A good-fun entry point into the world of steampunk.

THE GREAT ABRAHAM LINCOLN POCKET WATCH CONSPIRACY

In his fiction debut, della Quercia imaginatively steampunks a worldwide conspiracy confronting President William Howard Taft, a crisis that threatens the U.S.

Curiously, Taft is "the single greatest underground boxing champion the world would never know of." That avocation is facilitated by Nellie Taft’s willingness to run her husband’s administration; a look-alike automaton; and an 800-foot-plus flying machine, Airship One, capable of a fun trip across the pond so Taft can box four London toughs in one night. In a plot bracketed by Lincoln’s assassination and the sinking of the Titanic, Taft and company cope with a sinister superweapon fueled by cesium hydroxide, clues to which are incorporated in a pocket watch, "unlike any machine in history," given to Lincoln by a Russian ambassador. The watch is brought to Taft by a worried Robert Lincoln, Abraham’s son. More characters are yanked from history, including Tesla (he gets good press), Edison (he doesn’t), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Machiavellian J.P. Morgan, and diabolical King Leopold II of Belgium, ravager of the Congo. Taft’s the most appealing character, 350 pounds of bon homme, passionately in love with Nellie, loyal to those who serve him, including the Cuban cigar–smoking Wilkie, Secret Service chief and bane of Nellie’s existence. There’s a Marx Brothers reference amplified by a Groucho-ism; an attack at the White House; an invasion of Yale’s Skull and Bones, “the greatest secret of the society: its lack of any particularly meaningful secrets”; an Airship One trip to meet Kurtz in the heart of darkness; and a rock-'em, sock-'em shootout aboard the Titanic. Highlighted by footnotes linking events to news reports in the archives of the New York Times, the narrative moves smoothly, a tale laced with dialogue often incorporating Tom Swift–ian charm and constructed so that techno-wizardry doesn't overwhelm the story.

A good-fun entry point into the world of steampunk.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-250-02571-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 40

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

more