Endless clever details and suspenseful plotting make this speculative-fiction debut an addictive treat.

FOLLOWERS

How far will our addiction to screens and our obsession with social media go? And how much will we pay for it?

The bill is large indeed in Angelo’s first novel. In alternating narratives beginning in 2015 and 2051, she creates two chilling versions of celebrity culture in techno-hell. It all starts with a post on a website called Lady-ish written by staff blogger Orla Cadden. “Sooo What Does The World’s Most Expensive Brow Gel Actually Do? One Instagram It Girl Finds Out” is the first of a series of pieces Orla concocts (down to scrubbing the writing off a tube of Maybelline for the photo shoot) to boost the profile of a wannabe Kardashian type—actually her roommate, Floss, whose drive to be famous in the absence of any talent or notable quality runs over everything in sight for the course of the novel. In the 2051 plot, we meet Marlow, a young wife in Constellation, California, a closed town populated with government-selected celebrities devoted entirely to the production of a reality show watched by everyone who does not live there. “Is it me or does Mar have kinda chubby armpits,” asks one of Marlow’s more than 12 million followers, watching her stretch before getting out of bed in the morning. “NOOOOOOO NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH ANOTHER PILL AD—PUT THE MARLOW FLAMINGO SMACKDOWN BACK ON!!!!!” screams another when Marlow gets upset with her network-issued storyline and throws a fit. Both the 2015 and 2051 plots revolve around a mysterious event called the Spill, which feels somewhat less original and interesting than the buildup to its reveal. However, the joy of the details continues all the way to a denouement in Atlantis (formerly Atlantic City), where the relationships we have begun to suspect between the characters of the two plotlines are untangled and confirmed.

Endless clever details and suspenseful plotting make this speculative-fiction debut an addictive treat.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-525-83626-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Graydon House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules...

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A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel by a Bolshevik tribunal for writing a poem deemed to encourage revolt, Count Alexander Rostov nonetheless lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.

Inside the elegant Metropol, located near the Kremlin and the Bolshoi, the Count slowly adjusts to circumstances as a "Former Person." He makes do with the attic room, to which he is banished after residing for years in a posh third-floor suite. A man of refined taste in wine, food, and literature, he strives to maintain a daily routine, exploring the nooks and crannies of the hotel, bonding with staff, accepting the advances of attractive women, and forming what proves to be a deeply meaningful relationship with a spirited young girl, Nina. "We are bound to find comfort from the notion that it takes generations for a way of life to fade," says the companionable narrator. For the Count, that way of life ultimately becomes less about aristocratic airs and privilege than generosity and devotion. Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight. Though Stalin and Khrushchev make their presences felt, Towles largely treats politics as a dark, distant shadow. The chill of the political events occurring outside the Metropol is certainly felt, but for the Count and his friends, the passage of time is "like the turn of a kaleidoscope." Not for nothing is Casablanca his favorite film. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can't begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind.

A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles' stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02619-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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