Carefully researched, prescient, thoughtful, and disturbing.

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NULL STATES

From the The Centenal Cycle series , Vol. 2

The second in a near-future series in which most of the world is governed by microdemocracy—in which groups of 100,000 people, or “centenals,” vote for their government according to policy, not location.

While the previous novel, Infomocracy (2016), was fairly self-contained, this is decidedly a middle-volume book, with three storylines whose interlinkages will probably be further clarified in the next installment. Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, two of the titular “null states” outside the microdemocracy, are preparing to go to war, threatening nearby centenals. In what was once Sudan, Al-Jabali, head of the DarFur government, has just been assassinated. And Heritage, toppled from its position as Supermajority (the government which holds the most centenals) during the last election, is threatening to secede. Various agents of Information, the more-than-internet agency that surveils, gathers, and analyzes the data which keeps microdemocracy running, strive to investigate and keep a lid on these situations while also juggling complicated romantic lives. The more they dig, the more the evidence points toward a conspiracy within Information. As a novel about a threatened election, Infomocracy had more specific bearing on the current political situation (in several countries), but there’s still a lot here that’s germane to the present. Older continues to argue, most convincingly, that controlling the flow of information to the government and the public is the most potent power there is and illustrates how seemingly insignificant data points can build up to a larger, threatening picture. There’s also an extremely relevant post-colonial subtext helping to drive the plotlines: despite the best efforts of politicians, drawing arbitrary geographic boundaries does little to erase centuries of ethnic and cultural identity.

Carefully researched, prescient, thoughtful, and disturbing.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7653-9338-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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