Much is bitten off and most is chewed, but things end rather hastily in a Bondish way that betrays the wonderfully somber...


An American geologist, licking his wounds in Mali, is pressed into service by an angel of mercy and an evil agent of Big Business. Or Government. Whatever.

The desert and the piteous, stoic refugees of Saharan Africa distinguish this first novel that takes on ethnic warlords, cynical international businesses, UN bureaucrats, the intelligence community, and sundry opportunists hoping to get rich off the disposal of nuclear waste. Ty Campbell is the morose scientist living in a box in the Malian wasteland, monitoring the groundwater and mourning the murder of his wife by sub-Saharan marauders. His weird and solitary world is disrupted by the establishment of a nearby camp for refugees fleeing the bloodthirsty madness of a stalemated civil war. The refugees have lost all links to the world’s rescue machinery save for the labors of Lila, a scrappy young woman who will not give up, even though she has nothing to give but her wits and her formidable will. Lila draws Ty into the Africans’ seemingly hopeless dilemma by her example and then presses him to cooperate with Timbuktu Earthwealth, newcomers digging into the desert bedrock under the direction of Bud Van Sickle, an American with ties to the intelligence community. Van Sickle can do much for the Malians if Ty will agree to pose as a disinterested expert and take a place on the international panel with the power to decide on a dumping site for all the world’s radioactive waste. And, for the sake of the refugees, he does. As aid flows into the camp, Ty flies back to the first world and, after training in a semiofficial boot camp for spooks, learns how to pass for a technocrat and proceeds to deliberative sessions in Switzerland. There are field trips to the three possible dumping sites, all complicated by protests under the direction of a supermodel turned supergreen. Everything comes to a boil back in Mali, where the warlords have resumed their battle.

Much is bitten off and most is chewed, but things end rather hastily in a Bondish way that betrays the wonderfully somber beginnings.

Pub Date: April 11, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-6723-X

Page Count: 254

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet