A persuasively—almost musically—worded meditation on colonialism and whether it’s really possible to return home again.

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THE LESSON

Sometimes the aliens don’t land in New York or London.

In fact, the alien Ynaa ship that catalyzes the emotional landscape and drives the action of this debut novel lands in the harbor of Water Island , one of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Ynaa are decidedly a mixed bag, as aliens go: They don’t intend to conquer, just to stay for a while to do some unspecified research. In return, they give humans advances in medicine and other technology. The downside is that the Ynaa, who nearly appear to be human but are far stronger, live by a code of survival above all things and return any violence or even perceived violence done to them with more excessive violence, which the governments of the world decline to pursue legally. Five years after the landing, many islanders are unhappy about the occasional dog ripped in half and young man’s neck snapped. Moreover, the Ynaa are being less than forthcoming: The Ynaa ambassador, Mera, has been here far longer than most humans know. But that time has done more to damage her relationship with the Ynaa than with humanity; her intimate contacts with humans and the brutality she witnessed centuries ago when she posed as a slave have caused her to question both her people’s way of life and their mysterious mission. Her struggle to reconcile her origins with her experiences and present circumstances is mirrored by several humans on the island—including Shawn, the angry brother of a boy killed by the Ynaa; Patrice, a young woman who went to the mainland U.S. for college but has returned pregnant; her ex-boyfriend Derrick, dubbed a traitor for his job working for Mera; and Derrick’s grandmother Henrietta who refuses a Ynaa treatment for her cancer. All of them must come to their own conclusions, for good or for ill, as all of Water Island moves toward a final, explosive confrontation.

A persuasively—almost musically—worded meditation on colonialism and whether it’s really possible to return home again.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5385-8464-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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