An ambitious and mostly successful sci-fi tale with a bit of social critique.

SOPHISTICATION

A thriller tells the story of an America rattled by a mysterious, technologically advanced group threatening to take over the country.

In the not-so-distant future—the Donald Trump administration is over and the video game “Half-Life 4” is about to be released—a cloaked figure appears on the floor of the Senate to offer a cryptic warning: “In one month, your ineffective order ends. In one month, we take over.…Everything.” He then disappears in a ball of blue light, causing a media frenzy of speculation the likes of which has never been seen. As the lone member of the government’s Unexplained Occurrences Division—whose duties until now have mostly entailed cataloging internet rumors and watching pornography—widower and drug addict Carl Brannigan is placed on the task force assembled to find out just what that cloaked man was talking about. Meanwhile, an enigmatic figure enters the hospital room of a quadriplegic boy named Kevin Splinter and, with a mere touch, cures him of his condition. In San Francisco, 23-year-old freelance video game journalist Miyuki Mitsuraga spends most of her time fielding misogynistic hate mail from male gamers, but she’s just gotten a message from “the ones in the news” asking her for a meeting. After the arrival of cloaked figures at a stadium in San Francisco, where they reveal damaging tapes of the city’s mayor, the strange organization offers Miyuki an interview because her “heart is pure.” The Cloaks, as she names them, claim to be a good government group out to expose corruption and injustice. But it turns out to be a little more complicated than that. With alternate realities, alien civilizations, and city-destroying technology in the mix, this disparate band of outsiders—and a few powerful insiders—must race to figure out what’s coming before it gets here. Casamassina’s (Dead Weight, 2016) prose is voice-driven and inflected with numerous details of his cyberpunk-meets–Comic-Con vision of the future. His attempts at snark often come across more misanthropic than perhaps he means them to—a viral video is described as spreading across the internet “like runaway Gonorrhea at a cheap motel”—but he occasionally reaches moments of lyricism. At one point, Miyuki’s entrance into a club is depicted thusly: “She’s in harmony with these people, all of them dressed like the mutant teenage grandchildren of the industrial and anime gods. Here, she can disappear. The black lights cast them all in periwinkle, their teeth luminescent, their skin paints and contact lenses aglow, until they look alien.” The plot is well-paced and quite riveting, and once the storylines of the various characters begin to intersect and the scope of the conflict reveals itself, readers should become thoroughly invested. The author manages to capture the worldviews, interests, and personalities of gamers in ways both good and bad, but the story has enough broad sci-fi appeal to hook readers who aren’t concerned with that subculture. While the narrative is bloody, profane, jocular, and angst-ridden, an unexpected warmth pervades the work that will likely keep readers with it until the end.

An ambitious and mostly successful sci-fi tale with a bit of social critique.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-79187-080-5

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Time Tunnel Media

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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