High-minded, well-intentioned, and in love with what Earth’s future could be but somewhat lacking in narrative drive.


This detail-heavy near-future novel offers a window onto the apocalypse looming just behind our present dystopia.

As Uttar Pradesh suffers from a crippling heatwave and blackouts, Frank May, an American aid worker in a small city, runs out of options to help the local residents stay cool and suggests that they go into the lake, which unfortunately offers very little relief. He rouses from an uneasy night submerged in the water to discover that everyone is dead but him, a devastating outcome that leaves him with PTSD and a desire to do something, anything, to reverse climate change. But as Frank is the quintessence of the ineffectual White American savior—not equipped to save anything or anyone, even himself—he doesn’t have the first idea about how to pursue his goal. His bumbling and his anger drive him to a failed kidnap attempt on Mary Murphy, head of the titular Ministry for the Future, a U.N. agency formed in 2025 to further the aims of the Paris Agreement. Frank drifts through years as a fugitive and then as a convicted felon, Mary works tirelessly through diplomatic and bureaucratic channels to save the planet before it’s too late, and the Children of Kali, a group of eco-terrorists also inspired by the Indian heatwave tragedy, pursue more violent—and shockingly effective—methods of combating environmental destruction. These strands initially form the basis of a gripping story, but they’re diffused by Robinson’s determination to narrate a history of an alternate future timeline, one which naturally excludes our present pandemic and the latest crackdowns in Hong Kong but also apparently ignores the U.S. dropping out of the Paris Agreement and the implications of Brexit. That tale, or more often lecture, is conveyed through dry and snarky infodump essays and brief, punchy accounts from people, inanimate objects, and metaphorical forces. Perhaps the author is angry that though he's spent years writing novels exploring the dire results of climate change, the message doesn’t seem to have gotten through; it’s clear that he is unhappy at how politics and greed have obstructed opportunities for positive environmental action. At the same time, he seems hopeful that the world can still forge a path forward, if only we have the resolve.

High-minded, well-intentioned, and in love with what Earth’s future could be but somewhat lacking in narrative drive.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-30013-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.


The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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