AMERICAN EPITAPH

A grim 2025 comes to life in Laabs’s timely dystopian thriller.

Just over a decade into the future, the United States of America has succumbed to rule by a tiny, extremely wealthy fraction of the population. After winning the election in the fall of 2012, America’s elite turned their chosen politicians into little more than puppets. Elections are rigged, states are fractured, homosexuals are institutionalized and the vast nonelite is divided between government wage-slaves and unemployed squatters. Patrick, the book’s hero, ekes out a living growing vegetables in his backyard. When Jimmy, a hard-nosed Vietnam veteran, enlists Patrick in a mission to aid his small rebel faction, Patrick finds himself becoming a leader in the increasingly powerful rebellion. Laabs’s eerily plausible shadow-America is an engaging environment for any reader to explore (especially one who shares Laabs’s liberal politics). The plot tracks the rebellion’s progression from a ragtag band to an actual threat to the elite, and the story’s clever twists and turns are exciting throughout. There’s even a delightfully sadistic villain named Nefario, who is prone to bouts of melancholy and dreams of dictatorship and nuclear weapons. Most of the characters, though, are closer to two-dimensional caricatures than fully realized people. Early on, Patrick expresses ambivalence about killing his opponents, but as the book focuses more on the rebellion’s development, such examples of introspection and emotion fall by the wayside. Clunky exposition is a problem too; one 20something, who presumably lived through the country’s transformation herself, actually says to Jimmy: “How did things become the way they are now?” Similarly, the plot is unnaturally tidy: complicated missions routinely go off without a hitch and key characters come to exactly the right realizations at exactly the right times. But despite this book’s drawbacks, it boasts a propulsive plot, a creepy-cool setting and a sense of genuinely high stakes. Laabs offers an imaginative, well-oiled machine of a story, with just enough connection to current tensions to keep readers involved and anxious.

 

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0976759959

Page Count: 264

Publisher: First American

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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