TERRESTRIALS

As usual, West (Sporting With Amaryllis, 1996, etc.) offers erudite commentary and provocative insights into the human predicament, this time in a tale told by an extraterrestrial about two American pilots bound by friendship and history. West's novice novelist, One Eighth Humbly—who writes the novel one reads here—is a kind of extraterrestrial Gulliver who describes a world quite unlike his own, and in doing so implicitly tries to understand life on his own star as well as on Earth. Like earthlings, he looks for, but doesn't find, proof of an almighty being's existence amid the enormous amount of information he and fellow aliens have assembled. But the story he tells of Clegg and Booth, American military pilots, does afford him a chance to observe humans—intelligent beings for the most part—as they try to understand themselves and the situations that confront them. The novelist doesn't quite get how everything works on earth—the notion of seasons confuses him, his pilots are preternaturally literary—but he gets better as the story picks up momentum. As they fly their high altitude spy-plane Cyrano on its daily sweep above the earth, Clegg and his superior officer, Booth, develop a symbiotic relationship based on flying and on Clegg's fascination with what makes Booth tick. When Cyrano is attacked over Africa, the two men parachute into the Ethiopian desert, where Clegg is caught on a rocky ledge and Booth falls in with a band of cruel salt-miners. As challenging as these experiences are, they're not as difficult as life after their rescue. Finding their debriefings increasingly incomprehensible, even threatening, the two escape, adopt new identities, and go into business as charter pilots. But freedom has its own challenges. Haunted by their heroic pasts, they discover, tragically, that they can't adjust to the prosaic realities of their lives. A splendid assembly of ideas, language, and allusions, though sometimes the sheer intellectual exuberance overwhelms the story, however conceptually brilliant.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-80032-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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