More shambling than dystopian classics by Orwell, Atwood, and Ishiguro but energized by a similar spirit of outrage.

HAZARDS OF TIME TRAVEL

A defiant young woman in near-future America is sentenced to hard time in the 1950s Midwest.

Oates (A Book of American Martyrs, 2017, etc.) needn’t mention Donald Trump to make the target of this dark allegory clear. The United States has become a repressive regime that’s run by oligarchs, ranks its citizenry by skin tone, and “vaporizes” dissenters. The narrator, Adriane, is set to graduate high school as valedictorian until it’s discovered that her speech is filled with impertinent questions. (Like, say, Why does America fight so many wars?) Found guilty of “Treason and Questioning of Authority,” Adriane is sentenced to a re-education camp: a women’s college in central Wisconsin in 1959, eight decades in the past. (The nature of time-travel technology is initially vague, which makes for a potent late plot twist.) Given a new identity, Adriane is expected to be an Eisenhower-era good girl and not make a fuss. “I would be the ideal student—the ideal ‘coed,’ ” she writes. “I would never betray or even feel the mildest curiosity.” As in any good prison-break story, though, her compliance doesn’t last long: She finds common cause with a psychology professor who she suspects has been similarly exiled. Oates takes some pleasure in imagining Adriane’s culture shock: women fussing over their hair, bafflement about books on paper. But the overall mood is somber, stressing the point that the era those MAGA hats suggest was so great was often oppressive and mean-spirited, particularly toward women. Oates dwells much, sometimes ponderously so, on B.F. Skinner’s then-popular concept of behaviorism, which slotted humans as dim machines lacking in free will. And Oates’ late style, thick with em dashes and exclamatory prose, flirts with melodrama. But forgivably so: Are we not living in emotionally demanding times?

More shambling than dystopian classics by Orwell, Atwood, and Ishiguro but energized by a similar spirit of outrage.

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-231959-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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