Rankin’s (Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2014, etc.) canny cop is as gray and dour as his Edinburgh beat, but he’s in fine form...

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THE BEAT GOES ON

THE COMPLETE REBUS STORIES

Rebus fans, rejoice: here are one novella, two new stories, and 28 reprinted tales about veteran detective John Rebus.

This cross section of Rebus’ career includes a month-by-month account of his detective work, starting with “Playback,” a case that everyone but our hero considers open-and-shut. It’s followed by a tale of a homeless man providing Rebus with a valuable clue in “Being Frank”; a vision of Jesus that helps solve a murder in “Seeing Things”; an assist from Shakespeare in "A Good Hanging”; and the cycle’s final entry, in which an ex-con finds his own kind of peace at the year’s end in “Auld Lang Syne.” Christmas brings its offbeat crimes, too. "No Sanity Claus” shows how useful a holiday outfit can be for a small-time crook. In “St. Nicked,” a Yuletide heist takes an unexpected turn. And Rebus finds himself in a showdown at the Festival of Santas in “Penalty Claus.” In other previously published stories, the detective’s keen ear cracks a case in "Talk Show,” and his skill with crossword puzzles comes to the fore in “Trip Trap.” Rebus, generally a notorious rule flouter, is unusually conscientious in "Facing the Music.” The novella, Death Is Not the End, reunites Rebus with a childhood friend and an old flame. In "The Very Last Drop,” the recently retired Rebus takes on a ghost in a brewery. The first of the two new stories, "The Passenger,” concerns a woman who bought a one-way ticket on a solitary holiday, and the second shows the perennially hard-drinking Rebus running true to form when he’s up against “A Three-Pint Problem.”

Rankin’s (Saints of the Shadow Bible, 2014, etc.) canny cop is as gray and dour as his Edinburgh beat, but he’s in fine form in these clever, occasionally touching, and often wryly funny vignettes.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-29683-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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