Across millennia, Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, ancient girl and contemporary woman, hunter and scientist—all share much in...

THE LAST NEANDERTHAL

In a small, nearly inaccessible cavern on an archaeological dig in France, Dr. Rose Gale discovers two entwined skeletons, astonishing evidence of contact between Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Who were these last—and first—peoples?

Scrabbling for survival and with little need for words (indeed, their shortened larynxes might have made modulating language difficult), the last Neanderthal family members think of each other as simply Girl, the remaining daughter; Him, the elder brother; Bent, the younger brother with a deformed arm; Runt, a scrawny foundling taken in by the family; and Big Mother, the matriarch, who, at over 30, is declining rapidly. Transcending the challenges of bringing to life a nearly silent family, Cameron (The Bear, 2014, etc.) generates excitement through a hunt gone unexpectedly wrong and even an uncomfortable sexual tension. Just as Him prepares to meet a suitable mate at the fish run, an annual gathering of the dwindling Neanderthal population, Girl goes into heat. Big Mother attempts to keep the hormonally charged youths apart, but growing up in isolation has made it hard to convey the dangers of incest. Once the taboo is broken, Big Mother has no choice but to cast Girl out. Runt tags along for a while, but his smaller frame, lack of body hair, and inability to pack on muscle trouble Girl. The weeks pass, however, and Girl's worries shift as she realizes she is pregnant. Cameron’s narrative arc shifts between Girl and Rose, separated by time yet inextricably linked through a bit of DNA. Centuries later, Rose, too, faces a cold world: tenure track jobs are scarce in academia, and financial disaster looms for her and her partner, Simon, so she races to secure funding from a prominent museum, excavate the site, and secure her reputation before the birth of their first child.

Across millennia, Neanderthal and Homo sapiens, ancient girl and contemporary woman, hunter and scientist—all share much in common.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31448-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more