Calhoun writes beautifully, though the novel is occasionally slow-moving—and thus, ironically, becomes a cure for insomnia.

BLACK MOON

A novel about insomnia and dreams, and thus, almost by definition, it’s surreal.

Calhoun’s premise is brilliant, and he follows it to its logical (and psychological) conclusion. What if, gradually, everyone lost the ability to sleep? What would the world look like? How would contemporary culture shift on its axis? In this narrative, we follow a series of characters drastically affected by this shift, most of them pathological insomniacs, though a few retain their ability to sleep and thus become pariahs to the multitudes of the sleepless. At the center of the novel are Biggs (a “sleeper”) and his wife, Carolyn, who’s given over to the telltale signs of insomnia, including physical symptoms like red-rimmed eyes and psychological symptoms resembling dementia. Over time, Biggs has watched her gradual deterioration, and part of the novel involves Biggs’ quest to find her after she goes missing and to share with her an elaborate dream he’s had, one Carolyn eventually tries to re-create and film. Another symptom of cultural and personal breakdown can be seen in college students Chase and Jordan. Since prescription sleep aids become extraordinarily valuable in a world populated by insomniacs, Chase and Jordan develop a scheme to rip off the pharmaceutical industry by stealing pills from the containers in which sleep medicines are kept. Chase’s ex-girlfriend Felicia works as a lab assistant at a Sleep Research Center, where doctors are desperately trying to find a cure—and where their research sometimes has lethal consequences. Another narrative thread involves high school student Lila, who, like Biggs, has retained her ability to sleep, but she finds she must leave her parents, whose insomnia is leading them toward madness.

Calhoun writes beautifully, though the novel is occasionally slow-moving—and thus, ironically, becomes a cure for insomnia.

Pub Date: March 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8041-3714-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more