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VENOMOUS LUMPSUCKER

A dire warning, sick joke, and perceptive critique of a species of very questionable intelligence: humanity.

Won’t you please open your heart and save the venomous lumpsucker?

Beauman’s quirky techno-thriller unfolds in a bleakly believable near future ravaged by climate change and dominated by an unholy alliance between corporate capitalism and ecological protocols. Our protagonists—Mark Halyard, a morally slippery mining company functionary, and Karin Resaint, a zealous evaluator of animal intelligence—join forces to protect the last vestiges of a parasitic fish species (the titular venomous lumpsucker) for diametrically opposed reasons as they navigate various nature preserves and hermetic think tanks powered by miraculous technologies run amok. Beauman is a deft plotter, and his characters are well drawn, with Halyard’s panicked self-interest and Resaint’s icy resolve striking comedic sparks as the pair desperately endeavor to preserve an unlovable marine species that, by most metrics, would not be missed if lost to extinction. The book’s real strength is its ability to evocatively raise profound questions about humanity’s relationship with and responsibility to animals and the larger environment in the course of its often (darkly) comic action. The worldbuilding is dazzling: Abandoned machine marvels called spindrifters randomly roam the ocean, causing freak storms; a research facility prized for its freedom from sovereign restraints becomes horrifically infested with insects; an oasislike reserve reveals itself to be overrun with toxic waste; and a government minister becomes a Bond-like fugitive assassin with the aid of a superpowered scuba suit, all under the watchful eye of a monstrous international environmental regulatory body that grants cooperative corporations “extinction credits” like popes of old dispensing Indulgences. It’s funny—and chilling and terribly sad—because it’s true.

A dire warning, sick joke, and perceptive critique of a species of very questionable intelligence: humanity.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64129-412-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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DEMON COPPERHEAD

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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