A dizzying epistolary novel about dreams, perception, and the human psyche.

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FOUND AUDIO

A mysterious manuscript tells the story of one man’s plunge into the abyss.

To quote Winston Churchill, welcome to a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Campbell offers a wicked metafictional mystery in this slim but artful debut novel. Try to follow along. In an introduction, the author says he received the mysterious manuscript, containing transcripts of three cassette tapes, in 2006. The tapes had been transcribed by Amrapali Anna Singh, a professor of archival studies in Alaska, at the request of a man named Pierre Cavey, who had very nearly circled the world to bring her the tapes, marked with the stamp of a library in Buenos Aires. Then we get to the tapes themselves, which chronicle the journey of an unnamed American journalist. The first depicts a hallucinatory voyage into the bayou on a snake-hunting expedition. The second reveals a little more. A friend of the journalist explains that his search for meaning in the world is a search for “The City of Dreams”—a myth that connects dreams to a place from various historical sources, with examples from Cortés to Dr. Livingstone’s ill-fated voyage. “The point is, it’s a myth—a mirage in the margins of conjecture and hearsay,” the narrator is told. And indeed, the narrator becomes obsessed with finding the mysterious destination, traveling from Kowloon to Mongolia. Finally, in the third tape, the narrator travels to Istanbul to meet “The Turk,” a mysterious chess champion who has more questions than answers. “You have gone around the world collecting the most odd of odd things—experiences of a fantastic order...in a swamp with an old man, in a desert filled with tents and in the belly of a fallen city,” says the Turk. “Tell me, are you chasing your dreams?” Campbell’s afterword offers little explanation other than his abortive attempts to find out the identity of the narrator, but the experience of reading the book remains arresting.

A dizzying epistolary novel about dreams, perception, and the human psyche.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-937512-57-6

Page Count: 170

Publisher: Two Dollar Radio

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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