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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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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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