Carefully worked tales that are as good as many and better than most.

ANTARCTICA

A first collection from Irish-born Keegan spans the Atlantic, touching down in rural Ireland and the southern US—with results often familiar or stretched-for, yet deftly done and alluringly readable.

In the title story, a happily married woman wants to find out what it’s like to have sex with someone else—and does so indeed, in a psychological clunker that crosses Hitchcock with O. Henry while remaining ever-intriguing to the eye. A near-wizardry of language and detail, too, closes the volume, with “The Ginger Rogers Sermon,” when a pubescent girl in Ireland, sexually curious, brings about the suicide of a hulking lumberman in a tone-perfect but morally inert story. In between are longer and shorter, greater and lesser tales. Among the better are “Men and Women,” about a suffering Irish farmwife who at last rebels against a cruelly domineering husband; the southern-set “Ride If You Dare,” about a couple who shyly meet after running personals ads; and “Stay Close to the Water’s Edge,” about a Harvard student who despises—and is despised by—his millionaire stepfather. Psychologically more thin or commonplace are “Storms,” told by an Irish daughter whose mother went mad; “Where the Water’s Deepest,” a snippet about an au pair afraid of “losing” her charge; or “The Singing Cashier”—based on fact, we’re rather pointlessly told—about a couple who, unbeknownst to their neighbors, commit “hideous acts on teenage girls.” Keegan’s best include the more maturely conceived “Passport Soup,” about a man devoured by guilt and grief after his daughter goes missing while in his care; “Quare Name for a Boy,” in which a young woman, pregnant by a single-fling boyfriend whom she no longer has an interest in, determines that she’ll go on into motherhood without him; and the nicely sustained “Sisters”—one dutiful and plain, the other lovely and self-indulgent—who come to a symbolically perfect end.

Carefully worked tales that are as good as many and better than most.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-87113-779-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart.

THE HIDDEN GIRL AND OTHER STORIES

Science fiction author (The Wall of Storms, 2016) and translator (The Redemption of Time, Baoshu, 2019) Liu’s short stories explore the nature of identity, consciousness, and autonomy in hostile and chaotic worlds.

Liu deftly and compassionately draws connections between a genetically altered girl struggling to reconcile her human and alien sides and 20th-century Chinese young men who admire aspects of Western culture even as they confront its xenophobia (“Ghost Days”). A poor salvager on a distant planet learns to channel a revolutionary spirit through her alter ego of a rabbit (“Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard”). In “Byzantine Empathy,” a passionate hacktivist attempts to upend charitable giving through blockchain and VR technology even as her college roommate, an executive at a major nonprofit, fights to co-opt the process, a struggle which asks the question of whether pure empathy is possible—or even desired—in our complex geopolitical structure. Much of the collection is taken up by a series of overlapping and somewhat repetitive stories about the singularity, in which human minds are scanned and uploaded to servers, establishing an immortal existence in virtuality, a concept which many previous SF authors have already explored exhaustively. (Liu also never explains how an Earth that is rapidly becoming depleted of vital resources somehow manages to indefinitely power servers capable of supporting 300 billion digital lives.) However, one of those stories exhibits undoubted poignance in its depiction of a father who stubbornly clings to a flesh-and-blood existence for himself and his loved ones in the rotting remains of human society years after most people have uploaded themselves (“Staying Behind”). There is also some charm in the title tale, a fantasy stand-alone concerning a young woman snatched from her home and trained as a supernaturally powered assassin who retains a stubborn desire to seek her own path in life.

A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-03-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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THE COMPLETE STORIES

The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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