A strange book that’s full of imagination but marred by scattered plotting.

Your Body is My Prison

A teenage girl explores difficult subjects with an alien inhabiting her mind in a new novel from Leslie (How to Survive in International Marriage, 2004).

Eighteen-year-old Michelle Redmond lives in Pensacola, Florida, with her stepfather, Fred; her loving mother, Angelica; and her half brother, Austin. Alienated and disaffected, Michelle struggles to connect with her peers and wishes that she could have an encounter with an alien to make her existence less ordinary. This wish may be coming true, as Michelle repeatedly dreams that she’s living in an extraterrestrial murderer’s body; soon, she even sees reflections of the murderer in mirrors when she’s awake. But Michelle’s problems increase when she’s the driver in a car crash that kills Austin and renders Angelica comatose. Racked by guilt, Michelle tries to move on with Fred, who blames her for the accident. She soon discovers that the alien murderer is a real being named Tavy, who’s been forced to live inside her mind after killing his girlfriend in the Cassiopeia Nebula. Nonetheless, he and Michelle become friends as they use Michelle’s dreams to explore the nature of justice and suffering as part of an effort to rehabilitate and redeem the alien. All the while, Fred’s behavior becomes increasingly unhinged. Leslie’s novel admirably engages with big ideas. For example, Tavy is horrified by the institutionalized violence that he sees on Earth, but Michelle forces him to consider whether his own crime is any worse. Fred psychologically torments (and later physically assaults) Michelle, but the author also points out that his dysfunction stems from tragic loss. But although the storyline is highly imaginative, it often feels disorderly. Between Fred’s antics, Tavy’s criminal past, and Michelle’s incorporeal journeys, the author packs a lot of dramatic plot points and heady topics into a short book of fewer than 200 pages. The compressed pacing results in bizarre, jarring moments, such as when Michelle’s boyfriend, Steve, too quickly accepts her contention that an alien lives inside her, or when Fred attempts to murder someone with a cat allergy by using hot dogs. A slower pace with more character development might have made such heightened scenes more believable.

A strange book that’s full of imagination but marred by scattered plotting.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5023-3970-6

Page Count: 232

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2016

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

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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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This is quintessential Gibson: gonzo yet cool, sharp-edged, sophisticated—but ultimately, vaguely unsatisfying.

THE PERIPHERAL

While placed firmly in the sci-fi genre of his earlier works, Gibson's latest retains the social commentary from his more recent novels (Zero History, 2010, etc.).

Most Gibson plots essentially concern a race for a particular piece of information—one side seeks to possess it, the other to suppress it. (Although to be fair, isn’t that the plot of most thrillers?) What sets each book apart is the worldbuilding that surrounds that plot kernel. This time around, it’s particularly intriguing. Flynne, a young woman living in a poor, rural American county (probably Southern, though it’s never specified) in the near future, believes she’s beta testing a video game, witnessing the “death” of a virtual character in an urban high-rise. In fact, Flynne has gotten a view into a possible London existing decades in the future and has seen an actual woman get murdered. The two timelines can exchange information and visit each other virtually, via the androidlike “peripherals” of the title. That ability is enough for various future factions to hire killers to go after Flynne and her family or to protect them from that fate, as well as to change the events of her timeline sufficiently enough to ensure that it will never become that future, where, despite considerable scientific advancement, a cascade of disasters has eliminated the majority of human and animal life. Gibson’s strength has always been in establishing setting, while his characters tend to seem a bit blank and inaccessible; for example, alcoholic Wilf’s constant attempts to reach for a drink read more like an annoyingly persistent quirk than a serious psychological problem. Gibson seems to leave his characters’ motives deliberately obscure; due to that and his tendency to pour his energy into the chase, not the goal, the story’s resolution basically fizzles.

This is quintessential Gibson: gonzo yet cool, sharp-edged, sophisticated—but ultimately, vaguely unsatisfying.

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-15844-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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