Though genre purists will find Zeh's (Eagles and Angels, 2003) bold use of coincidence nothing short of monstrous, readers...

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IN FREE FALL

A scholarly dispute over the nature of the universe erupts in kidnapping and murder in this gripping, high-toned philosophical thriller.

Ever since they were in school together, studying physics under the tutelage of the improbably nicknamed Little Red Riding Hood, Sebastian and Oskar have held fundamentally different views of the world. Oskar, now a big-shot physicist in Geneva who preaches the single-answer theory that holds that things are as they are and not otherwise, is chasing the Nobel Prize through his labors to unite quantum physics with the general theory of relativity. Sebastian, an experimental nanotechnologist at the University of Freiburg, is a proponent of the Many-Worlds Interpretation in which the Big Bang engendered countless parallel universes where things can both be and not be the case at the same time. When Sebastian married Maike, an artists' agent and gallery owner, Oskar made no secret of his verdict that Sebastian was settling for a consolation prize. Now that their son Liam is ten years old, he sneers that everything on earth that matters to Sebastian bears his surname. The day after Sebastian accepts Oskar's challenge to debate their positions on a live TV program broadcast from Mainz, he's driving Liam to camp when his car disappears with his sleeping son inside. By the time the empty car is returned, Sebastian has received a ransom demand that names a horrific price. Even after he complies with the kidnappers' demand and feels that the catastrophe has passed, his life enters a precipitous free fall that tangles his fate with that of dour murder-squad detective Rita Skura and her old mentor, Detective Chief Superintendent Schilf, who's teetering on the edge of death and love.

Though genre purists will find Zeh's (Eagles and Angels, 2003) bold use of coincidence nothing short of monstrous, readers who can surrender to her radical rewriting of the rules of detective fiction and the physical universe will find it revelatory.

Pub Date: April 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-52642-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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