A speculative tale that has fun with its genre’s chapter-and-verse.

THE ALCHEMIST'S PORTAL

In Acco’s debut SF/fantasy novel, three of the Vatican’s clerical elite fight malevolent entities who covet an alchemical artifact from the 17th century.

In a not-too-distant future, the Catholic Church embraces the use of high-tech superweapons to fight evil. This comes in handy when a doorway, fashioned by Prussian alchemists in the 1600s using meteorite ore, suddenly appears. The alchemists unwisely created it in a bid to reach God and heaven directly, and it had a tendency to teleport uncontrollably, spewing deadly radiation as it did so. Space miners found it on the moon centuries later, then lost it again; now, it seems to be connected to violent, occult-related incidents around the globe. The church tasks a trio of Catholic “Magisters” to investigate: tough priest Lev Kraal, advanced android Michael (which uses technology from benevolent aliens), and a new recruit, priest Wilhemina “Will” Grand, who’s haunted by guilt. In an action-packed, episodic narrative, they face demons and shape-shifters who aim to use the doorway for their own malicious purposes. Unusually, the author waits until midway through the novel to provide the sort of backstory that many other SF writers place upfront; the narrative occurs in the aftermath of a veritable Armageddon in which billions of humans died due to climate change, wealth inequality, war, and species extinction, among other reasons. Meanwhile, money and capitalism have practically been abolished. Fans of the Star Trek mythos may note that its noble United Federation of Planets had a similar origin, and the book’s ambiance is somewhat Gene Roddenberry–like, right down to Michael’s resemblance to Lt. Cmdr. Data and some cheeky humor, especially in the colorfully infernal villains’ repartee. Compared with other faith-based genre fiction, which is often written from an Evangelical Protestant perspective, the preaching is relatively light, and there are nods to representatives of Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Although the Catholic Church, as portrayed here, seems fairly broad-minded, the tradition of priestly celibacy perseveres, so there are no sex scenes; indeed, even evil entities treat the subject of sexuality with delicacy.

A speculative tale that has fun with its genre’s chapter-and-verse.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70697-263-1

Page Count: 197

Publisher: World Castle Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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