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FLUX

A paranoid and inventive cautionary tale about buying into someone else’s glitchy utopia.

A marketing exec unknowingly makes a devil’s bargain when he’s offered a job that’s too good to be true.

More literary alchemy than timey-wimey SF, Chong’s debut novel falls right on the emotional bubble between the cult film Donnie Darko and Charles Yu’s noodle-bender Interior Chinatown (2020). The narrative throughline pivots on one very strange day for 28-year-old Brandon, who's half Korean, queer, and confused most of the time. Working for one of America’s last magazines, he’s not really surprised when he’s fired a few days before Christmas. After he uncharacteristically buys an expensive handbag and makes a pass at the salesclerk, he falls down an elevator shaft. Then he’s offered a job by Lev, a fast-talking raconteur who works for Flux, a Silicon Valley–flavored startup founded by enigmatic Io Emsworth, a doppelgänger for convicted charlatan Elizabeth Holmes promising an equally nebulous breakthrough. By the time these machinations start revolving, Chong has already broken the timeline. When 8-year-old Bo loses his mother in a car accident, he becomes obsessed with the 1980s detective show Raider. The show’s legacy is both groundbreaking for star Antonin Haubert’s portrayal of an Asian police detective and “the most racist fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” according to Lev, compounded by its star’s spectacular fall from grace. Meanwhile, Blue, 48, is navigating life after two months spent in a coma and a tenuous relationship with his ex and their daughter. Every day, Brandon comes to work, eats his breakfast, and then…he doesn’t know what happens, but he’s losing days and weeks at a time. In a story about identity, our hero isn’t always the most sympathetic cast member even in a story flush with fakers. The fantastical elements lend intrigue, but Chong seems more interested in grief and the ways it shapes us than rewarming old chestnuts about art and the nature of blame.

A paranoid and inventive cautionary tale about buying into someone else’s glitchy utopia.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9781685890346

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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