A harrowing and timely entry into the canon of speculative fiction.

THE BOOK OF JOAN

A retelling of the Joan of Arc story set in a terrifying near future of environmental and political chaos.

Earth in 2049 is ravaged. A geocatastrophe has swallowed coasts and islands; supervolcanoes and solar storms have dimmed the sun and reduced the planet to “a dirt clod, floating in space.” The wealthiest of Earth’s inhabitants now live in CIEL, “a suborbital complex” floating just in view of their former planetary home. Christine Pizan (a nod to medieval court writer Christine de Pisan), at age 49, resembles the other inhabitants of CIEL: physically androgynous, completely white “like the albumen of an egg,” and covered in scars and skin grafts. These deliberate body modifications, or “skinstories,” are Christine’s expertise, and they are some of the only reminders she has left of life on Earth, along with her beloved friend and fellow CIELian Trinculo (who resembles his buffoonish namesake from Shakespeare’s The Tempest). In particular, Christine has seared into her body the story of Joan, a young eco-terrorist from the time of the geocatastrophe—and when her and Trinculo’s survival is threatened, she turns to her body’s offering of Joan’s tale for inspiration. Yuknavitch (The Small Backs of Children, 2015, etc.) writes with her characteristic fusion of poetic precision and barbed ferocity, and the ingenuity of the world she creates astounds even in the face of the novel’s ambitiously messy sprawl. Perhaps even more astounding is Yuknavitch’s prescience: readers will be familiar with the figure of Jean de Men, a celebrity-turned–drone-wielding–dictator who first presided over the Wars on Earth and now lords over CIEL, having substituted “all gods, all ethics, and all science with the power of representation, a notion born on Earth, evolved through media and technology.”

A harrowing and timely entry into the canon of speculative fiction.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-238327-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self-described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because...

FIGHT CLUB

Brutal and relentless debut fiction takes anarcho-S&M chic to a whole new level—in a creepy, dystopic, confrontational novel that's also cynically smart and sharply written.

Palahniuk's insomniac narrator, a drone who works as a product recall coordinator, spends his free time crashing support groups for the dying. But his after-hours life changes for the weirder when he hooks up with Tyler Durden, a waiter and projectionist with plans to screw up the world—he's a "guerilla terrorist of the service industry." "Project Mayhem" seems taken from a page in The Anarchist Cookbook and starts small: Durden splices subliminal scenes of porno into family films and he spits into customers' soup. Things take off, though, when he begins the fight club—a gruesome late-night sport in which men beat each other up as partial initiation into Durden's bigger scheme: a supersecret strike group to carry out his wilder ideas. Durden finances his scheme with a soap-making business that secretly steals its main ingredient—the fat sucked from liposuction. Durden's cultlike groups spread like wildfire, his followers recognizable by their open wounds and scars. Seeking oblivion and self-destruction, the leader preaches anarchist fundamentalism: "Losing all hope was freedom," and "Everything is falling apart"—all of which is just his desperate attempt to get God's attention. As the narrator begins to reject Durden's revolution, he starts to realize that the legendary lunatic is just himself, or the part of himself that takes over when he falls asleep. Though he lands in heaven, which closely resembles a psycho ward, the narrator/Durden lives on in his flourishing clubs.

This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self-described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because it's so compelling.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-03976-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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