Pugliese’s dark story serves as an extended metaphor for whatever the reader might wish: climate change, the human capacity...

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MALACQUA

FOUR DAYS OF RAIN IN THE CITY OF NAPLES, WAITING FOR THE OCCURRENCE OF AN EXTRAORDINARY EVENT

Here comes the rain again, and a storied Italian city washes away in this brooding novel by a Milanese transplant to southern Italy.

While he worked in publishing, as so many Italian writers do, Italo Calvino discovered and published this slender novel in 1977. It made a mark, then disappeared, reissued only after the author’s death in 2012. Why he withheld it—his only novel—from being reprinted is a mystery. In a theme that nicely complements Max Frisch’s near-contemporaneous Man in the Holocene, the story opens with fogged windows and rain-lashed streets, “with inky streaks and sudden gusts, the wind blowing up Via Marittima on the corner of Piazza del Municipio, and beyond, and beyond….” Transfixed, a weary journalist named Carlo Andreoli collects odd sightings: here a sinkhole opens, swallowing roads and buildings; there spectral voices whisper from ancient castle walls. The scene shifts, now to a police commissioner who is wondering just how he is going to explain those odd sightings: “What answer would he give to Rome, otherwise, if they asked him to explain the voices?” What answer indeed? Pugliese occasionally swings into the satirical, mimicking Moravia here and the Mafia novel there (“That evening so sweetly autumnal, with all that falling rain defining veils of omertà”), peppering the narrative with sharply realized observations from many points of view, as with the barista who worries, “People would stop coming to Susan’s for coffee the day they realized that if they had coffee at Susan's they also risked ruining a pair of trousers with the muddy water from the puddles.” More often he falls into stream-of-consciousness reveries in which sentences and paragraphs flow like rain for pages, to beautiful effect. One comes at the very end, when Andreoli flashes on the happy thought that maybe, just maybe, the rain will stop pouring down and the sun will shine once more.

Pugliese’s dark story serves as an extended metaphor for whatever the reader might wish: climate change, the human capacity for suffering. A memorable work of modern literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-911508-06-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: & Other Stories

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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THE OBELISK GATE

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 2

In the second of a trilogy (The Fifth Season, 2015) by the science-fiction columnist for the New York Times Book Review, the latest in a series of apocalypses marches on.

The powerful orogene Alabaster has used his powers to tear a blazing rift across the continent, and humanity faces extinction. Finding refuge in the underground comm of Castrima, the now-dying Alabaster struggles to impart vital information and skills to his former student and lover, Essun, which could potentially cease the flow of the tectonically devastating Seasons. All the while, Castrima faces tension from within—those who fear Essun’s rapidly growing magical powers—and without, as an invading army prepares to take the comm’s dwindling supplies for its own. Although Essun’s greatest desire is to recover Nassun, the daughter she loves, the girl always wanted to escape her mother, whom she perceives as cold and who imposed harsh training to discipline and hide her daughter’s orogeny. Nassun willingly left with her adored father even though he murdered her brother and violently loathes all orogenes. This uneasy father/daughter pair travels to a mysterious, distant community rumored to “cure” orogeny, where Nassun discovers a key figure from her mother’s past—but he’s no longer quite what he used to be. The worldbuilding deepens in this installment, with fresh revelations about the distant past and the true and alarming nature of the enigmatic stone eaters. But as in the previous volume, it’s the people who take front and center. Jemisin’s depictions of mob behavior are frighteningly realistic. And she offers a perceptive and painful portrayal of two different kinds of abusive relationships between parent and child. She also generates huge amounts of nuanced sympathy for some (but not all) of the characters driven to do truly dreadful things, often accidentally, to save themselves and the ones they love.

Stunning, again.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-22926-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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