by Marcus L. Lukusa ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 18, 2014
The groundwork for a sci-fi epic is here, but the story falls short of its lofty aspirations.
An ambitious sci-fi debut pits a young man against ancient forces, heavenly armies, and his own bloodline.
Raymond is living with a secret, though he doesn’t know. His whole life, he’s been forced to abide by his parents’ odd and strict rules, most notably that he is to never participate in any physical activity. But when he heads to college in Johannesburg, South Africa, free from his parents’ reign, Raymond decides to start living by his own rules. Breaking the physical activity ban, Raymond participates in a boxing session, unlocking what has been hidden inside him since birth. Hastily returning to his room, he morphs into a monstrous, winged creature known as a Kazungul—a cursed beast that has plagued Raymond’s family for centuries. Just as suddenly as he transforms, he is no longer on Earth but transported to another realm. The new environment, an underwater city ruled by a mermaid, is the first of many vividly imagined landscapes Raymond soon encounters. Despite the cursed origins of the Kazungul, Raymond is eager to learn all he can about his newfound powers, which he soon discovers are far from ordinary, even by Kazungul standards. His quest takes him to faraway deserts, distant planets, and beyond as he seeks guidance and knowledge while transforming from college student to powerful leader. Though there is an inherent foreignness to these places, they are beautifully rendered and serve as a solid foundation for the story. While it’s clear that the worldbuilding and back stories have been meticulously imagined, the narrative’s endless ambition is also its downfall. Aliens, biblical saviors, gods, demigods, jaded lovers, secret assassin societies, and phoenixes, among many others, are all crammed together into this relatively slim first act. Consequently, each are woefully underdeveloped, resulting in muddled, inchoate storylines, none more so than Raymond’s potential lovers and nemeses, who function as obligatory stand-in pieces rather than fully realized characters.The groundwork for a sci-fi epic is here, but the story falls short of its lofty aspirations.
Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014
Page Count: 178
Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2015
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Hanya Yanagihara ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 10, 2015
The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
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National Book Award Finalist
Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.
Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.
Pub Date: March 10, 2015
Page Count: 720
Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015
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by J.D. Salinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 15, 1951
A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.
"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….A strict report, worthy of sympathy.
Pub Date: June 15, 1951
Page Count: -
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951
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