Readable, intriguing, sometimes even touching, but really just a riff on a “what if” medical question.

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THE BODY

The ever-interesting Kureishi (Intimacy, 1999, etc.) conjures up a thought-provoker about an aging man who gets a young new body—and lives to regret it.

When the well-known London author and screenwriter Adam is in his mid-60s and in degenerating health, he meets a man far too young to have seen some of Adam’s earliest productions—yet who swears that he did see, and admire, them. In a nutshell? The man, named Ralph, is actually older than Adam: he’s had “surgery” to transplant his own brain—still perfectly good—into the hale and handsome body of a man who died young. Why not do the same, he urges Adam: have another fling at all the richness of life, another chance to push on in an already distinguished career? Adam tells his understanding wife that he’ll be away for six months—and, lo, Adam goes for the operation, picks out a good-looking new body from the many on display, then jaunts off to Europe for a half year of travel, food, sex, exploration, and adventure. But being suddenly a sought-after object of desire, fun enough at first, has its drawbacks—and dangers. Eluding one lover after another, Adam ends up on a Greek island doing menial work at a “spiritual center” for women run by the imperious and no-longer-young Patricia. Not only does Patricia thaw in a trice and fall hopelessly in lust with Adam, but she inadvertently acquaints him with the indescribably rich and yacht-owning playboy Matte, who reveals himself not only oh-most-evil, not only himself a “Newbody,” like Adam, but, for reasons never quite convincing to the reader, quite ready to track Adam down wherever he may flee in order to “kill” Adam and snatch his great body for his own uses. The outcome will be wholly different indeed from anything Adam could ever have wanted.

Readable, intriguing, sometimes even touching, but really just a riff on a “what if” medical question.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4904-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2003

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

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THE CITY WE BECAME

This extremely urban fantasy, a love/hate song to and rallying cry for the author’s home of New York, expands her story “The City, Born Great” (from How Long ’Til Black Future Month, 2018).

When a great city reaches the point when it's ready to come to life, it chooses a human avatar, who guides the city through its birthing and contends with an extradimensional Enemy who seeks to strike at this vulnerable moment. Now, it is New York City’s time to be born, but its avatar is too weakened by the battle to complete the process. So each of the individual boroughs instantiates its own avatar to continue the fight. Manhattan is a multiracial grad student new to the city with a secret violent past that he can no longer quite remember; Brooklyn is an African American rap star–turned–lawyer and city councilwoman; Queens is an Indian math whiz here on a visa; the Bronx is a tough Lenape woman who runs a nonprofit art center; and Staten Island is a frightened and insular Irish American woman who wants nothing to do with the other four. Can these boroughs successfully awaken and heal their primary avatar and repel the invading white tentacles of the Enemy? The novel is a bold calling out of the racial tensions dividing not only New York City, but the U.S. as a whole; it underscores that people of color are an integral part of the city’s tapestry even if some white people prefer to treat them as interlopers. It's no accident that the only white avatar is the racist woman representing Staten Island, nor that the Enemy appears as a Woman in White who employs the forces of racism and gentrification in her invasion; her true self is openly inspired by the tropes of the xenophobic author H.P. Lovecraft. Although the story is a fantasy, many aspects of the plot draw on contemporary incidents. In the real world, white people don’t need a nudge from an eldritch abomination to call down a violent police reaction on people of color innocently conducting their daily lives, and just as in the book, third parties are fraudulently transferring property deeds from African American homeowners in Brooklyn, and gentrification forces out the people who made the neighborhood attractive in the first place. In the face of these behaviors, whataboutism, #BothSides, and #NotAllWhitePeople are feeble arguments.

Fierce, poetic, uncompromising.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-50984-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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