Robotic nanocells!! Taking over!! Definitely bad news.

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CRAWLERS

Really, really, really, really gruesome and Shirleyesque.

Shirley is a philosophe/fantaste of the Grand Guignol school who reinvents hell in work after work, seemingly for a fanbase of the kind of kid who loves slasher movies—films that come nowhere near the grue that Shirley can squeeze from flesh (The View from Hell, 2001, we called “worst novel of the year,” and 2002’s Demons we called “masterful, amusing, and sent from Mars”). Crawlers is the musings of a technocrank, and we open at the government’s three-walls-thick secret nanotechnology lab, where molecular machines have gone berserk and let cells loose that dismember humans and use human arms and legs and heads and torsos to crawl about independently of each other and perform further dismemberments. Three years later, a US satellite module crashes into a lake near Quiebra, California (Quiebra, we are told, means “queer-bait”). Two teenagers, Waylon Kulick and Adair Leverton, observe the crash. Adair’s brother Cal alerts their father, who runs Leverton Salvage, and he goes down to salvage the sunken module. It has a crack, and when Dad sticks his fingers into the crack, there’s an answering touch and tingle. Then the module is hauled aloft as the reader squirms: Don’t open it! Soon, naked crawlers show up in a cemetery—bodies that have metal extensions seemingly to help them crawl out of their graves and join in groupthink mental transference. Pets start dying, killed violently. Squirrels have long metal tongues, blue jays metal feet, and they don’t run or fly, they roll. People start turning into weird machines with huge mouths, turning other people into weird machines. Sure, it’s California—but this could get outta hand. What if it goes online, like a virus, or zaps you from your telephone—or even from the television! Omigod, these long silver strands leap into your mouth and turn you. Horrible!

Robotic nanocells!! Taking over!! Definitely bad news.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-345-44652-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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