A tedious and unoriginal journey into the future.

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DARK RAIN

From British author Corderoy, a futuristic debut novel with heavy borrowings from Burgess, Huxley and Orwell (theme), and Chandler, Hemingway and Cain (style).

Corderoy’s futuristic vision involves (nothing new here) a strict class structure. The elite live in an artificially constructed environment of enormous domes, a separation that keeps them physically isolated from the Wets and Drys. The climate outside the domes consists of constant rain, not the earth-regenerating kind but the Blade-Runner kind, an incessant drumbeat of gloom. The Wets live wherever they can, usually in shanties sinking in muck and mire, and the other classes are socialized not to think about them, for they’re “like the rain, vaguely unpleasant, but inevitable.” The Drys are moderately better off, for they at least have a relatively decent room and a roof. William Keyhoe, a Domer and prominent biochemist, has been murdered in a grisly way, by having his heart cut out while he’s still alive. Tough guy cop O’Neil, a Dry, starts to look into the case, but when he gets too inquisitive he’s relieved of his job. (We’ve seen detectives in this position before, of course, and know they’re undeterred.) O’Neil sniffs out clues, tracks down suspects, is captured and tortured, indulges in breathtaking and unbelievable escapes and eventually puts together the story, a confusing tale of giant blond genetic clones, weapons specialists and the threat of the enemy, in this case aliens. (If you remember your Orwell, you know where the latter is going.) The novel is told from O’Neil’s point-of-view, and he loves to nudge us into acknowledging what a bad dude he is, for he’s always needing a drink, taking a drag on an endless line of cigarettes, hitting people on the jaw so they “drop like a sack of sand” and seeing guns “spit flame.”

A tedious and unoriginal journey into the future.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-230-00735-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Macmillan UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

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SEVERANCE

A post-apocalyptic—and pre-apocalyptic—debut.

It’s 2011, if not quite the 2011 you remember. Candace Chen is a millennial living in Manhattan. She doesn’t love her job as a production assistant—she helps publishers make specialty Bibles—but it’s a steady paycheck. Her boyfriend wants to leave the city and his own mindless job. She doesn’t go with him, so she’s in the city when Shen Fever strikes. Victims don’t die immediately. Instead, they slide into a mechanical existence in which they repeat the same mundane actions over and over. These zombies aren’t out hunting humans; instead, they perform a single habit from life until their bodies fall apart. Retail workers fold and refold T-shirts. Women set the table for dinner over and over again. A handful of people seem to be immune, though, and Candace joins a group of survivors. The connection between existence before the End and during the time that comes after is not hard to see. The fevered aren’t all that different from the factory workers who produce Bibles for Candace’s company. Indeed, one of the projects she works on almost falls apart because it proves hard to source cheap semiprecious stones; Candace is only able to complete the contract because she finds a Chinese company that doesn’t mind too much if its workers die from lung disease. This is a biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Marxist screed or a dry Hobbesian thought experiment. This is Ma’s first novel, but her fiction has appeared in distinguished journals, and she won a prize for a chapter of this book. She knows her craft, and it shows. Candace is great, a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength. She’s sufficiently self-aware to see the parallels between her life before the End and the pathology of Shen Fever. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience.

Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-26159-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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ENDER'S GAME

A rather one-dimensional but mostly satisfying child-soldier yarn which substantially extends and embellishes one of Card's better short stories (Unaccompanied Sonata and Other Stories, 1980).

Following a barely-defeated invasion attempt by the insect-like alien "buggers," a desperate Earth command resorts to genetic experimentation in order to produce a tactical genius capable of defeating the buggers in round two. (A counterinvasion has already been launched, but will take years to reach the buggers' home planet.) So likable but determined "Ender" Wiggins, age six, becomes Earth's last hope—when his equally talented elder siblings Peter (too vicious and vindictive) and Valentine (too gentle and sympathetic) prove unsuitable. And, in a dramatic, brutally convincing series of war games and computer-fantasies, Ender is forced to realize his military genius, to rely on nothing and no-one but himself. . . and to disregard all rules in order to win. There are some minor, distracting side issues here: wrangles among Ender's adult trainers; an irrelevant subplot involving Peter's attempt to take over Earth. And there'll be no suspense for those familiar with the short story.

Still, the long passages focusing on Ender are nearly always enthralling—the details are handled with flair and assurance—and this is altogether a much more solid, mature, and persuasive effort than Card's previous full-length appearances.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1984

ISBN: 0812550706

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1984

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