The philosophical and literary musings are inventive, and Lock manages to make the combination of brevity and tall-tale...

THE BOY IN HIS WINTER

From the American Novels series , Vol. 1

The latest from distinguished elder statesman Lock, winner of the Aga Khan Prize from theParis Review, is an eclectic hybrid of literary appropriation, Zelig-like historical narrative, time-travel tale and old-style picaresque.

It's narrated in 2077 by an octogenarian Huckleberry Finn, who meandered down the Mississippi alongside his stalwart friend Jim for 125 years, from 1835 until 1960, remaining miraculously unchanged by time. Along the way, they drifted southward through the Civil War (Tom Sawyer has a cameo as a Confederate officer, and Jim is photographed at Vicksburg); the uprooting and massacre of Native Americans (they play a role in allowing Cochise to die with dignity); the electrification of the country (which they encounter when they enter the 20th century around Baton Rouge); and the Jazz Age. Jim, trying to wait until racism has either passed away or grown less virulent, leaves the raft in 1960; after a brief excursion into the world of To Kill a Mockingbird, he discovers there's no outlasting that particular viciousness. Huck, who's followed his old companion, ends up having to stand by helplessly as Jim is lynched. He staggers back to the raft and meanders for nearly another half-century, until Hurricane Katrina spits him ashore in a storm-battered south Louisiana necropolis, a landing that at last jars him back into time. Over the next seven decades, an aging Huck serves as an accomplice to a group of marijuana smugglers; lands in juvie; becomes a flashy, globe-trotting yacht broker; marries an African-American woman who writes novels for children; and makes a late-life return to Hannibal, Mo., where he exacts a kind of revenge on his "creator" by playing the elderly Mark Twain, "river pilot and raconteur," at a riverside amusement park.

The philosophical and literary musings are inventive, and Lock manages to make the combination of brevity and tall-tale looseness mostly work. But for all its charms, the book ultimately seems pretty diffuse.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-934137-76-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 75

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more