Magary has created a smartly realized vision of a planet that’s hit the skids, but it could use more interesting residents.

THE POSTMORTAL

One man blogs civilization’s slow, terrifying decline after a cure for aging is discovered.

In 2011, an Oregon scientist discovered the precise genetic location of the trigger for aging, clearing the way to bring a halt to growing old. In 2019, when Magary’s debut novel opens, narrator John Farrell is one of the growing number of people who’ve surreptitiously signed up for the illegal "cure." He’s an easygoing attorney who hasn’t paid close attention to the religious and political furor the cure has caused, but that changes when his roommate is killed in a terrorist attack on the office of a doctor delivering the treatment. At first this brave new world seems mildly comic: John helps set up term limits for married couples who didn’t anticipate that “till death do us part” might take well over a century, and he considers what the cure means for sports records. But in the decades after the cure is legalized, the planet becomes rapidly overpopulated and the story turns dystopian, with John becoming an “end specialist” who helps euthanize people who find deathlessness a grind. Magary is blogger for the sports sites Deadspin and Kissing Suzy Kolber, and the blog format serves him well in the early sections of the novel: It allows him to integrate newspaper articles that set the scene, and he gives John an engaging, quick-witted voice. Trickier for the author are matters of deeper characterization and tone: John’s romantic entanglements and heartbreaks are swallowed up by the events around him, and the closing chapters make ungainly shifts between apocalyptic realism and Grand Guignol horror scenes. In a way, he’s imagined this milieu all too well, making the reader more interested in the world’s end than the people trying to survive it.

Magary has created a smartly realized vision of a planet that’s hit the skids, but it could use more interesting residents.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-14-311982-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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