A wild ride. Too long and too much fun.

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THE EGG CODE

The Internet, blind faith in the Web, and a good-sized chunk of American culture take a hammering in an ambitious debut.

Heppner has bitten off more than he can chew, but so did Dickens and Balzac, so a little patience is in order. Taking a jittery trip from the first days of the Defense-funded Internet to the post-urban sprawl of the World Wide Web, with looks backward to the origin of movable type and the start of cheap printing, Heppner manages to get good solid licks in on such deserving targets as—well, Target, Calvin Klein porno-ads, motivational seminars, and mindless Internet hype. The technique isn’t for the beginning reader, nor really for anyone who hasn’t spent way too much time mousing around cyberspace, losing track of time, geography, and whatever it was they started out reading about or looking for. Heppner’s construction involves what seem to be thousands of short chapters that click back and forth wildly but not mindlessly through decades and centuries. The big cast includes Olden Field, hard- and soft-ware–savvy child of brilliant, goofed-up scientists; Simon Mould, talentless child of mismatched, miserable would-be merchandisers; Derek and Donna Skye, burned-out superstar of the self-improvement set and his wife; Gray Hollows, a writer-turned-copywriter whose ad-slimeball campaigns just can’t fail no matter how low he goes; and dozens of others, all wandering in what seems, until near the end, to be Brownian motion on the fringe of a city somewhere in the American Midwest, bouncing off each other and the scenery in their quests variously to lay low the ascendance of the Internet with a big dose of disinformation; hook into celebrity culture using a terrified child; preserve the gorgeousness of print; and escape the desert of motel seminars. The faint centripetal force is the Gloria Corporation, mindless controller of a critical mass of motion through the Internet. But the true gravity comes from the author’s old-fashioned grasp of his characters.

A wild ride. Too long and too much fun.

Pub Date: June 30, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-41290-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2002

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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