A few gems, a few disappointments, a voice to watch.

BABE IN PARADISE

STORIES

An uneven first collection from writer/filmmaker Silver.

All the characters in these nine stories grapple with the promises that Los Angeles makes but inevitably falls short on. In the title piece, Babe and Delia struggle in vain to hoist buckets of water onto the roof of their rental house in the path of L.A.’s yearly firestorm. It’s just another losing battle, emblematic of their life together crisscrossing America, although this one is worse because it happens in paradise, at the edge of the ocean and the end of the road. Babe turns up in two other stories, a little bit older and a little more hopeless each time. “What I Saw from Where I Stood,” first published in the New Yorker, depicts a young couple getting carjacked and becoming increasingly paranoid. Another young couple, midwesterners hoping to break into the movies, search for a new house with the right image (“Statues”), only to find themselves in the den of old-time pornographers. One of the standouts here, “The Missing,” shows Marianna, a scientist picking over the bones of the past at the La Brea Tar Pits, and her brother Julian, a junkie living on the celebrity fringe, watching in confusion as their usually reticent mother, Dora, decides to give lectures about her survival of the Holocaust. Having never heard the stories herself, Marianna sits in awe among bored teenaged girls as Dora states, “I was afraid that when I said these words, I would start to scream. But now I think I have been screaming all my life.” Also fine is “Gunsmoke,” about a daughter who does voice work in the movies hesitantly reconnecting with her father, once a successful stuntman but now a virtual recluse. Disillusionment is rife, and each of the characters wanders in a perpetual half-land between glamorous salvation and keen disappointment. As one concludes, “Now they could stop looking for Los Angeles, which seemed to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”

A few gems, a few disappointments, a voice to watch.

Pub Date: July 23, 2001

ISBN: 0-393-02003-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart.

THE HIDDEN GIRL AND OTHER STORIES

Science fiction author (The Wall of Storms, 2016) and translator (The Redemption of Time, Baoshu, 2019) Liu’s short stories explore the nature of identity, consciousness, and autonomy in hostile and chaotic worlds.

Liu deftly and compassionately draws connections between a genetically altered girl struggling to reconcile her human and alien sides and 20th-century Chinese young men who admire aspects of Western culture even as they confront its xenophobia (“Ghost Days”). A poor salvager on a distant planet learns to channel a revolutionary spirit through her alter ego of a rabbit (“Grey Rabbit, Crimson Mare, Coal Leopard”). In “Byzantine Empathy,” a passionate hacktivist attempts to upend charitable giving through blockchain and VR technology even as her college roommate, an executive at a major nonprofit, fights to co-opt the process, a struggle which asks the question of whether pure empathy is possible—or even desired—in our complex geopolitical structure. Much of the collection is taken up by a series of overlapping and somewhat repetitive stories about the singularity, in which human minds are scanned and uploaded to servers, establishing an immortal existence in virtuality, a concept which many previous SF authors have already explored exhaustively. (Liu also never explains how an Earth that is rapidly becoming depleted of vital resources somehow manages to indefinitely power servers capable of supporting 300 billion digital lives.) However, one of those stories exhibits undoubted poignance in its depiction of a father who stubbornly clings to a flesh-and-blood existence for himself and his loved ones in the rotting remains of human society years after most people have uploaded themselves (“Staying Behind”). There is also some charm in the title tale, a fantasy stand-alone concerning a young woman snatched from her home and trained as a supernaturally powered assassin who retains a stubborn desire to seek her own path in life.

A mixed bag of stories: some tired but several capable of poetically piercing the heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982134-03-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Saga/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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THE COMPLETE STORIES

The thirty-one stories of the late Flannery O'Connor, collected for the first time. In addition to the nineteen stories gathered in her lifetime in Everything That Rises Must Converge (1965) and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1955) there are twelve previously published here and there. Flannery O'Connor's last story, "The Geranium," is a rewritten version of the first which appears here, submitted in 1947 for her master's thesis at the State University of Iowa.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1971

ISBN: 0374515360

Page Count: 555

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1971

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