A powerful examination of the dog-human relationship.

READ REVIEW

SADIE SAPIENS

Emma is surprised to find an intelligent friend in her new dog, Sadie.

After Emma’s beloved family dog dies, she doesn’t think she wants another. But when her mother brings home Sadie, a precocious Chihuahua, Emma can’t help but get attached. With her mother lost in her work and her brother constantly holed up in his room playing violent video games (her father is her only ally at home), Emma finds it easy to lose herself in Sadie, especially once she realizes Sadie is highly intelligent. Sadie progresses quickly in her lessons, moving from listening to Emma’s explanations to learning to sound out words in her own language to mastering written and other forms of expression. Plus, Emma finds there is much Sadie can teach her, with her superior sense of smell and understanding of the natural world. Beyond her home life, Emma is preparing for high school graduation, thinking about sharing an apartment with her best friend and finding a boyfriend, but Sadie’s arrival changes her life in ways she couldn’t anticipate. While it seems like an awful lot of random events occur, most are based on the family dynamics laid out in the first few chapters, making for a tightly executed plot. Despite the light premise, this is a heavy book: human issues like death and mental illness feature prominently, as do more canine-specific issues like dog fighting, puppy mills, and shelter life. The narrative focuses a lot of attention on the work done in shelters to help animals, clearly a concern of author Bauer (Wakulla Bones, 2013, etc.), who dedicates the book to pets and mentions the Tallahassee Animal Service Center. Sadie’s story also brings up broader issues, like the roles dogs play in the lives of people, what they need from humans, and how far humanity has come from its more animal instincts. There’s a frustrating lack of wonder about why Sadie is the way she is, although this question does come into play later in the story. Characters fill important roles but are mostly flat, falling into good and bad categories easily assessed by their smells. Nevertheless, the well-paced story brings up interesting dog food for thought.

A powerful examination of the dog-human relationship.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494274252

Page Count: 322

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2015

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.

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?

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...

LOVECRAFT COUNTRY

Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more