ALL THE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE WE ONCE KNEW

Another novel about big, bad corporate America.

In this tepid debut, Carlson, a New York shipping lawyer, draws on his insider’s experience with corporate law firms to reveal the depths to which they will sometimes sink in order to win. The story is narrated by Stephen Harker, a lawyer at WorldScore, a massive New York City firm whose motto seems to be "let’s make as much money as we can, screw the little guys, and laugh while doing it." A lefty among right-wingers, Harker is paid well and gets lots of free booze and food, but now he’s “morphing into a new species.” So much destruction: “My ability to lawyer had disintegrated into zeros and ones.” The little guy here is former Special Forces pilot Maj. Mike “Bud” Thomas, who is seeking workers’ compensation for wartime employment in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he worked for FreedomQuest, a private military contractor. His injuries, including psychological ones, are numerous. Harker is told by his boss, Robert Fleeger, the “big kahuna,” that the company is counting on him to win this one. Harker’s the “tip of the spear here so don’t let us down.” To win, he will have to “impeach the man’s credibility and tarnish his brass.” Meanwhile, Harker and Kath O’Shaughnessy, Fleeger’s ex-wife, a “Givenchy model in a Penthouse ad,” have a thing going on. Will Harker change his stripes and let Thomas win? Or will he toe the line for his greedy employer? The book is written in an excessively conversational, slangy style. Lots of incomplete sentences. Business terms. Legalese. Appropriate swaths of swear words at the right time. The characters are thin and stereotypical and the slight plot loses its way. But kudos to first-time novelist Carlson for taking on a complicated subject that is timely and significant.

Overwritten.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1631-5

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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