A cultured, witty, and very British attack on vapid reality TV values, set in an empty-souled tomorrow.

ALWAYS GREENER

In this debut novel, a reality TV game show in the future seeks out pathetic individuals while its host loses enthusiasm for his tawdry job.

In London in 2072, Liam Argyle is an undistinguished, aging bachelor, meteorologist/gamer, unexpectedly cast as the host of Grass Is Greener on a network subsidiary of the all-dominating, Rupert Murdoch-esque RedCorp. This behemoth streams programs directly to the augmented reality implants people carry in their eyeballs or spectacles. GiG immerses viewers in point-of-view feeds from working-class folks with the most demeaning lives and careers. Viewer votes eliminate wretched contestants until the most deserving one wins an elite, off-planet life. Subjects include Liam’s old university political science professor, fearful of losing his position; a one-armed Cuban refugee who contracts illnesses as a medical test subject; a kvetching woman who cleans suicide scenes; a loathsome functionary who denies health care to the poor; and a husky Native American, the United States’ last flesh-and-blood porn star amid robots. Lawless is an admirer of Douglas Adams but the tale’s relationship to the riotous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is mostly in footnotes that expound wryly on word origins, cultural asides, or non sequiturs. Once Mars resorts and sex droids are factored out, Lawless’ story skews more toward Evelyn Waugh’s urbane savagery or boardroom and business satires like Ernie Kovac’s novel Zoomar. Liam eventually balks at the cruel choices made by the Machiavellian show’s creators (a comatose, cancer-stricken contestant is allowed to lie unaided in the street). Even Liam is subject to humiliatingly staged nonevents and injury in bids for high AR viewership. Yesteryear’s SF authors could be eerily accurate in predicting reality TV, but in the context of entertainment centered on murder and death. Lawless’ clever novel reflects the present day’s digital media voyeurism and Survivor/Big Brother exploitation—no camera-equipped hit men, but still sardonic, with an ultimately dark outlook on the amoral peddling of schadenfreude, Thanatos, and boffo ratings. The work skews close enough to the real thing to make readers uncomfortable and perhaps wish for a little of Stephen King’s The Running Man, where the answer is to blow the whole place up. Liam is an especially feckless hero and practically useless as a rebel against the system. There is a hint this will change in a sequel. 

A cultured, witty, and very British attack on vapid reality TV values, set in an empty-souled tomorrow.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-949671-04-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Uproar Books, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2019

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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