A rock novel that’s more DOA than DIY.

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DESTROY ALL MONSTERS

With local bands being shot down in seemingly random killings, musicians question their devotion to rock n’ roll.

The sophomore novel from Jackson (Mira Corpora, 2013) is a dazed and confused meander through the music scene of the small town of Arcadia in the wake of a series of murders. Our eye into the place is Xenie, a teenage singer with hidden gifts but one who is keeping some dark secrets. “Follow the trail of unused tickets,” compels the book, a series of random snapshots of disaffected characters reeling as bands start getting shot midperformance all over the country. After her boyfriend is killed, Xenie goes a little bit crazy. On the edge of unleashing her voice, she stumbles. “But this time, I didn’t feel inspired to even move my lips,” she says. “The power of music had been steadily disintegrating, and now I realized the remaining scraps had started to curdle....Maybe whatever infected the killers had also infected me.” Jackson portrays the motley scene of dive bars, drunken musicians, and punk ethos with a practiced eye, and his prose is linguistically nimble. But there’s an emptiness to this experimental novel which comes complete with a Side A and a Side B, two alternate versions of the same story. Not only does the book offer little in the way of resolution, the monotony of the characters makes them virtually interchangeable. Xenie tries to make an argument that these killings are meant to make the music matter again, but the story here argues the opposite, portraying the banality and futility of a dying scene. You can see where Jackson is going, whipping up an indie-influenced modern Singles, but there’s just no edge here. As Xenie ultimately learns, “Anybody can open their mouth...and sing a fucking song.”

A rock novel that’s more DOA than DIY.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-53766-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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Very smart and very entertaining.

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THE POWER

All over the world, teenage girls develop the ability to send an electric charge from the tips of their fingers.

It might be a little jolt, as thrilling as it is frightening. It might be powerful enough to leave lightning-bolt traceries on the skin of people the girls touch. It might be deadly. And, soon, the girls learn that they can awaken this new—or dormant?—ability in older women, too. Needless to say, there are those who are alarmed by this development. There are efforts to segregate and protect boys, laws to ensure that women who possess this ability are banned from positions of authority. Girls are accused of witchcraft. Women are murdered. But, ultimately, there’s no stopping these women and girls once they have the power to kill with a touch. Framed as a historical novel written in the far future—long after rule by women has been established as normal and, indeed, natural—this is an inventive, thought-provoking work of science fiction that has already won the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction in Britain. Alderman (The Liars’ Gospel, 2013, etc.) chronicles the early days of matriarchy’s rise through the experiences of four characters. Tunde is a young man studying to be a journalist who happens to capture one of the first recordings of a girl using the power; the video goes viral, and he devotes himself to capturing history in the making. After Margot’s daughter teaches her to use the power, Margot has to hide it if she wants to protect her political career. Allie takes refuge in a convent after running away from her latest foster home, and it’s here that she begins to understand how newly powerful young women might use—and transform—religious traditions. Roxy is the illegitimate daughter of a gangster; like Allie, she revels in strength after a lifetime of knowing the cost of weakness. Both the main story and the frame narrative ask interesting questions about gender, but this isn’t a dry philosophical exercise. It’s fast-paced, thrilling, and even funny.

Very smart and very entertaining.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-54761-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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