Existential dread takes on new meaning in a fantastical tale of shifting realities, second-chance romance, and unwanted...

MS. NEVER

In Dodds’ (Watershed, 2017, etc.) novel, an office worker with supernatural powers begins a relationship with a telecommunications tycoon whose dark, metaphysical secret is equally startling.

Farya Navurian lived on a version of Earth in which the glorious Greater Majestic Anointed Commonwealth of Ohio spanned a continent and her famous astronaut father was a deep-space ambassador. However, it didn’t last because Farya has a mysterious, apocalyptic ability: If she lets her attention wander and daydreams, tracts of reality simply diminish and dissolve, as if they’d never happened. Formerly large cities, such as Camden, New York, are suddenly unremarkable towns, and Ohio becomes a mundane Rust Belt state. During these paradigm shifts, millions of people vanish; only a handful (notably, Farya’s surprisingly easygoing best pal, Ethan) retain memories of incredible, lost cultures and loved ones. Guilt-ridden Farya winds up a downtrodden Jersey City office worker. Meanwhile, wealthy Metacom boss Bryan Lomoigne faces a dilemma. He wittily included a fine-print clause in his company’s cellphone contracts that grants Metacom “Non-Mortal Element Rights” from anyone signing up for their cheap gadgets; in other words, his customers sell their souls to him. Some buy them back at heavy cost, but it’s basically a side hustle for Bryan, who’s the son of a deceased, dissolute rock star who fathered a large number of children. Faced with middle age and a failing marriage, Bryan wants to sell his business and devote himself to buying back his father’s song catalog. But Metacom has unusual business partners who have alarming methods of enforcing their will. When Bryan and Farya meet at a record swap—Thelonious Monk tunes help her maintain her equilibrium—they embark on a relationship despite the considerable paranormal baggage they both try to keep out of sight.  Dodds offers a transfixing, fantastic narrative that first seems like two separate, weird tales. It’s a fabulist, careening plot that’s reminiscent of the late-career, anything-goes fiction of Kurt Vonnegut (such as 1997’s Timequake). The author executes the story with exacting, direct prose and characters who live and breathe in the mind even as their own realities seem built on shifting ground. He keeps the tale moving forward with sublime aplomb even though, at numerous points, the material could have easily gone off the rails. The vanished, fondly recalled Greater Majestic Anointed Commonwealth of Ohio, for example, is only sparingly hinted at; it wasn’t a paradise, but it certainly made for an interesting home address. Although that particular bit of business might serve as a nice metaphor for the mindsets of imaginative SF/fantasy readers who long to escape dreary daily reality, this is too broad and rich a work to pigeonhole as a collection of inside jokes. Instead, it shows great psychological and philosophical nuance, ruminating on relationships, family, commerce, art, sacrifice—and reading the fine print of company terms and conditions. Overall, readers will find it to be an exceptional work.  

Existential dread takes on new meaning in a fantastical tale of shifting realities, second-chance romance, and unwanted business partners.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9721805-9-7

Page Count: 402

Publisher: Dodds Amalgamated

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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