A clever fantasy featuring a protagonist guided by logic and his better angels.

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DEVIL MAY CARE

In Hickman’s (The Years of Magic, 2011) comedy, a writer publishes a bestseller that agitates the devil himself.

Ted Granville works in the research department at a small-town newspaper. Unbeknownst to his colleagues, he’s written and published a nonfiction book called The Devil and the Id—an “assessment of the origins of evil in the human psyche.” In his comfy, suburban home, he eagerly reads a glowing review of his work in the morning paper, and he fantasizes about leaving his job, as his boss, Ed Murphy, treats him horribly. Then Ted remembers that he fibbed in his author bio, stating that he was an adjunct professor of psychology, instead of just a tutor, while attending college. Meanwhile, the wealthy Chester Ambrose peruses the same review, taking special note of a quote about the devil: “Such a being does not exist. Rather, it is only the...tortured thoughts of our most inner psyche, the Id.” Chester courts the fledgling author, offering him access to gorgeous women and celebrities in his club, The Other Side. Eventually, Chester and other diabolical beings hatch a plan to blackmail Ted into writing a second book—one that admits the devil is, in fact, real. However, a strange dog named Mac, who loves watching baseball, and a woman named Annette, whom Ted saves from a speeding car, will help him navigate various horrors orchestrated by Chester. In this novel, Hickman takes a wry look at fame and the glittering prizes that could cause someone to sell their soul. For the most part, though, the story maintains a light tone as it addresses such theological issues, only hinting at humanity’s darker impulses. That said, at one point the naïve Ted does explore The Other Side (alongside scantily clad escorts Mandi and Candi), which he soon finds to be a place of both pleasure and pain. Interestingly, the narrative often feels as if it’s set in a platonic ideal of 1960s America; for example, Ted’s co-worker Jessica is a “self-professed ‘groovy girl,’ who wore miniskirts, go-go boots, and the new perfume, Patchoulie.”

A clever fantasy featuring a protagonist guided by logic and his better angels.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 367

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2018

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

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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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