While a bit obvious, this rousing animal tale delivers an important political message.

DEALING WITH PIGS!

A scathing critique of class, politics, and greed presents a fantasy world comprised of pigs.

War rages between the pigs of Mudwallow and Hamcorner, as the elite among the Wallowites, known as snouters, seek to expand their power and fortunes through military means. As the snouters’ mercenary soldiers, the boars, and the Holy Pomponer, the head of the Wallowites’ faith, hoard food and wealth during this time, it is the weary, working-class trotters who go without. While the fight bogs down due to self-serving double-crosses and incompetent leaders, a trotter named Hunkle finds himself in the role of an unlikely revolutionary. His cousin Crumpet has produced a series of writings on pigolitics and pigolosophy that demand equality and a rejection of snouter rule. Along with the vengeful rebel Snooper and Hunkle’s son, Whiskers, Crumpet establishes the snotters, a group that rejects the strict class structure and the worship of the Pomponer’s “Great One,” a deity that supposedly blesses pigkind from the Black Mountain volcano. Unrest grows, and the snotters are able to gain advantages over the ruling upper classes through utilizing the prized badapple, a tree with explosive properties and technological possibilities, as well by taking advantage of the lies of the religious caste, which is hiding that the Great One is no god. Molloy (Ceasefire! The Ivan Molloy Story, 2018, etc.) crafts a mini-epic in the style of Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings that’s filled with scheming bad guys and harrowing battles. The blood, mud, and tragedy of the clashes are portrayed in a particularly visceral and heartbreaking fashion despite the swine participants. The parallels between Pigworld and real-world politics are numerous and enlightening but sometimes a little on the nose—the suicide-bombing “Baconers” who worship a god separate from the Great One scream Islamic terrorist stand-ins while Crumpet’s snotter philosophy mirrors Marx and Engels. The novel is full of maps, blueprints, and the author’s illustrations of pigs of importance, presented as if drawn by the book’s characters. Along with the endnotes, this material elevates the story’s already impressive worldbuilding.

While a bit obvious, this rousing animal tale delivers an important political message.

Pub Date: June 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79600-148-8

Page Count: 546

Publisher: XlibrisAU

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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