A virtuosic, erotic sci-fi debut.

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The Woman Who Sparked the Greatest Sex Scandal of All Time

First-time novelist Yaakunah’s erotic dystopian novel follows a questioning journalist searching for a missing co-worker.

In a future New York, journalist Ishtar Benten of the News Agency is promoted from the Department of Written Chronicles to the Department of Scriptwriting. Concurrently, a man named Utu, whom she’d met in the break room for “erotic coffee,” disappears. As she looks for him, she seeks help from Arianne, a memory thief, and Harlequin, a sad but sympathetic clown. Her investigation ultimately makes her ask herself hard questions: Is truth fundamental or simply a byproduct of the News Agency? This delicately intricate work provides a full dance card of themes: sex, romance, mystery and a grim peek into a devastated future. It’s mainly an erotic novel, but its eroticism is complicated. For example, Ishtar envisions people she first encounters as being physically transformed during sex—strange, violent thoughts that appear to be routine for someone in her line of work. The book’s text is also laced with sexual metaphors—she drives her “motoregg” into her home’s “womb,” and she and Arianne “penetrate” the agency’s security; later, Ishtar describes herself as “pregnant with betrayal.” The ever-present eroticism makes the sex scenes, real and imaginary, seem less explicit; they’re often lyrical and eccentric, as when Ishtar is intimate with a guide during the virtual tour of a villa. The author also touches on detective fiction tropes when Ishtar shadows a man, hoping to find answers; nostalgia, when she laughs and cries while watching Charlie Chaplin movies; and moral doubt, when the fear of a high-paying job blinds her to her employers’ totalitarian control of the news. Touches of wry humor reinforce an already sturdy novel; the fictitious story “Do Aliens Have Claws?” is presented in its entirety.

A virtuosic, erotic sci-fi debut.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481031776

Page Count: 230

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2013

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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