A philosophical story about fears to which no beating heart is immune.

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HANDLING THE UNDEAD

Bright lights in a big city herald the return of the dead in Swedish horrorist Lindqvist’s second novel, after Let the Right One In (2007), a vampire tale that was later turned into a movie.

This time the author replaces vampires with zombies, a switch that effectively accents his expressive, unnerving writing. In the process he offers a unique and humanistic take on the undead that has a place alongside thoughtful horror novels like World War Z. The story begins in Stockholm with a subtle natural phenomenon. The country, deep in its winter twilight, experiences a collective headache that threatens to drive its sufferers mad. Next, the city is struck by a massive short circuit, a reverse blackout that powers up every appliance. Then Lindqvist introduces his cast: David, a stand-up comedian and loving husband; Mahler, a suicidal journalist who mourns the untimely death of his grandson Elias; and Elvy and her granddaughter Flora, quietly acknowledging the new telepathy that has emerged between them. When the dead do come back, the book delivers believable terror. The most disquieting scenes come early. David rushes to the hospital, where his beloved wife Eva has died in a car accident. As he cries with despair, his wife suddenly grasps his hand, opens one gruesome dead eye and croaks his name. Anyone who can drop off to sleep after this passage has nerves of steel. After photographing a newly reanimated morgue, Mahler rushes to his grandson’s grave, where he disinters the child’s body and carries the desiccated corpse home to bathe it. What’s interesting about what follows is the way that it’s handled—not with Romero-esque sarcasm and blood-spattering gunplay, but with sincere reflection on what would happen if the dead arose. How would the government respond? What does it mean to be human if death is not the end? And perhaps most importantly, how would we feel if those we loved and lost were suddenly returned to us?

A philosophical story about fears to which no beating heart is immune.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-60525-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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