A gripping sci-fi Western that ends too soon.

THE SOULS OF THE LASH

Otherworldly creatures terrorize the Wild West in this genre-bending adventure.

The sharpshooting Etta Davis is a magnetic protagonist in Reinfried’s (Grim Vengeance, 2017, etc.) latest novel. When readers meet her, she’s a miserable, hard-drinking woman who’s suspicious of everyone, but readers get to watch her transform into a magnanimous hero with bravado to match. When she hears that mysterious, feral creatures are destroying towns—and that her former paramour, Ira, is leading the charge against them—she can’t help but join the fray. Despite the fact that she’s invaluable in combat, the men that Etta aligns herself with don’t trust her merely because she’s a woman. Etta and Ira promise to leave their romantic relationship in the past, but things get complicated when a new love interest for Etta joins the fight. Meanwhile, the group’s otherworldly foes seem to grow more wily and vicious. These creatures—who remain unnamed at the end of the book—are among the most engaging elements of the novel: “They’re pretending to die, then coming back to attack,” one fighter notes at the beginning, foreshadowing the increasing threats that the gang will face. The heroes ride through town after town and help local residents defeat the otherworldly beasts, but they receive little help from others along the way. Overall, Reinfried delivers a fresh take on frontier stories with intriguing sci-fi elements. The first third of the novel, though, is consumed by a subplot about Etta escorting a father and daughter to safety. The abrupt shift in focus to Ira’s cause makes it seem like the story is missing a third act, and Etta’s complicated backstory could have used slightly more clarity. As she’s not one for talking, her trauma is mostly reported through cinematic flashbacks and conflicted inner monologues; her mantra—“Attachment means pain. Pain means distraction. Distraction means death”—is a neat, if overused, summation of her life thus far.

A gripping sci-fi Western that ends too soon.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-986901-81-9

Page Count: 264

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

more