully addressed.

A somewhat entertaining but plodding international action-farce.

Pub Date: June 20, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 236

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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