A dystopian novel in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale, viewed through the children who suffer from our mistakes.

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THE DIVERS' GAME

The elusive and ever evolving Ball (Census, 2018, etc.) returns with a radical new novel about a divisive future that takes inequality to grotesque extremes.

If they don’t teach Ball’s work in college by now, they should, if only as an example of an author whose books are so different from one another that a reader might not even recognize them as the work of one person save for Ball’s spare prose, eccentric imagination, and pinpoint narrative composition. Perhaps he’s a collective, like Banksy. The story opens with students Lethe and Lois in class the day before a mysterious holiday called Ogias’ Day, which hasn’t happened in more than 50 years. Through their discussions with their drunk, grieving teacher, Mandred, we learn more about their world. Some time ago, an influx of refugees triggered a politician to suggest an extreme solution: They can come in, “as long as we can tell them apart.” Over time, this led to the development of a lower caste of people with no legal standing, all branded with a tattoo of a red hat on their faces, and forced to amputate their thumbs. Any legal citizen, “Pats,” can also kill these “quads” at any time, but on Ogias’ day, the tables are turned. From here, the story flips through different characters in different circumstances but all set in this curious new societal matrix. We learn about a child sacrifice ceremony called the Infanta and about the titular Divers' Game, a legendary and highly risky channel by which children might escape their fate. It’s imaginatively horrifying, even if it doesn’t always make sense, and readers who appreciate Ball’s keen, melancholic, and often sadly satirical view of human society will likely appreciate this timely assessment of where division might take us and how it affects the generations that come after us.

A dystopian novel in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale, viewed through the children who suffer from our mistakes.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267610-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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