Excessive, overwrought, and lacking Smoke’s exciting dramatic thrust.


A return to the Dickensian-dystopian world of Smoke (2016).

Let’s welcome, once again, to a smoke-filled stage your three favorite teenage characters from Smoke, Thomas Argyle, Charlie Cooper, and Eleanor Renfrew, along with a vast array of supporting characters, old and new. Vyleta organizes his bulky novel like a play, with five acts, numerous scenes, and an intermission, interspersing memoranda, letters, and diary entries throughout. It's 1909 in England, 10 years after Thomas, Charlie, and Livia Naylor released Smoke, a visible marker of sin and emotion that the authorities wanted to control. They hoped it would bring about a cultural and political revolution. They were wrong. In Saint John, New Brunswick, elderly playwright Balthazar Black, the grandson of a slave, is putting on a Smoke Theatre skit about Charlie and Thomas—“There is not a story more widely told than theirs.” The audience, suddenly realizing who the actors are playing, gasp. Fake smoke fills the room. Black discovers that Eleanor Renfrew is in the audience. She's the niece of Erasmus Renfrew, who taught at Charlie and Thomas' school and is now the imperious Lord Protector. Balthazar, Eleanor, and the troupe of players sail to New York to foil a dastardly plan of Renfrew's. Meanwhile, Mr. Smith, who works for the powerful Company, has his own plans for gaining power. People have fled to the Minetowns, where they’ve set up their own Workers' Council in Ekklesia, a "giant hollow in the ground." Vyleta’s labyrinthine tale adds subplots upon subplots. We meet Mowgli, a South American boy whose body may have been used to unleash the Smoke. Charlie has ventured to the glaciers of the Himalayas, seeking to discover the origins of Smoke. Could it reside in a dull, velvet-black rock? What unique powers do beetles, sweets, and Smoke Poppies possess? Who is this Angel of the North? Can it save them from Smoke? All about, Black Storms and Gales rage.

Excessive, overwrought, and lacking Smoke’s exciting dramatic thrust.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54022-3

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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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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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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