A vigorous, sometimes-entertaining, but unconvincing tale of future imperfect.

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A Perfect Life

A boy is raised to have a perfect life—as defined by a team of corporate scientists—in this strident satire of a near-future dystopia.

In the year 2020, the World Government—its president chosen by the World Economic Forum, its Congress composed of representatives from the 300 highest earning global corporations—adopts newborn Jimmy Clark as the prototype for its program of offering all citizens a perfect life. He is made handsome by infant cosmetic surgery, raised by a preternaturally nurturing robot, provided with a constant feed of drugs to keep his mood elevated and stable, and sent to Manhattan’s finest private schools to acquire not knowledge but the “skills” indispensable for success: grit, teamwork, data-crunching, and back-stabbing. Jimmy joins an investment firm run by his benefactor, a fundamentalist Christian plutocrat who thinks God and Mammon get along fine, and soon amasses his own business empire, including a company wrapping the planet in an electronically linked supersystem called “the Internet of Things Web.” The only complication in Jimmy’s life is Chelsea, a school sweetheart and dissident in an underground hacktivist group. Despite her rebellious proclivities, the World Government insists she marry Jimmy: “Your role is to support Jimmy’s success and make him happy. If you don’t, you’ll both be vaporized.” The novel’s rickety, absurdist plot and stick-figure characters—Jimmy is a Candide-like naif, Chelsea a doctrinaire romantic—exist mainly as pegs on which to hang Spring’s (Globalization of Education: An Introduction, 2014, etc.) vision of softly totalitarian capitalism that is a lurid extension of current trends. The colorful world features driverless cabs, unctuous artificial intelligence, custom-flavored synthetic food, and inescapable video surveillance, even during sex. Plastic forests feature animatronic fauna, and a global water vendor pollutes rivers and lakes so locals will have to buy its products. Substituting for happiness are drugs and an ethos of “shoppiness”: artificially induced dream fantasies bring crowds stampeding into malls. Among the bogus claims of convenience and personal empowerment, Spring’s spoof of consumer culture is often funny, and there’s an Orwellian verve to his prose: “If it wasn’t for your mother, we would reeducate you at the We Love You Farm.” But his dystopia feels less like a prophetic cautionary tale than a compendium of Occupier paranoias, with victims who are too robotic themselves to really care about.

A vigorous, sometimes-entertaining, but unconvincing tale of future imperfect.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-692-48578-1

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Phoenix Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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