A promising compilation from a new talent.

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Blue Ink

TALES OF STRANGENESS

A fantastic collection of sci-fi/fantasy flash fiction.

Liang’s debut offers a fascinating, often chilling look into an alternate universe. In “Run,” Gov. John Mayyor oversees a prison known as Section 7A in Illuva Forest. Known as the last stop for criminals, Section 7A is where murderers are separated from civil society and left to their own devices. The convicts must fend for themselves, using force if needed but knowing that everyone else can do the same. “Lazarus,” on the other hand, is less a story and more a disturbing description of a seductive, august city that is in fact “a test tube, an open laboratory for the military to work the kinks out of a new system of government—a system no one saw coming.” Lazarus captures a dystopian world of Benefactors, rulers who strive to create a utopia by expunging the imperfect from the universe. In “The Forest,” a more narrative-heavy tale, a group of artificially designed wolves forage for food and try to protect themselves while a man at a computer tries to control them. The lines between computer, animal, and human get blurred in this haunting example of how machines can rule and destroy our lives. “A Bad Wish”—which begins: “I say there are three kinds of people in this world. There’s the givers, the takers, and the ‘meh’ers”—traces the life of John Doe and his encounter with Xanthix, a genie who claims he can grant Joe three wishes. But when Xanthix gets to choose the wishes, the story takes an ugly turn. Brimming with imagination, the stories present unique, frequently insightful looks at the future of human experience. Not only are these mostly brief sci-fi/fantasy pieces smartly written and entertaining, they usually present a moral message, too. Young readers in particular will appreciate these fresh, easy-to-read stories while reveling in the challenges offered in their weighty content.

A promising compilation from a new talent.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-51-531572-8

Page Count: 132

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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Bulky, balky, talky.

THE DA VINCI CODE

In an updated quest for the Holy Grail, the narrative pace remains stuck in slo-mo.

But is the Grail, in fact, holy? Turns out that’s a matter of perspective. If you’re a member of that most secret of clandestine societies, the Priory of Sion, you think yes. But if your heart belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the Grail is more than just unholy, it’s downright subversive and terrifying. At least, so the story goes in this latest of Brown’s exhaustively researched, underimagined treatise-thrillers (Deception Point, 2001, etc.). When Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon—in Paris to deliver a lecture—has his sleep interrupted at two a.m., it’s to discover that the police suspect he’s a murderer, the victim none other than Jacques Saumière, esteemed curator of the Louvre. The evidence against Langdon could hardly be sketchier, but the cops feel huge pressure to make an arrest. And besides, they don’t particularly like Americans. Aided by the murdered man’s granddaughter, Langdon flees the flics to trudge the Grail-path along with pretty, persuasive Sophie, who’s driven by her own need to find answers. The game now afoot amounts to a scavenger hunt for the scholarly, clues supplied by the late curator, whose intent was to enlighten Sophie and bedevil her enemies. It’s not all that easy to identify these enemies. Are they emissaries from the Vatican, bent on foiling the Grail-seekers? From Opus Dei, the wayward, deeply conservative Catholic offshoot bent on foiling everybody? Or any one of a number of freelancers bent on a multifaceted array of private agendas? For that matter, what exactly is the Priory of Sion? What does it have to do with Leonardo? With Mary Magdalene? With (gulp) Walt Disney? By the time Sophie and Langdon reach home base, everything—well, at least more than enough—has been revealed.

Bulky, balky, talky.

Pub Date: March 18, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2003

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