A meditation on a dystopian future that maintains a careful balance between social satire and purposeful provocation.

THE ARREST

After the apocalypse, two former Hollywood pals find themselves at odds with one another.

Lethem is an odd duck on the best of days, so it’s no wonder his new novel imagines the end of the world through a peculiar lens. After his Big Lebowski–esque version of noir in The Feral Detective (2018), here he takes on the end of the world in a strange amalgamation of 1970s disaster movie, '80s yuppie comedy, and seemingly whatever else came out of the kitchen sink. The lead here is Alexander “Sandy” Duplessis, who, in the wake of a major disaster called the Arrest that wiped out (gasp!) television and then eventually the internet and all contemporary communications, became essentially a modern version of David Brin’s The Postman (1985), here called Journeyman. Our guy divides his time between making deliveries and studying under the local butcher. The Journeyman got stuck in rural New England when everything went to hell, visiting his sister Maddy’s farm in what seems to have become a feudal community in Maine. Things go sideways when Sandy’s old Yale roommate and Hollywood writing partner Peter Todbaum turns up in a nuclear “supercar” called The Blue Streak—modeled on the vehicle out of the old '70s post-apocalyptic movie Damnation Alley—that can apparently tunnel underground and operate underwater, among other things. The backstory is that the two men were working on a project in Hollywood (“Todbaum the bullshitter, Journeyman the hands on the keyboard”). But then something uncomfortable happened between Todbaum and Journeyman’s sister. Lethem is certainly capable of having gone full-on Cormac McCarthy here, but instead this is pretty much a sly play on post-apocalyptic fantasies, with the operative word being play. Superminimalist writing, short chapters, interstitial images from the Journeyman’s scrapbook, and Lethem’s unusual perspective make for odd bedfellows, but it’s a decent distraction from the real world right now.

A meditation on a dystopian future that maintains a careful balance between social satire and purposeful provocation.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293878-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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