A timely, and timeless, satirical novel.

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DYSTOPIA NOW

Hiestand’s debut sci-fi novel is a disturbingly plausible vision of a future America in economic and political upheaval—and a satirical gem reminiscent of the work of Philip K. Dick.

In a near-future Los Angeles plagued by a worsening recession, Everyman Zeno Jacobs is the newly appointed personnel director at HRW International, a bizarrely bureaucratic corporation that, due to a tax-credit loophole, essentially hires and fires employees for profit. The skyrocketing cost of living makes it increasingly difficult for many people to live, so it comes as no surprise when the Hundred Days Riots begin. Unruly mobs loot grocery stores, burn down banks and raze entire neighborhoods. Jacobs and his love interest, Shasta MacCalistaire, watch the proceedings from the relative safety of the HRW building as Los Angeles plunges into bloody chaos. Even after the Army establishes martial law, no one in the city is safe. Adept readers will find thematic depths in the novel’s more striking imagery; for example, the HRW building’s deadly labyrinth, where a deliveryman got lost and died, effectively symbolizes the unfathomable complexity of corporatocracy, as well as the difficulties that normal people have navigating a normal workday. (The paintings on the labyrinth’s walls offer up additional profundities.) At the same time, the cleverly constructed narrative is briskly paced and utterly readable. Like the best Philip K. Dick tales, the story works on multiple levels simultaneously—as a breathtakingly bleak vision of the future, a cautionary tale replete with social commentary, and, above all, an unlikely and unforgettable love story.

A timely, and timeless, satirical novel.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0989314985

Page Count: 482

Publisher: Air Raid Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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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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