Animal lovers will enjoy the antics of the beagles, bears, salamanders, cows, spiders, and other creatures, but the author's...

DOWNDRIFT

Kangaroos, foxes, dolphins, and many other animals take on human characteristics, behaviors, and foibles in this inventive debut novel by Drucker (Fabulas Feminae, 2015, etc.).

The principal characters in this wildly imaginative, laugh-out-loud funny, and ultimately heartbreaking story are a 3.8 billion-year-old cellular life form known as an Archaeon, a restless calico cat named Callie who sets out from Boston, and an unnamed lion, whose shrinking habitat forces him to wander far from his home in Tanzania. The Archaeon, who dryly informs us that he is "not one of those swaggering microorganisms," recounts the "downdrift" (or is it "uplift"?) of emotions, communications, and careers from humans to the animal kingdom. Chimps discover organized warfare. Birds open a public relations firm. Antelopes wearing earbuds listen to the music of "Beasthoven," "Moosart," and "Mauler." Poodles drive taxicabs. Adders become accountants. Vegetarianism comes into vogue. In short, "all the animals are susceptible to seepage from the human species." The mutations and contagions accelerate as Callie and the lion, who "feels the loss of everything he has ever known or relied on," head toward their mutual destination. The Archaean's tales of the many different animals are delivered in deliciously short chapters that build over the course of one year into a story that's by turns droll, subversive, pensive, brooding, off-the-charts weird, and wonderfully surprising. When Callie and the lion find each other, the novel becomes a poignant meditation on the fate of the wild, the future of domesticity, and our own limited knowledge and understanding of the astonishing animal kingdom of which we are a part.

Animal lovers will enjoy the antics of the beagles, bears, salamanders, cows, spiders, and other creatures, but the author's beautifully subtle message isn't just for pet owners or environmentalists. It's for all of us.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941110-61-4

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Three Rooms Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self-described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because...

FIGHT CLUB

Brutal and relentless debut fiction takes anarcho-S&M chic to a whole new level—in a creepy, dystopic, confrontational novel that's also cynically smart and sharply written.

Palahniuk's insomniac narrator, a drone who works as a product recall coordinator, spends his free time crashing support groups for the dying. But his after-hours life changes for the weirder when he hooks up with Tyler Durden, a waiter and projectionist with plans to screw up the world—he's a "guerilla terrorist of the service industry." "Project Mayhem" seems taken from a page in The Anarchist Cookbook and starts small: Durden splices subliminal scenes of porno into family films and he spits into customers' soup. Things take off, though, when he begins the fight club—a gruesome late-night sport in which men beat each other up as partial initiation into Durden's bigger scheme: a supersecret strike group to carry out his wilder ideas. Durden finances his scheme with a soap-making business that secretly steals its main ingredient—the fat sucked from liposuction. Durden's cultlike groups spread like wildfire, his followers recognizable by their open wounds and scars. Seeking oblivion and self-destruction, the leader preaches anarchist fundamentalism: "Losing all hope was freedom," and "Everything is falling apart"—all of which is just his desperate attempt to get God's attention. As the narrator begins to reject Durden's revolution, he starts to realize that the legendary lunatic is just himself, or the part of himself that takes over when he falls asleep. Though he lands in heaven, which closely resembles a psycho ward, the narrator/Durden lives on in his flourishing clubs.

This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self-described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because it's so compelling.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-03976-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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