Too much happens to too many people over the course of too many years. After the third or fourth climax, the thrill is gone.

ELIXIR

The discovery of a potion that reverses aging and prolongs life leads all-too expectedly to tragedy in this overstuffed, slow-to-develop thriller.

While on a field trip to Papua, New Guinea, in 1980, Chris Bacon, senior researcher for Darby Pharmaceuticals, learns of tabukari, the `forbidden flower of long days.` His old school chum Iwati, now a powerful shaman, has been smoking it for years. More than 120 years, in fact, though Iwati sometimes quaffs it as tea or mixes it with his yams. So, why it takes years to process and costs millions and several lives is hard to fathom. In any case, once international drug lord Antoine Ducharme is brought into the deal by Darby's greedy but weak CFO, Quentin Cross, anything can and does happen. Called `tabulone,` the elixir seems to actually work. Miss an injection, however, and it's an ungodly death via accelerated aging as demonstrated by several mice and monkeys, plus one witless lab assistant. Chris, fearful of early-onset Alzheimer's, is tempted to start the treatments on himself. First, though, he's framed by Cross and Ducharme in the murder of a recalcitrant geneticist and the blowing up of a plane. Chris, his wife, Wendy, and their newborn son are forced underground and assume new names and identities. Chris (now called Roger), who absconded with all of the elixir samples, lab notes, and formulas, begins taking the drug. At 50-something, he looks 35. The FBI finds him out, though, when an old friend spots him despite his youthful appearance. The confusing denouement takes days to play out and brings to the final chase not just Ducharme and the FBI, but a paramilitary radical religious leader who's decided that Chris/Roger is the Antichrist.

Too much happens to too many people over the course of too many years. After the third or fourth climax, the thrill is gone.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-87308-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 10

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more