Difficult to read and understand; the presentation squashes an intriguing premise.

HEROES' CALLING REVISED EDITION

This ambitious novel, written mostly in the form of a play, combines action, mythology, religion and anime.

Edge is an Asian-American teen from Brooklyn who, as a child, discovers he can harness heat energy and shoot fireballs. He possesses this power as the result of a war waged between Jehovah and Lucifer, in which one of Lucifer’s generals turned against his master and fought on the side of goodness. Details of this war were apparently suppressed by the Church, as was the fact that Adam was an angel and Eve a demon. These bold assertions are typical of the novel’s incredibly complex, often difficult-to-follow plot. As Edge grows up, he finds that many of his close friends have extraordinary powers, too, including the ability to teleport. This connection to friends with superpowers proves to be fortuitous, since Lucifer’s generals have returned to Earth to reclaim the scattered, mystical sources of their power. The underlying scenario has potential, but unfortunately, and for no clear reason, the novel is written like a play, with the action in brackets. With admirable consistency, this technique is sustained across hundreds of pages, although it doesn’t quite benefit the telling of the tale. The dialogue is perfunctory and trite—“Raven: I got a plan, and it’s an awesome plan!”—and the stage-direction rendering of the novel’s action tends to dampen the wonder of what could be spectacular scenes, especially Edge becoming an angel in heaven, the fights between angels and demons, and even a nuclear blast. The sketches of action struggle to leave an impression: “[The War Commandant leaves the office and gets into a helicopter that takes him to an unnamed building in a field of grass. He exits, enters the facility, and gets on an elevator that takes him a few floors down. The elevator opens into a room with a person strapped to a table with his arms and legs spread apart.]” Also, in the repetitive fight scenes, main characters call out their signature moves before executing them, as in a video game or anime—parallels young readers may or may not enjoy.

Difficult to read and understand; the presentation squashes an intriguing premise.

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456767624

Page Count: 452

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012

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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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DEVOLUTION

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 blackhearted but wayward yarn.

LAPVONA

A peasant boy gets an introduction to civilization, such as it is.

Moshfegh’s gloomy fifth novel is set in the medieval village of Lapvona, ruled by Villiam, who’s paranoid and cruel when he’s not inept. (For instance, he sends murderous bandits into town if he hears of dissent among the farmers.) Marek, a 13-year-old boy, is becoming increasingly curious about his brutish provenance. He questions whether his mother indeed died in childbirth, as his father, Jude, insists. (The truth is more complicated, of course.) He struggles to reconcile the disease and death he witnesses with the stories of a forgiving God he was raised with. His sole source of comfort is Ina, the village wet nurse. During the course of the year tracked by the novel, Marek finds his way to Villiam, who fills his time with farcical and occasionally grotesque behavior. Villiam’s right-hand man, the village priest, is comically ignorant about Scripture, and Villiam compels Marek and a woman assistant into some scatological antics. The fact that another assistant is named Clod gives a sense of the intellectual atmosphere. Which is to say that the novel is constructed from familiar Moshfegh-ian stuff: dissolute characters, a willful rejection of social norms, the occasional gross-out. At her best, she’s worked that material into stark, brilliant character studies (Eileen, 2015) or contemporary satires (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018). Here, though, the tone feels stiff and the story meanders. The Middle Ages provide a promising setting for her—she describes a social milieu that’s only clumsily established hierarchies, religion, and an economy, and she wants us to question whether we’ve evolved much beyond it. But the assortment of dim characters and perverse delusions does little more than repetitively expose the brutality of (as Villiam puts it) “this stupid life.”

A blackhearted but wayward yarn.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-30026-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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