As one of a small group of authors who won literary credibility for dystopian fiction, Atwood has taught her readers to...

THE HEART GOES LAST

Dystopian clichés are played as farce in this nasty tale.

Comparisons to Atwood's earlier work, an oeuvre of more than 40 volumes that includes the Man Booker Prize winner The Blind Assassin; the early feminist/dystopian classic The Handmaid's Tale; the pioneering mean-girls novel Cat's Eye; and the post-apocalyptic trilogy Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood (2009), and Maddaddam (2013), are best avoided here. This slapped-together pastiche tells the story of Stan and Charmaine, a doltish young couple who have lost everything in some vague "financial-crash business-wrecking meltdown" and are now living in their car, hungry and on the run from rapists and other outlaws. In desperation, they eagerly sign up to live in a settlement called the Positron Project. Here, people alternate months between performing slave labor in a sex-segregated jail and living with their partners in a sterile suburban town called Consilience. The project's slogan is "CONSILIENCE = CONS+RESILIENCE. DO TIME NOW, BUY TIME FOR OUR FUTURE!"—and it's never going to make more sense than that. To an officially sanctioned soundtrack of Doris Day and Bing Crosby, Stan and Charmaine go about their appointed tasks, which include his providing poultry for incarcerated men to have sex with and her murdering people by injection. When the doll-like, almost subhuman Charmaine inexplicably throws herself into a tawdry affair with another man and Stan is reassigned to a sex-robot project ("As an on-demand sexual experience, it's said to be better than the bonk-a-chicken racket..."), the weak premises of the plot collapse, burying its characters in the rubble. Atwood is noted for satiric humor, but with the misanthropy of this book equaled by its misogyny, with women repeatedly melting "like toffee" and treating each other like "something that got stuck on their shoe" and "puppy throw-up," it's just not funny. The end of the novel, set in an "Elvisorium" full of gay Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, will leave the few who have gotten that far completely bewildered.

As one of a small group of authors who won literary credibility for dystopian fiction, Atwood has taught her readers to expect better.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-54035-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 35

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more