An absorbing story of the end of civilization relayed through a handful of tortured characters.

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THE WOLVES WITHIN OUR WALLS

Life in a post-apocalyptic community may be just as harrowing as that in the devastated outside world in Flinders’ debut dystopian novel.

In April 2021, Zoe Wilkes works at a Parker’s Island, Maryland, restaurant with her best friend and roommate, Ben. They’re sleeping off hangovers when Ben’s older sister, Bex, calls them on their landline. The power has gone out nearly everywhere and cellphones don’t work, so the two drive to Bex’s house in Blair Heights, where she has a generator. A heavy traffic jam, however, prevents them from getting there; they eventually get separated, and Zoe opts to return home. After she endures a mugging by a group of teenagers, she ends up in an “off-the-grid housing community” built by former environmental lobbyist Jacob Malin. His friend Miles Kirby, who used to work on cybersecurity for the government, long feared that terrorists could hack infrastructure systems—which is apparently what happened in “the attack.” Life inside the walls is initially good, with more than 100 people working together to maintain a stockpile of food and other necessities; Zoe and Miles develop a relationship and live together. But soon, the mood within the community darkens, including that of Miles. Then Zoe stumbles upon information about what’s really happening during mysterious “supply runs”—a revelation that upends her life all over again. Flinders energetically details the atmosphere of the uncertain post-blackout world; for example, Zoe is terrified by an unseen threat in the darkness when her car runs out of gas and later feels comfort when gripping the switchblade that Ben gives her. As a result, it’s somewhat disappointing when the story shifts to the smaller community setting. Nevertheless, this choice simplifies the plot, focusing on how internal conflicts and secrets contribute to societal instability; as Zoe aptly puts it, “the world shrank…for all of us.” Flinders’ descriptions sparkle, as when a mass of lumber and parts is called “an unorganized Home Depot with no walls” and when “wilted and dying flowers” are sitting in a vase after someone’s death.

An absorbing story of the end of civilization relayed through a handful of tortured characters.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 203

Publisher: Pruple Pill Publshing

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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