An ambitious, confounding, and partially successful tale that stews in the madness of modern warfare.

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A SORTA NOVEL OF VIETNAM

A debut postmodern literary novel explores the madness of the Vietnam War via the perspective of a helicopter squadron Marine.

George Orwell “G.O.” Hill of South Texas comes from a long line of Marines, which is why he decides to enlist in the corps during the height of the Vietnam War. He spends his last night in America attempting—unsuccessfully—to lose his virginity to the girl he’s had a crush on since elementary school. He arrives in-country at Hue-Phu Bai Airport, where he is assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265. There, he receives his first injury moments later when he zips his fly too quickly. He soon hooks up with a buddy from flight training, Locker Gallo, who gives him a quick tour of the base, where he meets characters like Gunny G., a blustery gunnery sergeant highly concerned with the condition of the squadron’s coffee pot, and Daniell “Pogo” Nadal, a hapless Frenchman drafted six months after he moved to the United States. G.O. and Gallo start flying missions together, though when they aren’t taking incoming fire, they’re scheming about how to sneak off to a local brothel or searching the body bags of recently deceased soldiers for souvenir binoculars. Their analogs on the other side are the People’s Army of Vietnam scouts Xin Loi and Hung, who put up with the same combination of boredom, absurdity, and terror (while sustaining many more casualties). Unlike G.O., Xin is actively trying to win the war. “They will dance on our graves, Xin thought. So far Hung was the only one Xin had met who had an original idea about how the Americans might be defeated. ‘We just keep killing them until they leave.’ ” As the flights get hairier, will G.O. get as serious as the war demands? Or is his chaotic and ridiculous personality already the perfect pairing for this pointless conflict? Templeton’s novel is highly episodic and lacks a strong narrative arc. It is reminiscent at times of James Joyce’s Ulysses, following G.O. through mundane moments in his military life, such as playing poker and visiting the latrine. The narration is stream-of-consciousness, with many dreamlike digressions into the various characters’ memories or flights of fancy. The tale’s greatest selling point is the enthusiasm with which it replicates and riffs on the Vietnam era’s jargon and invented slang: “Danny D. was on a roll. War at its most glorious. Fought around the foam of rusty Ballantines. G.O. glanced around at the other tables. Same stories. Told by different salts to different boots. Would G.O. live to tell the FNGs how to survive in the land of Boom-boom?” There are the requisite soldier nicknames—Sugar Bear, Scrotum, Duck Butter, Barf—and a prodigious amount of scatological humor. The mix of the surreal, the violent, the tedious, and the profane says something vague but perhaps appropriate about the war and the era. Even so, the work is probably too demanding a read for general fans of war novels. The story will appeal most to those who enjoy the dense postmodern fiction of the 1960s and ’70s and to students particularly dedicated to literary portrayals of Vietnam. 

An ambitious, confounding, and partially successful tale that stews in the madness of modern warfare.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73409-970-6

Page Count: 317

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2020

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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

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THE STARLESS SEA

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

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