Bradbury meets Borges, with Lovecraft gibbering tumultuously just out of hearing.

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THREE MOMENTS OF AN EXPLOSION

STORIES

Horror, noir, fantasy, politics, and poetry swirl into combinations as satisfying intellectually as they are emotionally.

Miéville (Railsea, 2012, etc.) has a habit of building his narratives by taking a metaphor, often about a political or social issue, and asking what would happen if it were literally true. His masterful 2009 novel The City and the City (Locus, Hugo, and Arthur C. Clarke awards), for example, explored two metropolises with entirely separate populations, governments, infrastructures, and even clothing styles that shared a single geographical location. In less-capable hands, this method might result in mere gags or dead horses endlessly beaten. (Good thing this isn’t a Miéville story, or you’d be wiping off bits of rotten horseflesh.) In Miéville’s hands it ranges from clever to profound. In “Dreaded Outcome,” the narrator, a Brooklyn psychotherapist, practices “traumatic vector therapy,” a style that incorporates military and martial arts techniques. (Like that therapist, Miéville often mixes styles and genres, in this case academic discourse and noir.) “Most of the time what our patients need is a compassionate, rigorous, sympathetic interlocutor. Sometimes the externalized trauma-vectors in dysfunctional interpersonal codependent psychodynamics are powerful enough that more robust therapeutic interventions are necessary. I checked my ammunition.” That readers can guess what will happen after the narrator learns her own therapist is also a TVT practitioner makes the ending no less satisfying. In “Polynia,” the ghosts of vanished geologic and ecologic features haunt the warmed globe, with icebergs floating in the air over London, coral forming the “Great Brussels Reef,” and rain forest undergrowth shutting down factories in Japan. Other stories are more open-ended. In “The Dusty Hat,” members of a political organization have split off from “the Mothership” to form “the Left Faction.” The story opens with the narrator contemplating a crack in his (or her?) wall and ceiling; by the time it ends, he’s discovered a vast politics of the inanimate, with its own schisms. “I poured myself a glass of water. I didn’t like how it looked at me.” As a mysterious, not-entirely-animate figure tells him, the “loyalist” crack in his wall has been watching him: “The split was against you in the split.”

Bradbury meets Borges, with Lovecraft gibbering tumultuously just out of hearing.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-88472-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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