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From the World Made by Hand series , Vol. 4

Having another go at concepts and themes he explored in previous books, Kunstler delivers an entertaining if not overly...

This fourth and final installment of Kunstler's speculative World Made by Hand series envisions a post-apocalyptic America struggling to put itself back together through a fractious convergence of political, ideological, and religious forces.

As spring approaches, the upstate New York town of Union Grove is facing its usual shortage of food, what with the trade route to Albany having been blocked by all-powerful, feudal-minded landowner Stephen Bullock. And there are even more crucial needs, such as a vaccine to save the 8-year-old daughter of town mayor Robert Earle's girlfriend from tetanus (his wife died of encephalitis)—and more sperm-bearers to repopulate the area. Such is the shortage of men that physically endowed movement leader Flame Aurora Greengrass picks up Elam, a none-too-bright war veteran, in a bar. (Her father, Glen Ethan Greengrass, one-time public radio personality, founded the superliberal, all-inclusive, anti-establishment Berkshire People's Republic.) Though marauding gangs lurk outside of town, ready to do in innocent people—not to mention innocent cows—there is relatively little violence here. Attention is paid to yeoman efforts by Robert's son Daniel to start a newspaper, with Karen Grolsch, the "duck boss" at a local farm, as his aspiring reporter. The book's reflection of America has a kind of fun-house mirror effect in producing scenes that echo a distant American past while speaking in a contemporary tongue. "The USA is toast," utters one nonbeliever. There are plentiful pop cultural references—including The Big Lebowski, Pete Seeger, and Meet the Press. "We don't have any use for Jesus," says Flame. "We're not in the twelfth century."

Having another go at concepts and themes he explored in previous books, Kunstler delivers an entertaining if not overly captivating account of an American society reinventing itself in the wake of a terrorist attack.

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2492-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both—fantasy, the...

Brown presents the second installment of his epic science-fiction trilogy, and like the first (Red Rising, 2014), it’s chock-full of interpersonal tension, class conflict and violence.

The opening reintroduces us to Darrow au Andromedus, whose wife, Eo, was killed in the first volume. Also known as the Reaper, Darrow is a lancer in the House of Augustus and is still looking for revenge on the Golds, who are both in control and in the ascendant. The novel opens with a galactic war game, seemingly a simulation, but Darrow’s opponent, Karnus au Bellona, makes it very real when he rams Darrow’s ship and causes a large number of fatalities. In the main narrative thread, Darrow has infiltrated the Golds and continues to seek ways to subvert their oppressive and dominant culture. The world Brown creates here is both dense and densely populated, with a curious amalgam of the classical, the medieval and the futuristic. Characters with names like Cassius, Pliny, Theodora and Nero coexist—sometimes uneasily—with Daxo, Kavax and Sevro. And the characters inhabit a world with a vaguely medieval social hierarchy yet containing futuristic technology such as gravBoots. Amid the chronological murkiness, one thing is clear—Darrow is an assertive hero claiming as a birthright his obligation to fight against oppression: "For seven hundred years we have been enslaved….We have been kept in darkness. But there will come a day when we walk in the light." Stirring—and archetypal—stuff.  

Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both—fantasy, the future and quasi-historicism.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-345-53981-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 3

An ambitious and satisfying conclusion to a monumental saga.

Brown completes his science-fiction trilogy with another intricately plotted and densely populated tome, this one continuing the focus on a rebellion against the imperious Golds.

This last volume is incomprehensible without reference to the first two. Briefly, Darrow of Lykos, aka Reaper, has been “carved” from his status as a Red (the lowest class) into a Gold. This allows him to infiltrate the Gold political infrastructure…but a game’s afoot, and at the beginning of the third volume, Darrow finds himself isolated and imprisoned for his insurgent activities. He longs both for rescue and for revenge, and eventually he gets both. Brown is an expert at creating violent set pieces whose cartoonish aspects (“ ‘Waste ’em,’ Sevro says with a sneer” ) are undermined by the graphic intensity of the savagery, with razors being a favored instrument of combat. Brown creates an alternative universe that is multilayered and seething with characters who exist in a shadow world between history and myth, much as in Frank Herbert’s Dune. This world is vaguely Teutonic/Scandinavian (with characters such as Magnus, Ragnar, and the Valkyrie) and vaguely Roman (Octavia, Romulus, Cassius) but ultimately wholly eclectic. At the center are Darrow, his lover, Mustang, and the political and military action of the Uprising. Loyalties are conflicted, confusing, and malleable. Along the way we see Darrow become more heroic and daring and Mustang, more charismatic and unswerving, both agents of good in a battle against forces of corruption and domination. Among Darrow’s insights as he works his way to a position of ascendancy is that “as we pretend to be brave, we become so.”

An ambitious and satisfying conclusion to a monumental saga.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-53984-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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