An admirable diversion into alternative history and humanity’s inherent nature that plays to the author’s strengths.


A trio of government-engineered superheroes navigate a war-torn, divided nation: the United States of America.

Gallagher debuted with a savagely funny memoir (Kaboom, 2010, etc.) and followed it up with a novel, Youngblood (2016). Here, he pivots to an alternate version of America that’s just recognizable but radically different due to a few twists in history. In this present, the U.S. won the Vietnam War, but chaos still reigns in the streets of the country 30 years later, wracked by seemingly unending wars overseas and terrorist violence at home on the part of extremist groups who oppose the administration’s authoritarian approach to most issues, especially domestic policies. The aforementioned superbeings, created with space rocks called cythrax, are Peter Swenson, able to turn invisible; Grady Flowers, whose superstrength belies his vigilant nature; and Jean-Jacques Saint-Preux, a man granted Flash-like speed but unable to run back to his beloved war. They’re impatiently waiting for orders in Empire City, an expanded version of New York. Our everyday characters are Sebastian Rios, an unremarkable bureaucrat infamous for being kidnapped in the Middle East, and his childhood friend Mia Tucker, who participated in the special forces raid that freed him. As you might expect, there are dubious characters too, including fugitive freedom fighter Jonah Gray, who is using his guerrilla faction, the Mayday Front, to terrorize Empire City, and Maj. Gen. Jackie “Jackpot” Collins, a fiercely pro-war presidential candidate who may not have the country’s best interests at heart. Gallagher’s prose is more elaborate than in his previous work, and because he doesn’t spoon-feed readers the plot, they may find themselves pushing pins in a conspiracy board, Watchmen-style, to follow along. That said, there’s a lot to take in here, including acute explorations of America’s current political and ideological divisions, the heavy responsibility superheroes would be forced to shoulder in real life, and a keen extrapolation of a country launched down a radically altered historical continuum.

An admirable diversion into alternative history and humanity’s inherent nature that plays to the author’s strengths.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7779-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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