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NEW PERSIA

BEFORE THE STORM

A respectful, Islamophobia-free take on Muslim thought and culture in a sci-fi setting that also delivers shock-and-awe...

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On a planet settled by colonists from Earth’s Muslim cultures (whose true history has receded into myth), young soldiers in “New Persia” find their incipient romances—and lives—jeopardized by impending war.

Lynch (Endemic, 2018) isn’t alone in imagining Islam, or something very much akin to it, flourishing in deep space; Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965) should come to mind straightaway. But Lynch’s vision centers more on the rigid codes and intrigues of conservative Bahá'í culture rather than monster sandworms. In ancient times, a distant planet with a twin-star system was settled principally by colonists/refugees from Earth’s Muslim peoples (the true history of those spacefaring days has receded into near myth). A thousand years after the early, arduous days of establishing a human foothold, the planet’s single continent hosts technology, folkways, and politics approximating those of the mid-20th-century Middle East (minus Israel). Imperial ambitions and religious divisions have arisen between the colonists’ descendants—who have established an Iranian New Persia and a Bantu-speaking North African/Arab nation of Azania—resulting in a series of wars. Talky opening chapters set the stage at a New Persian royal ball, with humble-born Capt. Basir Turani and his cousin, fighter pilot Farad Hashemi, becoming entangled in budding romances complicated by strict laws governing conduct. Basir catches the fascination of rebellious aristocrat Suri Pahlavi, who chafes at her restricted existence (one character notes: “Persian women were taught to fear men from an early age. Everything about their society was designed to protect women. Everything betrayed a deep anxiety about what would happen if men and women were free to meet”). Farad is attracted to Nasrin Avesta, from a family still tainted by association with an attempted coup against the monarchy. After that, however, the formal narrative transitions from Tolstoy to Tom Clancy. Basir and Farad head for their assignment—a border city that immediately becomes a key battleground in the latest Azanian attack. In Lynch’s novel, tank, air and ground skirmishes are crisply described while the background threat of a seasonal alien natural disaster, a fiery biochemical “seed storm,” supplies what often comes across as a token sci-fi quotient. Alternative-history fans are the ideal readership. Many readers may also appreciate (especially in the post–9/11 era) Lynch’s sympathetic portrayal of Islamic values and mores in a nuanced, layered world. In fact, we are told, the imperiled border town of Kerman predates most of New Persia and operates by its own liberal and progressive rules, and even Persepolis, the capital, tolerates Christians and nonbelievers. But adherence to dictates of the faith loom large in almost every affair, although the author is not one to criticize shortcomings of theocracy here. While principal plot threads are tied up at the end, it’s clear (even without the subtitle) this is just the promising beginning of a larger “New Persia” saga.

A respectful, Islamophobia-free take on Muslim thought and culture in a sci-fi setting that also delivers shock-and-awe combat action.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61309-641-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Wings ePress, Inc.

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

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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