The first soft strokes of Tuttle's haunting fourth novel (Lost Futures, etc., not reviewed) build slowly, subtly into a relentless chiller. As a child in Austin, Texas, Agnes Grey is deeply influenced by her wildly exotic, unpredictable aunt Marjorie (her mother's twin sister), a would-be writer. Marjorie, though, never visits while Agnes's distracted mother, Mary, is at home, and the aging Mary, for that matter, is forever fruitlessly taking off for Hollywood to become a starlet. The fact is that little Agnes has never seen the twins side by side. The rather crabbed Marjorie has a plain, bare cabin in the wilds where Agnes spends one summer and, disturbingly, finds that her wishes are magically granted. Throughout childhood, she has desired an imaginary playmate, a doll that will literally talk to her, and now she gets Myles, a small antique figure who seems to whisper to her each night in bed. Then he disappears. Agnes, much like her aunt, has unknowingly trained her dreaming mind to produce waking-state companions and lovers who actually seem to have life and substance, not to mention an alarming habit of appearing when they're least expected. Her imagination is so powerful that one lover she has unconsciously created even gives her (at age 30) a hysterical pregnancy that goes full term. Agnes's love affair with scruffy British poet Graham Storey, whom she's admired since her teens, leads to marriage and turmoil, even though Graham seems to possess an intuitive understanding of Agnes's chaotic ego and has a desire to help her sort her life out. Housekeeping in literary London and vacations in Scotland flicker between reality and Agnes's darker undercurrents, whose depths stand fully revealed when her mother dies: Her ``twin'' Marjorie never comes to the funeral—for a very good reason. Brilliantly murmurous, with extreme states of mental disorder presented as if they were as normal as blueberries on cottage cheese.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-56504-938-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1996

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...


This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.


Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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