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SO YOU WANT TO BE A ROBOT

A sparkling sequence of tales that bends and flips familiar ideas and fantastic visions.

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Divergent characters find themselves in startling situations in this debut collection of unconventional sci-fi and fantasy stories.

There is no guiding principle running through these tales save that they all look beyond the world as readers discern it, challenging—as the best speculative fiction does—a number of preconceived notions. Some might think that the relatable would be difficult to discover in a story about a lonely robot raising orphaned dinosaurs or two friends becoming cut off from each other by the untimely, unexpected closing of doors between worlds, but that dismissal would be premature. While each tale asks readers to forget what they know of the cosmos, identity, gender, or the ordinary, that request comes not in order to fill their minds with convoluted new concepts but rather to twist basic facts into inventive shapes. Someone accidentally cursed to be reborn as a rose sheds light on the symbols readers choose for their affections and how they value them. A non–fairy tale about a girl and a monster she once knew gives readers the ability to overturn the scripts of their own lives and realize who they—and their friends—truly are, however they might be judged. A shadow cast from inside a black hole peels away layers of loss and grief. And “How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps,” centered on longing, tells a surprising, touching tale about those who fail to fit in and how they can carve out spaces of their own. There’s a tremendous variety in these stories: long and short, happy and sad, taking twists and turns or running in blazing straight lines. But what they all have in common is a sense of wonder (“The moment I knew I could love this robot was when the robot asked what I would like to be called. ‘Tesla,’ I said, and the blue LED smiley face in the upper corner of the robot’s screen flickered in a shy smile”). There is a strange power in the realms beyond this universe or hidden in plain sight, and Rustad captures it from myriad angles. The circumstances may be bizarre, but the characters are blindingly real, and it’s only through that combination that these pieces can cut so unflinchingly to the heart.

A sparkling sequence of tales that bends and flips familiar ideas and fantastic visions.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-59021-641-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: Lethe Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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