While the writing lacks a subtlety that would suit many of these tales, this volume’s exhaustive approach to elevating queer...

THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME

SHORT STORIES

A collection of short stories examines the diversity of global LGBTQ communities and their common challenges.

Pathan’s (Classics, 2017, etc.) incredibly varied collection of 21 stories covers the gamut of LGBTQ issues and the hurdles individuals face. Spanning different generations and cultures, the book takes readers around the world to illustrate that queerness and gender fluidity are not restrained by borders. In England, principal Margery must confront her own prejudices and a growing mob mentality against a young transgender student; in 1950s India, the young Sreekanth tries to escape an arranged marriage to be with another man; and in modern-day Bangkok, Poi works tirelessly to teach safe-sex practices and distribute condoms to the Kathoeys—more commonly known as “ladyboys.” It’s a remarkably inclusive approach to an already broad subject, and Pathan highlights the somewhat lesser-known topics of asexuality and intersex identities with the tender tales “isher” and “(a)sexual story.” As a nod to those well-versed in queer literature, the author has thrown in plenty of references to her inspirations, peppering the book with Oscar Wilde quotes and having characters read Christopher Isherwood or Radclyffe Hall. Pathan also tackles one of the most volatile topics for not just LGBTQ communities, but also the entire world with the tense tale of Salam, Akram, and Nafisa—a gay couple and their Jewish female friend who are trying to hide from Islamic State group rule in Syria. That story, “people of raqqa,” is the collection’s clear standout. But in its final lines, the tale also suffers from a consistent issue—too many moments feel contrived or unnatural for the characters. Pathan often follows a pattern: introduce an LGBTQ issue, bring in some form of bigotry, and then rush to conclude with a terrible act of violence. This problem is most evident in “the books on his lap,” in which an elite NYU professor murders his own child after learning he has befriended lesbians. Although the story offers one of the compendium’s many preposterous twists, readers should still appreciate Pathan’s underlying point that intolerance and danger lurk where they are least expected.

While the writing lacks a subtlety that would suit many of these tales, this volume’s exhaustive approach to elevating queer issues remains commendable.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Fiza Pathan Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2018

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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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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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