An amusing, somewhat peculiar story about secret government agencies, conspiracies and the bond of friendship formed in a...

HOLLY

A BRANDI BARE NOVEL

In Outlaw’s illustrated YA/conspiracy novel, a cash-strapped college student befriends a young woman claiming to be a top-secret government spy on the run from the law.

College freshman Dylan Dighton assumes she will be having a much-needed relaxing, solitary weekend on campus during Thanksgiving break. After explaining that she can’t join her roommates on a trip because she needs to work at the local record store to earn money, Dylan decides to take a walk around the neighborhood, where she witnesses a car accident. A young woman named Holly springs from the wreckage and begs Dylan not to call the police, but sirens are already blazing in the distance. After Holly injures a campus security guard with some top-notch martial arts, Dylan agrees to shelter Holly for the night in her vacant dorm. After Dylan awakes in the morning, she discovers that Holly has fled the coop and nicked a few items on her way out. When they encounter each other at a coffee shop a few hours later, Holly tells Dylan that she’s part of a government agency so secret it has no name, and she has been trained in a program related to an executive order given by President Kennedy before he was assassinated. Meanwhile, Dylan lands in hot water with campus security for the injured security guard, and she begins to wonder just what her new “friend” has dragged her into. Featuring a series of comic-book-style illustrations that show the titular character and Dylan in various states of undress and distress, the book attempts to inject mild erotic tension and playful camaraderie into a 50-year-old conspiracy about devaluing the nation’s currency. What the storytelling lacks in nuance it makes up for with relentless, page-turning pace: “The hand that came to rest on her shoulder was firm, impressive, and direct, as was the voice that followed. ‘Dylan Dighton, can we have a word with you?’ Her head pivoted quickly, and she found herself staring at campus security.” Dylan and Holly’s story is far from clichéd, but its implausibility puts it into the realm of stylized action-adventure.

An amusing, somewhat peculiar story about secret government agencies, conspiracies and the bond of friendship formed in a crisis.

Pub Date: July 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497493056

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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