Elevates the dystopian genre with snappy writing, well-drawn characters, intriguing back story, and bracing battles.

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CLING

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a woman with special powers and a small band of underground survivors take on a cruel warlord.

Some time after worldwide catastrophic events, few people live past the age of 40. An illness called Cling can be cured only with Clear, a rare substance that’s best found with the help of a “martyr,” a person who can also read minds—like Sadie, 35. She keeps her gift hidden and uses it sparingly (it can sicken or kill), which helps her win card games to buy fuel and avoid warlords such as Gen. Gash. That’s the world aboveground; underground are “moles,” descendants of the first survivors. Polymath Rafael “Rafa” Carrera Allende, 20, lives in one such community, an enlightened bastion. Locating a supply of Clear is crucial, so when the community’s expedition crosses paths with Sadie (deathly ill after overusing her gift), she seems like the answer to its problems. Complicating matters is a tunnel recently discovered that leads from the community to a spot beneath Gash’s lair. There’s also an undeclared war between Gash and Vidar, an arms dealer who employs bounty hunter Finn, who is also Sadie’s ex. They still have a connection, even if she won’t admit it. Finn, Vidar, the community, and Sadie have all the ingredients for a knockdown battle that could end Gash once and for all, free his slaves, obtain Clear, and keep civilization going. Though post-apocalyptic novels set in a Mad Max–like landscape aren’t new, Menapace (Side Effects, 2016, etc.) and debut author Bravo make their hard-bitten world come alive with telling moments, such as a border-town tavern that offers “bowls of what was billed to be cricket mush, but that Sadie knew was roach.” In such a tale, Rafa’s community could easily be made to seem weak and namby-pamby, but the authors intelligently show the hard work, care, and tough-mindedness it takes to keep civilization going. At the same time, the good guys deliver very satisfying beat downs to the baddies in scenes of rousing, cinematic action.

Elevates the dystopian genre with snappy writing, well-drawn characters, intriguing back story, and bracing battles.

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9888433-7-0

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Mind Mess Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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