Wells is a writer like no other. Prepare for magic allusive and illusive, intelligent and innovative.

GOD, THE MOON, AND OTHER MEGAFAUNA

A vibrant collection of 15 thematically linked stories shaped by surrealism, narratives seemingly reflected in a fun-house mirror.

Many of these stories seem only one step away from normalcy, but that’s a step made into a strained, twisted reality. An example comes in "Kansas," in which the state is personified as a woman, dismissive of the “arrogant coasts" and plagued by a Colorado who insists on being called “Co-co." Other stories might be called fairy tales—“The Grift of the Magpie”—shape-shifted into adult fare. Bricks of language, syntax, and wordplay build narratives that lure readers into entering a bizarro world: for instance, meet “Guillaume, the mysophobic pig, who suffered from painful hoof bunions due to ill-fitting galoshes.” These blocks of wordplay grow and combine and multiply to become metaphor or parable or flights of fancy. How else to find “great stage potential” in the Tom Thumbery of L’Enfant du Paradis? In a fablelike story, God boots Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, leaving them “awaiting a radioactive salvation.” And then sometimes individual words are piled up or shoved together in wispy, allusive sentences meant to reveal character or motivation: “Indeed it was the very finger girdle of wedlock she had so long admired in the lint-smithy’s window!”; or a fairy tale is warped into a new truth as in “The Girl, the Wolf, the Crone.” This is not a book to be read in one sitting. Some stories are obscure. Some read like prose poems. All are worth appreciation.

Wells is a writer like no other. Prepare for magic allusive and illusive, intelligent and innovative.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-268-10225-8

Page Count: 188

Publisher: Univ. of Notre Dame

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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