What starts as an elegiac meditation on fellowship devolves into an incoherent fever dream.

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A STRANGE COUNTRY

Elves and humans unite to try to save their respective realms.

It’s 1938, and Europe has been at war for six years. Gen. Alejandro de Yepes and Maj. Jesús Rocamora are holed up inside Alejandro’s Extremadura castillo when three strange men appear inside the grand hall. One of them—a portly, affable redhead named Petrus—leads the other two to the wine cellar, where they proceed to get drunk. When Alejandro and Jesús follow, seeking answers, Petrus explains that he and his companions, Marcus and Paulus, are elves and that a fellow elf named Aelius is responsible for the conflicts plaguing both of their peoples. Petrus and company have a plan to defeat their mutual foe, whose goal is domination through mass annihilation, but it requires Alejandro and Jesús to decamp to the elves’ world of mists. French author Barbery’s sequel to The Life of Elves (2016) is broken into three parts: "Alliances," which encompasses Jesús’ and Alejandro’s origin stories; "Genesis," which provides Petrus’ history; and "Ruin," which details their joint campaign. Barbery’s fondness for her characters—the bravely bumbling Petrus, in particular—suffuses the first two sections, lending them a fairy-tale air enhanced by the omniscient third-person narration. Shared bottles of wine and pots of tea facilitate philosophical conversation; at its best, “this is the story of a few souls who, in war, knew the peace of encounter.” Regrettably, come the book’s climax, Barbery abandons nearly all pretense of plot in favor of opaque imagery and florid prose.

What starts as an elegiac meditation on fellowship devolves into an incoherent fever dream.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60945-585-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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