A complex work that offers an intense look at a possible future.

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THE LENZ

An ambitious SF novel about climate change and technology addiction. 

In 2039 Japan, Yoshi Goto is starting a new job as a shopping mall Santa Claus. Two years ago, he was the lead in the highly anticipated film One Man Dreaming, but he was so difficult to work with that the Santa gig is the only one he can get to prove that he’s reliable. After accidentally knocking down a child and crashing the sleigh into a Christmas tree, Yoshi is not only fired on the spot—he’s also facing a potential lawsuit. As he walks home in the rain, a driverless “smart car” pulls alongside him with an automated message telling him that the CEO of Maya Technologies, Tyler Gray, wants to meet with him. Gray is going to use his new technology, the Maya Lenz, to create an immersive virtual environment where people can relive their favorite parts of movies, enjoy role-playing games, and more. One of the main features of the new Maya District is that it will feature the main character from One Man Dreaming. All Yoshi has to do is spend a few weeks acting like his character, so that Maya’s computers can learn how to be like him. But as Yoshi explores the outside world with and without his new Lenz, he discovers that there’s more to the city, and the people in it, than he ever imagined. Lutz (Amanojaku, 2016, etc.) has created a compelling future world that’s not very much unlike our own. The effects of climate change, for example, are shown to be very real, causing massive changes to Japan’s coastlines, and its citizens are clearly hiding behind technology to escape this terrible reality. The only way in which the book falls a bit flat is in how it focuses on the worldbuilding—and on cool new gadgets—to such an extent that it takes too long to get to the heart of the story. At times, so much is thrown at readers that it may be difficult for them to care enough about particular characters or plot points that prove important later. 

A complex work that offers an intense look at a possible future.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9946275-5-1

Page Count: 466

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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