A creatively twisted adventure, though its protagonist can be unsettling.

READ REVIEW

DELIVERING VIRTUE

From author Kindall (Pearl, 2015, etc.) comes a Western about one man’s mission in the 1800s.

It’s 1854, and Missourian Didier Rain makes his living by transporting various items to the West. He has delivered “stained-glass windows, a brood mare, porcelain dolls” and even “a lawyer as far as Fort Boise.” But nothing could have prepared Rain for his latest assignment. A Mormon man hires Rain to transport a young bride-to-be to a place called the City of Rocks. The catch is that the bride is not simply young, she’s a baby. The baby’s name is Virtue, and if Rain can complete his task of bringing her to the Prophet Nehi, he will be awarded $30,000. Rain is given a crash course in diaper changing, a goat to provide milk for Virtue, and an assurance that he is the “True Deliverer,” who will undoubtedly succeed. To align things with the guiding prophecy (and inherently make the journey even more difficult), Rain is not allowed to carry a weapon, not even for hunting. And he shouldn’t even think about partaking in liquor, coffee, or tobacco. It’s a strange and dangerous mission, but Rain is a strange and dangerous man. He speaks several languages, has a penchant for poetry, and has quite a troubling family history. Rain is originally from Cherbourg and to say that his past is haunted by circumstances of a Freudian nature would be an understatement. He has, in other words, not come to the American West simply for the weather. As Rain says of the event that forced him to flee France, “My life seemed over just as it was set to begin.” That anyone would send such a man (unarmed no less) with only a goat to provide milk for a baby while attempting to cross a vast stretch of wild country stretches the limits of believable fiction. It’s a quest with events that range from the silly (Rain’s horses seem to communicate with him) to the disturbing (a group of buffalo hunters force Rain to wear a dress followed by, as Rain describes it, an evening of “raucous indulgence in my orificial endowments.”) Our antihero has a peculiar, poetic way of speaking. He describes the way “water snakes fornicated in the lily pads, their golden eyes following us askance as we passed.” Rain is not entirely unlikable, but he would undoubtedly make a poor dinner guest. This novel shows an Old West that’s much weirder than standard tales of cowboys and Indians would leave one to believe. Certainly there must be room among John Wayne–style heroes for a multilingual transporter who seems fairly indifferent to his own sexual assault. Few things can be said to be standard about this tale, and the strangeness gives way to suspense in the final pages. Rain winds up on the cusp of completing his mission even if completion might not be all it is cracked up to be. Virtue’s fate becomes a nail-biter, but first the reader must endure miles and miles of seemingly endless Rain.

A creatively twisted adventure, though its protagonist can be unsettling.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9909328-9-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Diving Boy Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more