There’s a lot of verbal and postmodern high jinks in these 700-plus pages, and they will likely strain anyone’s patience and...

NOVEL EXPLOSIVES

A man with amnesia and $20 million, a well-read venture capitalist adrift after a hot deal, and two drug lord gunmen combine to perform a time-twisting minuet in this big, brainy, trippy, Technicolor noir of a debut.

Take Thomas Pynchon and David Foster Wallace at their densest, some Malcolm Lowry–esque south-of-the-border malevolence and lots of technobabble, financial arcana, and myriad ad hoc drivel sessions—that may start to suggest what Gauer is up to here. The core story is simple, but he breaks it up and reassembles it with two narrative voices, assorted time jumps, a cool shift in point of view, and a compulsion to spin out every basic element across dozens of pages while exploring the outré entries of the English lexicon. It begins with a man waking up in a Guanajuato, Mexico, hotel. He has a bump on his head and no memory of his identity. His wallet tells him he bears the same name as a pseudonym of the early-20th-century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa (Gauer is a poet and, not incidentally, a venture capitalist). A local banker tells him he has almost $20 million in his account. When the narrative—covering the week of April 13 to 20 in 2009—shifts to the gunmen, they are assigned by their Shakespeare-quoting boss (“Guy’s like two-thirds Money, one-third Thesaurus”) to comb through El Paso and Juarez for a guy who has a lot of the boss’s money, part of a laundering operation that also somehow entails the VC’s latest hot and dubious deal. It’s only when the VC flies to El Paso and embarks on a phantasmagoric road trip south that key players and plot points begin to coalesce. The closing pages include one horrific scene that unfortunately is later replayed and an epic Mexican standoff that more or less starts with a man citing Ovid, Schopenhauer, and Heidegger within six lines.

There’s a lot of verbal and postmodern high jinks in these 700-plus pages, and they will likely strain anyone’s patience and commitment, but for readers who enjoy this kind of thing, it will be worth the effort.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55713-433-2

Page Count: 722

Publisher: Zerogram Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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