A free-wheeling and often appealing tale, although its greater message sometimes gets lost in the chaos.

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SPAWN OF MY ERROR

EVE'S ODYSSEY

A novel about the biblical Eve appearing in the modern day.

Debut author Johnson begins this wild story with Eve, the first woman that God ever created, explaining to her driver that she’s headed for an interview. She needs to make her way to Joshua Tree National Park in order to speak with reporters Rick Langley and Cindy Vargas from News One Southern California. The man who’s driving her is simply referred to as “Dude,” and he converses with Eve as if they were old friends. The topics of their chatter move quickly from Eve’s poor diet (she apparently loves fast food) to ancient Rome to the 2009 sci-fi film Avatar. Underpinning the narrative, however, is the topic of Christianity. Dude is not keen on modern Christian adornments, and he’s not afraid to let other people know it. After Dude and Eve arrive at Joshua Tree, Eve speaks on camera with Cindy, but it’s hardly an ordinary interview. For example, Cindy is soon explaining how she cares for her own nipples, and she also reveals that she lost her virginity at the age of 16. The plot becomes progressively stranger and eventually incorporates a flying cat, the “Great Whore” of Babylon, and a trip to the moon. The narrative unfolds completely in conversation, and characters are prone to ellipses: “You know Cindy … you are a totally awesome … honest morning news show interviewing chick ….” It’s a loose style that gives the story a playful, if repetitive, tone. It also offers a poetic way to discuss such subjects as churchgoers who are “thinly veiled in pious false humility,” even if it doesn’t make for easy reading. Nevertheless, this ambitious novel does provide moments of real substance, as when a character notes that the Jesus-fish symbol, once a sign for persecuted Christians, has become little more than a bumper sticker. That said, there are also many distractions, including characters’ odd laughter (“Ha-ha-ah … cha-cha-cha … woo whoo, woo whoo”), which make the deeper elements easy to ignore.

A free-wheeling and often appealing tale, although its greater message sometimes gets lost in the chaos.  

Pub Date: March 24, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

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

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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