Managing to be fun in spite of a bleak storyline, the novel is worthy of comparison to wacky/sad futures such as Gary...

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The Calamities

From author Dundore (The Seduction Diet, 2011) comes a sci-fi novel about a bizarre future and one strange man.

When John Smith awakes from a coma, he can’t remember much about his life. Suffering from erectile dysfunction, he also can’t achieve an erection without the aid of a mechanical device. His girlfriend, Marsha, doesn’t seem to mind. Living in a futuristic America that has been rocked by a series of calamities (ranging from plagues to nuclear attacks to a variety of inferior goods), the couple has weathered much worse. After a pack of steroid-enhanced coyotes attacks John, however, his subsequent loss of an arm puts a great strain on the relationship. Believing that his limb will simply grow back, John appears insane to nearly everyone but himself. Since he has no friends to bother with his belief in a regenerating arm (“I don’t have friends. I have doctors and a girlfriend, and those relationships are tenuous at best”), the burden of suffering through such imagination falls mostly on Marsha and John’s dog, Lassie. As fingers begin to emerge from John’s shoulder, the pending question seems to be: Just how crazy is John compared with the madness around him? With a future world that may be too on-the-nose for some (“ticketists” write tickets for all sorts of violations, professional sports have gone ultraviolent, and don’t even bother taking the Suri Cruise Cruiseway), the book nevertheless manages a deep creativity and empathetic protagonist. John may have lost an arm, but he isn’t one to complain about it; he’ll just grow another. Likewise, his relationship may not be one full of passion, but when the alternative is the bleakness of an outside world where packs of enhanced coyotes roam, who can blame John and Marsha for the time they spend together? Frequently sexual (one woman’s business card has a picture of her vagina on it), occasionally gruesome and dotted with spurts of genuine humor, the story culminates in a surprisingly sweet ending.

Managing to be fun in spite of a bleak storyline, the novel is worthy of comparison to wacky/sad futures such as Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story (2011).

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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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

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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