BOXEN

THE IMAGINARY WORLD OF THE YOUNG C.S. LEWIS

Between the ages of seven and 29, C.S. Lewis produced short sketches of an imaginary world named "Boxen"—a cosmos bounded by his older brother Warner's imaginary India on the east and by young Jack's wholly invented Animal-Land on the west. Walter Hooper, the editor of this volume and Lewis' former secretary, literally snatched these pages from a small fire to which the elderly "Warnie" was feeding them in 1964. Although few authors would care to have their childhood fantasies published, these sketches do possess a distinct, daft charm. Warnie and Jack Lewis lost their mother to cancer in 1908, and were reared chiefly by their father, a public prosecutor steeped in the angry politics of Northern Ireland. Precocious Jack's Boxen is similarly a hotbed of insurgency: the early tales deal with "Manx against Manx," "The Relief of Murry," and the invasions of Horse-Land and Pig-Land. Later stories move beyond aggression into ethics. In "The Silor," a novel written when Jack was 14 and at boarding school, Mr. Cottle ("a strong and wiry young Cat") arrives on board H.M.S. Greyhound charged with the secret mission of reforming its crew's lazy ways, but is himself corrupted by a genial paymaster, James Bar (a bear). Lewis leaves them as "good friends if not good officers. . .they manage to hit a golden mean between Bar's desparate [sic] exploits and Cottle's absurd idealism." The charm here lies in the innocence and, in fact, the averageness of the stiff, childish drawings and the predictable roster of kings and heads of state (King Bunny was Jack; the Rajah or "Jah" was Warnie). Flashes of the great fantasist-to-be appear only in the increasingly sure-footed handling of humor and characterization; spelling, though, remains agreeably erratic throughout. Although more an indirect portrait of an Edwardian childhood than a major collection of new stories, Boxen—as Lewis' first and formative imaginary kingdom—should be of interest to Narnia enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 1985

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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

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

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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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