Big Pro shows his stuff. Boffo.



A short novel and four long stories, by veteran Forsyth (The Phantom of Manhattan, 1999, etc.).

The title piece, a British-style police procedural, moves brilliantly and richly through in Edmonton, Canada, where detective sergeant Jack Burns leads an investigation into the mugging of an older man brutally kicked in the street who dies after long days in a coma. Burns’s investigation turns up airtight evidence against two thugs, who are captured, held in custody for two or three weeks, but never brought to trial. A toweringly bright defense lawyer gets them off scot-free so that he can engineer a greater vengeance than the court’s. But a crucial plot point about the nameless victim isn’t made until after the murderers are freed. Did the lawyer pick up this essential piece of information from a police artist’s sketch of the unidentified victim? Well, “Vengeance is mine,” saith the Lord . . . maybe He told the lawyer. In “The Art of the Matter” (a cockney play on Graham Greene’s 1948 novel, The Heart of the Matter), stone-broke East End actor Trumpington “Trumpy” Gore, a spear carrier in a hundred British films who’s rarely had a line of more than three words, inherits a grimy 16th-century painting, has it appraised at an auction house, and gets cheated out of a million pounds. This leads to a revenge rip-off that calls for Woody Allen’s Zelig inserting actor Bob Hoskins into a dozen famous British costumers. “The Miracle” tells of a WWII visitation by Santa Caterina della Misericordia to the square in Siena where she was crucified 400 years ago; she now helps save hundreds of grievously wounded Germans and Allies, none of whom die. (But there’s a twist.) “The Citizen” turns on a drug bust on a Boeing 747, “Whispering Wind” on the lone survivor of Custer’s Last Stand.

Big Pro shows his stuff. Boffo.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-312-28691-0

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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