A viral spaghetti Western; it’s not Sergio Leone—or, for that matter, Michael Crichton—but it’s a satisfying confection.

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THE TWELVE

From the Passage Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Cronin continues the post-apocalyptic—or, better, post-viral—saga launched with 2010’s The Passage.

The good citizens of Texas might like nothing better than to calve off into a republic and go to war with someone with their very own army and navy, but you wouldn’t want to wish the weird near-future world of Cronin’s latest on anyone, even if it means that Rick Perry is no longer governor. Readers of The Passage will recall that weird things have happened to humankind thanks to—sigh—a sort-of-zombie-inducing virus unleashed by, yes, sort-of-mad-scientists who were trying to create supersoldiers out of ordinary GIs. You may be forgiven for thinking of The Dirty Dozen at that point in the plot, but the “virals” in question are far badder than Telly Savalas and John Cassavetes. Enter Amy Harper Bellafonte, known Eastwood-esquely as The Girl from Nowhere, whose job it is to save humankind from its own dark devices. Amy’s chief butt-kicking sidekick is a virally compromised cutie named Alicia Donadio, “scout sniper of the Expeditionary,” who has a weirdly telepathic way of communicating with the baddies. The tale that ensues is pretty generic, in the sense that the zombie/virus/sword-and-sorcery genres allow only so much variation from convention; if you’ve seen the old Showtime series Jeremiah, then you’ll have a good chunk of the plot down. Cronin serves up a largely predictable high-concept blend of The Alamo and The Andromeda Strain, but his yarn has many virtues: It’s very well-paced. It’s not very pleasant (“A strong smell of urine tanged in her nostrils, coating the membranes of her mouth and throat”), but it’s very well-written, far more so than most apocalypse novels, and that excuses any number of sins. And it’s always a pleasure to see strong women go storming around as the new sheriffs in town in a world gone bad, even if they’re sometimes compelled to drink blood to get their work done.

A viral spaghetti Western; it’s not Sergio Leone—or, for that matter, Michael Crichton—but it’s a satisfying confection.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-50498-2

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE NIGHT CIRCUS

Self-assured, entertaining debut novel that blends genres and crosses continents in quest of magic.

The world’s not big enough for two wizards, as Tolkien taught us—even if that world is the shiny, modern one of the late 19th century, with its streetcars and electric lights and newfangled horseless carriages. Yet, as first-time novelist Morgenstern imagines it, two wizards there are, if likely possessed of more legerdemain than true conjuring powers, and these two are jealous of their turf. It stands to reason, the laws of the universe working thus, that their children would meet and, rather than continue the feud into a new generation, would instead fall in love. Call it Romeo and Juliet for the Gilded Age, save that Morgenstern has her eye on a different Shakespearean text, The Tempest; says a fellow called Prospero to young magician Celia of the name her mother gave her, “She should have named you Miranda...I suppose she was not clever enough to think of it.” Celia is clever, however, a born magician, and eventually a big hit at the Circus of Dreams, which operates, naturally, only at night and has a slightly sinister air about it. But what would you expect of a yarn one of whose chief setting-things-into-action characters is known as “the man in the grey suit”? Morgenstern treads into Harry Potter territory, but though the chief audience for both Rowling and this tale will probably comprise of teenage girls, there are only superficial genre similarities. True, Celia’s magical powers grow, and the ordinary presto-change-o stuff gains potency—and, happily, surrealistic value. Finally, though, all the magic has deadly consequence, and it is then that the tale begins to take on the contours of a dark thriller, all told in a confident voice that is often quite poetic, as when the man in the grey suit tells us, “There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict.” Generous in its vision and fun to read. Likely to be a big book—and, soon, a big movie, with all the franchise trimmings.

 

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53463-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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