THE METHOD ACTORS

Engaging, leisurely, at times otherworldly; reminiscent at turns of David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten (2000) and at others of...

Lost in Translation for the noir crowd: a carefully plotted tale of a decidedly postmodern bent, with plenty of hip name-checking and lots of mind-altering substances to keep things moving.

Japan, as every Western reader and filmgoer knows, is relentlessly weird. Anywhere that you can buy a briefcase or a telephone in a vending machine and have a robot pal is likely to acquire such a reputation. Debut novelist Shuker, a young New Zealander, has been living in Japan for the last half-dozen years and knows firsthand how dislocating the place can be to foreigners, even the mostly young and worldly ones who populate these pages, banding together to survive in such alien climes. Center stage is a young historian, Michael Edwards, who has been researching what might be called Japan’s hidden history, unearthing testimonials that plenty of people would like to see disappear. (“I’d seen children tied with signal corps wire,” writes a Chinese survivor of a Japanese massacre. “Threaded through their bodies. Terrible things.”) Instead, Edwards disappears, as if in a puff of smoke. His fellow gaijin, inclined to heavy-duty drugs (“You only microwave a shroom to mitigate the dose”) and offbeat philosophizing (“ ‘Dude, nature abhors a vacuum,’ Simon says”), take their time in noticing. The reader, quicker on the uptake, is left to sort out their concentric rings of involvement with one another while steadily comprehending just what a distorted, tendentious mess Michael has gotten himself into by looking into Japanese history to begin with. His Euro-compatriots are forward-looking types, more interested in sex, gadgets and the next high and in the possibilities of self-reinvention than in the past; still, they find plenty of messes of their own to deal with. Shuker’s wide-screen narrative manages to embrace them all, and even, in the end, make sense.

Engaging, leisurely, at times otherworldly; reminiscent at turns of David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten (2000) and at others of the early Doug Coupland. A pleasure for readers with time on their hands—say, on the next night flight to Tokyo.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-59376-065-5

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Shoemaker & Hoard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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DEVOLUTION

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

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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