An enjoyable, gentle fantasy that gives new meaning to the phrase “Spirit of St. Louis.”


In the 20th century, citizens of St. Louis discover that a parallel-universe effect exists, allowing them to periodically cross over to a different, more ideal city.

Von Schrader’s debut novel should especially captivate readers familiar with St. Louis, but even those unacquainted with the city will find this parallel-worlds yarn worth a visit. In 1929, during the stock market crash, Missouri financier James Whittemore Hines is contemplating suicide when he suddenly finds himself in an alternate St. Louis, with no economic malaise. World War I never happened either (apparently thanks to a benevolent Kaiser Wilhelm II), and nobody’s heard of Charles Lindbergh. Pragmatic Hines doesn’t question the phenomenon but uses his acumen to become part of the city’s infrastructure. When a devastating earthquake hits in 1931, Hines’ radical plan of citizen shareholder ownership of the wrecked city not only rebuilds St. Louis, but also tackles racism, jump-starts scientific development, and makes the place a radiant, world-class metropolis (though this town doesn’t have that landmark steel arch). Years later, in the original St. Louis of 2010, blighted and racially divided (but at least it’s got the Gateway Arch), Billy Boustany is the harried head of a failing chain of electronics/appliance stores. He accidentally crosses over into the other St. Louis (which he calls “HD St. Louis”) and is charmed by the eclectic markets, pedestrian-friendly streets, curious inventions, and upbeat ambiance. He revisits the alt-city again and again and finds the secret too good to keep to himself. Which is a problem, because, as the narrative divulges, an elite corps in “HD St. Louis,” the Knights of the Carnelian, polices the shifting boundaries between the worlds and strives to keep out intruders from the original city, characterizing them (understandably) as uncouth, racist, and generally detrimental. But even as villains, they are fairly soft-edged. While the plotline of von Schrader’s tale may remind SF readers of China Miéville’s The City & the City (2009), its heart is much closer to the soothing fantasies of Jack Finney (Time and Again; I Love Galesburg in the Springtime), with their nostalgic longing for bygone (or, in this case, alternate) eras and communities. Von Schrader’s prose is butter smooth, and the chronological jumps the narrative makes back and forth throughout history (in both universes) are never tangled or confusing.

An enjoyable, gentle fantasy that gives new meaning to the phrase “Spirit of St. Louis.” (afterword, author bio)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73297-062-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Weeping Willow Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 70

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?

Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.


A woman who's been drifting through life wakes up the morning after her 40th birthday to discover that she's just turned 16 again.

Alice Stern wouldn't say she's unhappy. She lives in a studio apartment in Brooklyn; has a job in the admissions office of the Upper West Side private school she attended as a kid; still hangs out with Sam, her childhood best friend; and has a great relationship with her father, Leonard, the famous author of a time-travel novel, Time Brothers. Alice's mother left her and Leonard when Alice was a kid, and father and daughter formed a tight, loving unit along with their freakishly long-lived cat, Ursula. But now Leonard is in a coma, and as she visits him in the hospital every day, Alice is forced to reckon with her life. After a drunken birthday evening with Sam, Alice returns to her childhood house on Pomander Walk, a one-block-long gated street running between two avenues on the UWS—but when she wakes up the next morning, she hears Leonard in the kitchen and finds herself heading off to SAT tutoring and preparing for her 16th birthday party that night. Straub's novel has echoes of Thornton Wilder's play Our Town: Every prosaic detail of her earlier life is almost unbearably poignant to Alice, and the chance to spend time with her father is priceless. As she moves through her day, she tries to figure out how to get back to her life as a 40-year-old and whether there's anything she can do in the past to improve her future—and save her father's life. As always, Straub creates characters who feel fully alive, exploring the subtleties of their thoughts, feelings, and relationships. It's hard to say more without giving away the delightful surprises of the book's second half, but be assured that Straub's time-travel shenanigans are up there with Kate Atkinson's Life After Life and the TV show Russian Doll.

Combine Straub's usual warmth and insight with the fun of time travel and you have a winner.

Pub Date: May 17, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-525-53900-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

Did you like this book?