An exhilarating ride full of sheer drops and whiplash curves.

READ REVIEW

Roll Call

BOOK #1 IN THE ROLL CALL TRILOGY

From the Roll Call Trilogy series , Vol. 1

The author of Experiment Station Road (2011) returns with a YA novel about resistance fighters standing against a military government in what’s left of a future America.

An asteroid called “Jurbay” hit the United States in 2063, plunging the western half of the nation into the Pacific Ocean. Only 28 states survived, and they’re currently run by a vicious military called The Third; this organization has outlawed the eating of food (in lieu of nutrient pills); stolen people’s memories of home and family with “locasa” technology; and uses genetically engineered beings (or “GEBs”) to infiltrate and manipulate the masses. In 2083, 22-year-old Avery DeTornada and her friends—McGinty, Pasha, and Shaw—are members of The 28 United, a secret cabal determined to overthrow The Third. When Avery learns that someone close to her has been replaced by a GEB, she misbehaves at the factory where they work so that she can access its inner chambers. During her punishment, she encounters another key member of The 28 United and orchestrates an escape. Once on the run, Avery and company meet feral library children, trash-dump dwellers, and tree minstrels—all of whom see her as their leader in the fight against oppression. The military is wily, however, and The 28 United must conduct a nationwide roll call to see whether they stand a chance. Mansfield begins her new trilogy by dropping readers into a future that’s as propulsive as it is miserable. In marvelous, staccato prose, she describes Avery’s world as “Gray. The sky. The factory. The conveyor belt. The little pills that feed us, heal us, alter us—stabilize us.” The GEBs are reminiscent of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers but are used so cleverly here that they feel totally fresh. Although the novel is aimed at young adults, sophisticated jolts of turmoil charge the narrative, as when Avery loses “the time to let beauty perform its work on [her] spirit.” Overall, this masterful series opener is in better company with William Gibson’s Neuromancer than safer fare such as The Hunger Games.

An exhilarating ride full of sheer drops and whiplash curves.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5084-0018-9

Page Count: 370

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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