An ambitious tale that doesn’t quite deliver.


A reissue of Clarke’s (Our Lady of the Ice, 2015, etc.) 2013 novel about the relationship between a roboticist’s daughter and the android she’s known since childhood.

Cat Novak is a little girl when her father brings a stranger named Finn home to act as her personal tutor. Despite her age, Cat knows that something is different about the new arrival, but her parents avoid her questions about him. At first, she draws her own conclusion from what she knows about Finn (he doesn’t eat, he doesn’t get cold or tired, his eyes shine silver in the dark) and thinks he’s a ghost. She cares for him anyway, even after he reveals the truth: he’s an android—the most advanced one to ever exist. As time passes, Finn continues to live in the Novak household, acting as her father’s lab assistant. Even though she knows he’s not human, Cat’s feelings for Finn deepen as she becomes an adult, leading her to question just how sentient he is: does he care for her? Can he care for her? When tragedy upends her life, she turns to Finn for consolation—a choice that sets them on a path that will alter both their lives in unexpected ways. Although this setup may sound like a girl-meets-robot romance novel, this love story is set in a firmly science-fictional setting. Much of Clarke’s worldbuilding has a very light and deft touch, putting the story in a near-future version of the United States as the world rebuilds after a series of environmental crises. But, at times, the detail is too scant—for instance, it’s never completely clear how many other androids there are or how exactly they differ from Finn in terms of appearance or self-awareness. The humans sometimes feel lacking in detail, as well: Cat makes some terrible decisions with her life, but when she finally becomes conscious of the inner conflicts that drove her to her bad choices, it feels forced and unnatural, resulting in a rather unsatisfying character arc.

An ambitious tale that doesn’t quite deliver.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7529-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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