An earnest if overzealous examination of the side effects of technology on humanity.



Adrift in her personal life and career, a professor of future studies discovers that an ex-student might be a homegrown terrorist—and that she too might have skin in the game.

In 1996, the FBI ended one of the longest manhunts in its history by arresting Theodore Kaczynski, a Harvard-educated math genius, who railed against the ill effects of technology and systematically mailed bombs to select targets across the United States to underscore his point. More than two decades on, the drumbeat about the perceived dark side of technology has only become louder. It makes sense then that Pollack (The Bible of Dirty Jokes, 2018, etc.) uses the Unabomber as the scaffolding for this novel, which unfolds primarily through the lens of Maxine Sayers, Director of the Institute of Future Studies at the University of Michigan. Max has lost her husband (and fellow professor), Sam, who has been dead for eight years, and her engineer son, Zach, who once worked for a Silicon Valley startup and has gone off the grid and cut off contact with Mom. What’s worse, funding for the institute that Maxine Kickstarted is drying up. Against this backdrop, she reads a “Technobomber’s” manifesto and worries that the author sounds like one of her former students. As Max unravels the various layers, she and her family get sucked into the maelstrom created by the Technobomber’s sensationalism. Maxine too is ambivalent about technology, and the plot sags under the weight of her frequent expositions: “If intelligence meant an awareness of one’s self, how could a machine become aware? Of what? That it had no self to be aware of?” Stilted similes—“The eighteen-year-olds who make up the majority of Ann Arbor’s population are like stem cells: put any two in a petri dish, squirt on nutrient solution, and each will take on the characteristics of the other”—don’t help the cause, either. The straitjacketed characters miss emerging into their true selves. Perhaps the narrative would have been better served as a short story than a full-fledged novel.

An earnest if overzealous examination of the side effects of technology on humanity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-883285-82-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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