Simmons never once blinks in the face of the improbable, and he serves up a lively, eminently entertaining adventure that...

THE ABOMINABLE

A yeti? Jawohl!

Simmons (The Terror, 2007, etc.) never met an opportunity for allusive terror that he didn’t like, and though his latest is set mostly in the Himalayas, he pays quiet tribute to Poe’s Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and perhaps Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, with a dash of Raiders of the Lost Ark for leavening. The last, after all, introduced us to the possibility of an Asian mountain range swarming with operatives of the budding Third Reich—but of that, lest spoilers result, let us speak no more. The premise is lovely: A memoirist, years after the fact, turns his manuscript over to a published writer for—well, not fame and fortune, but to find the one, just the one, ideal reader. He is one of three climbers who, having heard of the death of Mallory while having lunch after a hard climb of the Matterhorn, decide to head to Everest and find out what happened to their fallen idol. Weird possibilities ensue, including the apparent prospect that Mallory was felled, as were other climbers, by abominable (whence the title) snowmen eager to protect their mountain fastness. But perhaps not, given, as the Allied team (an American, a Briton and a Frenchman) find themselves in the cross hairs of eight-millimeter firearms “[p]opular with the Austrians and Hungarians in pistols designed before the War by Karel Krnka and Georg Roth...later produced by Germans for infantry officers.” A bummer to discover such things in the midst of howling spin drifts five miles above the sea, but what’s a becramponed fellow to do?

Simmons never once blinks in the face of the improbable, and he serves up a lively, eminently entertaining adventure that would do Edgar Allan Poe—and even Rudyard Kipling—proud.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-19883-7

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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