KRIK? KRAK!

STORIES

A debut collection from Danticat (the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, 1994) that movingly brings to life the history, hopes, and human experience of Haitians. Separation is the central fact of life for Danticat's characters. The isolated speakers of "Children of the Sea" are lovers, one of whom flees Haiti on a rickety boat while the other remains on the island hiding from terrorizing soldiers. They are doomed never again to be together in the flesh. Yet the story itself — the very act of Danticat's writing (mirrored in the refugee's journal-keeping) — permits their union, grants a space in which their voices mingle in an elegant duet. Where writing can't serve as a weapon against oblivion, there is hope, though this is double-edged. For Guy, the unemployed factory worker in "A Wall of Fire Rising," a hot-air balloon represents an escape from devastating poverty, but the story ends by showing the bitter irony of his wish for flight. Most impressive is the dignity that the author reveals in her characters' spirituality. Omens and superstitions abound, which upper-class Haitians dismiss as "voodoo nonsense that's holding us back." Danticat shows the wisdom and poignancy of these beliefs. The red panties that the mother in "Caroline's Wedding" commands her daughters to wear serve ostensibly to ward off sexual advances from their dead father's spirit. They are also an intimate form of mourning his loss. "When you write," explains the speaker of "Epilogue: Women Like Us," "it's like braiding your hair. Taking a handful of coarse strands and attempting to bring them unity....Some of the braids are long, others short. Some are thick, others are thin." The remark describes this young Haitian writer's restless style, which is lyrical and elegiac, gothic and simple, sometimes all at once. Consistent, however, is her powerful empathy for her characters. Danticat's fiction is an antidote to headline abstractions, giving readers the gift of narrative through which to experience a people and a country as more than mere news.

Pub Date: April 10, 1995

ISBN: 1-56947-025-1

Page Count: 227

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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