An inventive novel that runs amok.


Go To Hell

A supernatural medical thriller that straddles several genres.

Spencer Williams, with his long brown hair and gentle eyes, might just be the messiah. He’s also a medical researcher who has created a new drug that he hopes will cure depression, increase intelligence, send muscle mass through the roof and generally speedup human evolution. When Dr. Lara Nash, the new vice president of research and development for Global Pharmaceuticals, approaches Spencer, the scientist must decide if he’s willing to sell out his life’s work to gain corporate support. But Spencer isn’t your average lab nerd. He has psychic powers that enable him to read minds, quickly evaluate personality and character, and gain a supernatural understanding of his environment. Atkins (Best Place to Die, 2012, etc.) has crafted an epic story that involves multiple orders of angels and demons and an ancient battle between “the Creator” and the devil, aka Karel Von Graff, CEO of Global Pharmaceuticals. Soon, Karel uses his power to control Lara, Spencer and others. In the end, only Spencer’s guardian angels can protect his invention and save humanity. The novel combines the grand mythology of a fantasy novel with the paranoid suspicion and verisimilitude of a medical thriller, but the results are uneven. Atkins is a physician who invokes a palpable sense of outrage about the pharmaceutical industry’s cozy relationship with researchers, doctors and universities. The novel, however, struggles with the scope of its action, and the fantastical elements often feel forced. Characters tend to deliver long internal monologues that explain their powers and ruminate on the battles between good and evil. At times, it’s hard to determine who to care about. For example, Lara is a sympathetic character in a cutthroat world, even though she’s literally doing the work of the devil. Each of the characters also stumbles into awkward romances that feel like unnecessary attempts to heighten the novel’s emotional impact. The book is imaginative, however, and there’s something undeniably delicious about the devil saying, “I’m the head of the world’s largest pharmaceutical company…who did you think I’d be?” Ultimately, however, this thriller suffers from too much exposition, simplistic characters and a lack of focus.

An inventive novel that runs amok.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-0786753826

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Argo-Navis

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet