THE UNICORN SONATA

Familiar territory for the author of The Innkeeper's Song (1993), etc. In Woodmont, Los Angeles, young Josephina ``Joey'' Rivera spends much of her spare time helping out in old John Papas's dusty music shop. One day, in steps a striking young man, Indigo, with an unusual horn he hopes to sell for gold—more gold, indeed, than Papas can readily lay his hands on. On the horn Indigo plays a strange, haunting music that, even when he leaves, Joey can still hear; following the music, she unwittingly steps into another world, Shei'rah, where the Eldest—unicorns—live. Joey is befriended by Ko, a shaggy, lovable satyr, and by eager young unicorn Touriq; sadly, she learns from Lord Sinti that all the Eldest are going blind, for reasons none can fathom. Returning home, Joey finds that Indigo (another Eldest) prefers to live on Earth in human form; selling his horn will enable him to live comfortably, though without it he cannot return to Shei'rah. On her next visit to Shei'rah, Joey brings along her beloved, wise grandmother, Abuelita, who remembers an old folk remedy for blindness whose chief ingredient is—gold! So Indigo must relinquish his gains in order to save the Eldest, whose blindness he caused in the first place with his greed for gold. This slight, insubstantial fable has lyrical intentions, but ends up just self-consciously picturesque; though the strained, flimsy plotting and blurry details don't help, Beagle's deserved renown as a leading unicornologist might carry readers along. (11 full-color illustrations, not seen) ($100,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-57036-288-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

READY PLAYER ONE

Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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