A white-hot ingot of daring, disciplined storytelling that focuses on a dangerous military project.

Swarm

A sci-fi thriller explores stolen technology and a hacktivist determined to guide humanity’s evolution.

This tale begins at a U.S. Air Force base in Afghanistan. Airman Donald Westlake, a recent convert to skinhead metal music, exits the barracks armed for combat. With violent lyrics screaming through his headphones, he begins shooting Afghani soldiers stationed at the base until he is killed by a fellow airman. Meanwhile, in Austin, Texas, hacktivist Tom Ayana orchestrates flash mob events from the “cyber command center” in his mother’s house. These incidents, which interrupt the lives of unsuspecting citizens in places like San Antonio’s Woodland Park, result in risqué demonstrations and a thrilling sense of connectedness among the participants. Under the digital guise of Swarm, Tom encounters the Meta Militia online and is chosen to play with—that is, augment—the zeph.r code, a stolen Department of Defense project designed to modify human behavior. While Tom and his best friend, a DJ named Xander Smith, combine their love of music, mobbing, and cosmic awareness to dominate the electronic dance music scene, Homeland Security agent Jake Duggan starts investigating Westlake’s death. Jake eventually recruits evolutionary biologist Dr. Cara Park—an expert on swarming insects—to help learn the deadly potential of zeph.r. In the latest book by Garcia (The Decline of Men, 2009, etc.), readers are treated to what might be written if the misanthropic author Chuck Palahniuk gave the free-wheeling Thomas Pynchon a blood transfusion. Garcia’s careening prose covers cutting-edge topics, like using mosquitoes to inoculate against malaria, while also espousing the work of “neo-patriots” like Anonymous, who “would save democracy by keeping it honest.” When Tom experiences the fabulously kinetic zeph.r, there’s “a rising, writhing tower of tessellating textures, each one separate yet fused to the others and seething, like a flame.” Though intellectually and politically supercharged, these elements never prevent the characters’ humanity from carrying the narrative. The ambiguous ending glories in the potential of life-altering technology in the hands of a forward-thinking society.

A white-hot ingot of daring, disciplined storytelling that focuses on a dangerous military project.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9974398-1-6

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Morphic Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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