by Peter Mendelsund ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 5, 2019
Mendelsund’s novel of ideas makes a neat bookend to Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 as a study of creation in the age of the...
“What the project is, only the project knows.” So we learn as this enigmatic tale, Mendelsund’s (What We See When We Read, 2014) debut novel, winds its way to a close.
Percy Frobisher might have done well to turn around when, on arriving at the desert retreat known as the Institute, he is greeted with the words, “Welcome to nowhere.” It’s a nowhere in which, though he does not then know it, he will spend years, a nowhere with plenty of dystopia to it. He prefers not to talk about the project that has brought him there even if, as his greeter cajoles, it’s the purpose of the Institute for people to talk about what they’re up to. Indeed, Percy doesn’t quite know what that project is: a novel, at times, or a Gysin-esque collage, or a set of drawings so precise as to include the world to scale, as in the Borges fable. “I see now that, whereas the design of the project is strong, so much depends on how it is realized,” he tells himself. Percy soon learns, however, that the Institute is an odd place, part factory of dreams, part boot camp to wrestle the elusive artistic temperament into a manageable and measurable thing; says its director, creativity “is more or less a technology” that requires nothing less than total commitment, helped along by a program that mixes therapy with coaching and self-criticism, to say nothing of technological oddities that threaten to turn the whole place and everything in it into—well, call it the simulacrum of a simulacrum. Mendelsund, by day an art director and book-cover designer at Knopf, has a grand time serving up what would seem to be an extended metaphor for creativity, complete with some useful if sometimes strange pointers (“Though the project shall bootstrap its very existence out of its mere possibility, the project shall also be self-liquidating") that would do Brian Eno proud.Mendelsund’s novel of ideas makes a neat bookend to Richard Powers’s Galatea 2.2 as a study of creation in the age of the smart machine.
Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019
Page Count: 496
Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018
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by Max Brooks ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 16, 2020
A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
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
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine
Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Blake Crouch ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 26, 2016
Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.
A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.
Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.
Pub Date: July 26, 2016
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016
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