Science-fiction specialist Park (Celestis, 1995, etc.) turns from distant planets to the distant past, here using an apocryphal conceit to retell the story of Jesus as a bearish ex-zealot who, exiled from Palestine for murder and treason, gradually discovers his true identity during a perilous trek to the Far East. The story begins in Rome with the flight of a slave, Corax, who watched his master kill himself rather than be killed in an Imperial power struggle. Finding his way to Palestine by sea, Corax makes use of his considerable skills as a healer to make money but runs afoul of Pilate's soldiers and is imprisoned. He becomes an informer to regain his freedom, then sets out on a pilgrimage through the former realms of Alexander the Great, intending to honor his father's memory by going to the headwaters of the Ganges. His medical training hindering his progress as much as helping, Corax eventually teams up with Jeshua of Nazareth, the Jewish bear- man he first saw in a cave of zealots in Palestine but who now seems to be popping up wherever Corax goes. Jeshua has both the Romans and his former comrades against him; he wanders in exile from one painful situation to another until Corax rescues him from a pigsty and the two flee eastward together. Along the way, they encounter gracious Persians, Jewish bandits, African slaves, and deadly but fair-minded Huns, and, finally, in the remotest outpost of Greek civilization, they witness the slaughter of the last inbred remnants of Hellenic culture. The two intrepid voyagers part company at the bloody scene, each to meet a separate destiny. A comfortable cruise for the armchair traveler through the Ancient World but not much as a novel: The characters serve mostly as points of reference in an ever-changing historical pageant without ever making the story their own.

Pub Date: June 12, 1996

ISBN: 1-56947-061-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1996

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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