A wildly imaginative but sometimes perplexing psychological tale.

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LOST GENIUS

A thriller focuses on the nature and nurture of geniuses. 

Like many geniuses, Roosevelt Unger doesn’t fit in. He is teased by his classmates, which drives him to succeed and to seek revenge. At MIT, his jealousy causes him to murder two of his rivals, twin brothers. He becomes a renowned surgeon but then discovers his natural talent as a mime. As a result, he begins to kill the world’s greatest mimes onstage. He meets Megâlo, a manipulative genius who runs a mysterious website that purports to counsel misunderstood souls with high IQs. Aristotle Morgan, a school rival of Roosevelt’s and also a genius, is a security expert and an up-and-coming artist. Aristotle develops a program to track crimes and is the first to notice the pattern of the globe’s most celebrated mimes being murdered. Aristotle’s college sweetheart, Avianna, is a scientist developing a breakthrough in genetic engineering. Megâlo is afflicted with a disease called NF1, which Avianna’s research might be able to combat. Aristotle wants to save Roosevelt, whom he considers “a decent but severely damaged person who chose a psychopathic path.” But Megâlo would like to keep Roosevelt on that dark passageway. Dyner (The Back Room, 2015) offers a highly inventive and complex psychological thriller that tackles an ambitious subject. But while the story presents some rich characters, it often becomes confusing to follow, especially the way the author jumps back and forth in time. He starts in the middle, with Roosevelt murdering a mime and Megâlo preventing Aristotle from stopping it. Then Dyner moves to the missing twins and a graduation speech 20 years earlier, then four years earlier to Aristotle’s entering college, then back to Roosevelt six years before that. None of the characters are introduced formally, and some of the narrative is presented in italics, which readers find out later in the book is from Megâlo’s point of view, possibly written in a journal. The prose is frequently overwritten, as when Megâlo asserts: “My plot to orchestrate public aspersions on Aristotle Morgan’s character has been effectuated brilliantly.” Settings often go unestablished, and much of the plot depends on coincidences, from Aristotle’s and Roosevelt’s scrapes in college to Avianna’s research relating to Megâlo’s affliction. 

A wildly imaginative but sometimes perplexing psychological tale.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 171

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 9, 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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