A vision of the future that’s both harrowing and endlessly entertaining.

Shadow of the Hare

From the Recall Chronicles series , Vol. 2

A woman witnesses atrocities in her personal life and the world around her throughout the 21st and 22nd centuries in Birdwell’s (Way of the Serpent, 2015) dystopian novel.

Malia Poole’s love of books makes working at a bookshop an obvious choice, even in mid-21st century after print copies are no longer mass produced. She’s one of the Vintagonists, individuals who believe in preserving old things and have formed an alliance with like-minded factions collectively known as Recall. The U.S. having succumbed to plutocracy, Recall operates covertly but still falls prey to raids from plutocrats’ agents. When agents storm a music venue, Malia’s lover, Eliomar “Lio” Gaston, gets a message to her in time to flee, but he and his sister, Zelda, disappear. Malia herself ducks away in a community run by Simpletons—a self-deprecating name signifying the group’s minimalist movement. By the time she returns home, both Malia and the world have changed. She, for one, has stopped taking age-preventative Chulel, which notoriously causes memory loss, and is visibly older among the drug-induced young. But despite retaining more memories than others, Malia can’t remember a two-year period when she was a teen. Filling in that blank takes her to Nigeria, where she learns of a virus outbreak that prompts global power outages and a peace treaty–defying war. The novel is rich in its futuristic environment. Corporations taking over, for example, is a frighteningly believable concept, while the story’s technology is progressive and fashionable: the digilet is essentially a flexible smartphone that can be worn as a bracelet. There’s likewise instantly comprehensible slang, including expletives such as F-bomb surrogate “zujo.” A highlight is “cush,” touching the digilet’s pliable surface, and a term Malia eventually realizes is outmoded. There are instances where the protagonist is a mere spectator, unaware of what’s going on. She is, however, a woman of mystery, and details of her “blank period” are shocking and catalytic (she’s searching for someone in Nigeria). Tie-ins to the series’ first installment are clever, opening with the same scene as the preceding novel from an alternate perspective.

A vision of the future that’s both harrowing and endlessly entertaining.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5330-9576-3

Page Count: 234

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2016

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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