A disappointing creature feature.

MALORIE

In this sequel to the post-apocalyptic Bird Box (2014), perpetually blindfolded, scared-hopeless mom Malorie must contend with her now-teenage son's perilous desire for freedom.

Nearly 20 years ago, Malorie's hometown in Michigan's Upper Peninsula was visited by creatures that made people who merely glanced at them go mad—and in many cases kill themselves. Ever since, Malorie has been on the run, her eyes tightly covered, somehow surviving any and all obstacles. Since becoming a mother, she has holed up with her son, Tom, and daughter, Olympia, in an abandoned library and one-time summer camp, living on the edge of her fear that one or both of her kids will take off their "fold" and meet a grisly fate. Their lives change when a stranger claiming to be a census taker leaves them with a list of survivors that, to Malorie's astonishment, includes her parents. The stranger also tells them of a working train, "right here in Michigan," that will take them to the U.P. On the "Blind Train," whose windows are painted black, Malorie is unhappy to find herself among casually unblindfolded people who say it's perfectly safe to look at and even live among the creatures. That's music to Tom's ears; chafing under his mother's strict rules, he will do anything to break free of her and her acceptance of "a life in which the only aim is to keep living." Coming from an author as wildly imaginative as Malerman, whose original Bird Box was way more eerie and chilling than the lousy Netflix adaptation with Sandra Bullock, this follow-up is surprisingly humdrum. A one-note character, Malorie becomes as much a drag for the reader as for her son. It's a measure of the book's pinched storytelling that no attempt is made to describe what the creatures look like, what form they take, or even what the heck they want.

A disappointing creature feature.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-15685-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

THE RED BOOK

Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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