A patchy but entertaining and emotionally resonant collection of fantasias.

SAVE THE LAST BULL E.T. FOR GOD

THE CONSCIOUSNESS IS AN ALIEN

This haphazard but imaginative sci-fi kaleidoscope of a novel features ancient Sumerian gods, aliens from outer space, the Mongols, the Nazis, the Holy Quran, and a well-known psychologist.

Alkan’s epic is essentially three stand-alone novellas and some satellite pieces, tacked together with a clumsy framing device and repeating cameos and themes. The first novella centers on Dr. Wilhelm Reich, a real-life Freudian psychologist infamous for his theories of “organon energy.” Readers meet him as a young medical student in Vienna, bewitched and bamboozled by a beautiful psychiatric patient. Years later, in Berlin, he sees her again, after she’s become a medium relaying messages from Sumerian deities—actually space aliens—from whom the Nazis are trying to get weapons. Weaving together elements of Reich’s life story with occult legends, this atmospheric yarn is romantic and shot through with sardonic humor. The next and longest novella takes up about 40 percent of the book, and contains an almost verbatim portion of the author’s previous novel, Code of Disjointed Letters. It follows an Istanbul doctor obsessed with finding secret, coded messages in the Quran; when he writes a book about them, he’s invited onto a bizarre reality television show to compete against mysterious rivals in various contests. There’s a great deal of muddled philosophizing in this Kafkaesque tale, but Alkan’s skill with magical realism redeems it. A third novella follows the 13th century adventures of Cuci, the underappreciated son of Genghis Khan and a ferocious warrior (“I tried to wind the intestines that I slashed out of the abdomen around the neck of someone”) with a wolf fetish. He and his Mongol horde slaughter half of Eurasia before he decides that “something [is] missing.” Cuci’s navel-gazing can drag, but his brutal swashbuckling is well-paced and rousing. Smaller pieces revisit these characters at other junctures, and also recount Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of Peru and a bubonic plague germ’s stream of consciousness. Alkan ties it all together with the grandiose narrative conceit of a figure reincarnating through history and causing wars and epidemics as an evolutionary project to improve the gene pool, but this notion grows steadily more incoherent. Some sections of the book, which sound like awkward translations from another language, could have been severely edited, and Alkan’s stabs at an overarching, extraterrestrial myth-history fizzle. Still, his engaging storytelling, fertile imagination, and evocative imagery will keep readers engrossed.

A patchy but entertaining and emotionally resonant collection of fantasias.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2015

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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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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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