An unflinching picaresque of finding love and sanity in a place that was anything but The Land of the Morning Calm.

IN ARMS AND IDLENESS

Through the eyes of conflicted Americans and war-ravaged locals, Slake’s compelling debut novel focuses on the “sordid side of garrison life” in post–WWII Japan and the absurdities in Korea that followed.

Twenty-one year-old Pvt. David Ricksen, from Lincoln, Neb., has been stationed in Japan for six months, but he’s already acquired an attractive lover named Keiko. He also has an inconvenient relationship with a fellow GI—and proud grifter—Michael Hurley. When Ricksen is transferred to Korea, a raid of Russian tanks and North Korean soldiers decimates his unit and leaves him wandering a foreboding landscape and hoping deep down the Army will look out for him. Meanwhile, Hurley, who paid to stay behind in Yokohama to run his moneylending operation, kills a fellow soldier over $30, and as he sinks to the depths of hell to atone for his sins, he receives an unexpected offer from the malevolent Cpl. Faust—and his frightening flunky, Tomoda. Captivating USO worker Patricia Sorensen, troubled, beautiful prostitute Rie Hara and blackmailed Maj. Paul Nathan fill out the remaining slots of Slake’s sexual and tragic roundelay. Evocative descriptions recreate bustling Yokohama, with its ox carts, pachinko parlors, “bars and sex pits,” the brutal, impromptu battlefields of the Korean countryside, and in a touching coda, the Louvre. With strong and steady language, not devoid of poetry, Slake’s observations and intertwined plots reveal a raw vision of the beginning of the Korean conflict that defies its main “beneficiaries”: flawed Gen. MacArthur, the overblown efforts and narrow scope of the Marines and the triviality of M*A*S*H*. Although he tallies the tedium and travesties, such as Ricksen’s travails aboard the Shinano Maru en route to Korea, Slake never loses his sense of humor or humanity. His multidimensional characters, flawed in all-too-human ways, remain true to the insensitive racial and sexual stereotypes of the day—and not even the most secondary of characters, such as the exciting, mysterious Madame LeClerc, suffers from a lack of uninteresting back story.

An unflinching picaresque of finding love and sanity in a place that was anything but The Land of the Morning Calm.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Publish Green

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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