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.

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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