A somewhat unexciting supernatural tale, hampered by awkward prose.



Ehrlich (World War Four and the Catholic Empire, 2014, etc.) returns with a novel about the end of the world, in which demons clash and humans face danger from all corners.

As this long novel begins, Karl Laforce of the City Defense Forces is going back to college by train, leaving the big city behind him. Another student explains that this unnamed university is the right place if Karl is looking for “a new resurrection from the toil of life.” He and other characters adhere to the politics of National Socialism, and often talk about the Reich, the importance of the “Volk” and the dangers of Asiatic Bolshevism. But it turns out that there are far greater threats in world. Not only is this “pristine countryside” targeted by some of the same criminal forces that terrorize other parts of the country, but there are also other, darker forces at work in the surrounding forest. Two demons are fighting a war on Earth: One is Merihem, who creates zombies, and the other is Abaddon, who’s said to be one of several Antichrists. It comes as no surprise that the demonic zombies soon become a problem for Karl, as well. This could have been the start of an engaging adventure story, but readers may have a hard time connecting with the characters here, who mostly speak in odd, stilted prose: “As the pure white Swan of Lohengrin is everlasting and eternal in the cadence of our hearts music so I shall faithful be unto you.” There’s also plenty of distracting technical specifications for guns, binoculars and other equipment. Overall, the setting is vague and dreamlike: The pub near the university, for instance, is called the “University Pub,” and its proprietor is “the Publican.” Readers familiar with World War II history may find some character names of interest, as several of them belong to Nazis who died in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. (The book is also dedicated to several real-life Nazis, such as SS member Col. Jakob Grimminger.) However, the novel’s many odd aspects never come together to create a unified effect.

A somewhat unexciting supernatural tale, hampered by awkward prose.

Pub Date: July 31, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500317720

Page Count: 374

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 12

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.


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

Did you like this book?