A technocratic Kafka nightmare—heavy on surreal diagnosis of the world’s ills, light on the traditional rewards of...

THE INVESTIGATION

A spare, dystopian fable that examines how closely contemporary life has caught up to Kafka since the publication of The Castle.

No one comes to meet the nameless Investigator when a train lets him off at a nameless city. So it’s long after dark by the time he arrives at the Enterprise, where he’s been sent to look into a series of 20 suicides over the past year. A disembodied voice refuses to admit him so late and declines to give him any information about where he might pass the night. Left to his own devices, the Investigator finds the mordantly misnamed Hope Hotel, where a Giantess forces him to review an exhaustive list of hotel policies before she gives him the key to a room where he collapses for the night. In the morning, the Server at the hotel restaurant won’t give him tea, toast or orange juice, and the Policeman he meets over his nonbreakfast ends up questioning him. When he arrives at the Enterprise, predictably without the identification he left at the Hope, he gets little cooperation from the Guard, the Guide and especially the Manager, who’s cordial enough but also insecure, delusional and prone to hysterical fits. After spending a second night passed out in the Enterprise, the Investigator finds all the functionaries who posed such obstacles yesterday so solicitous that the effect is even more disturbing. By this time Claudel (Brodeck, 2009, etc.) has long since made it clear that in this investigation, it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive.

A technocratic Kafka nightmare—heavy on surreal diagnosis of the world’s ills, light on the traditional rewards of storytelling—crossed with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and a hint of Buster Keaton.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-53534-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self-described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because...

FIGHT CLUB

Brutal and relentless debut fiction takes anarcho-S&M chic to a whole new level—in a creepy, dystopic, confrontational novel that's also cynically smart and sharply written.

Palahniuk's insomniac narrator, a drone who works as a product recall coordinator, spends his free time crashing support groups for the dying. But his after-hours life changes for the weirder when he hooks up with Tyler Durden, a waiter and projectionist with plans to screw up the world—he's a "guerilla terrorist of the service industry." "Project Mayhem" seems taken from a page in The Anarchist Cookbook and starts small: Durden splices subliminal scenes of porno into family films and he spits into customers' soup. Things take off, though, when he begins the fight club—a gruesome late-night sport in which men beat each other up as partial initiation into Durden's bigger scheme: a supersecret strike group to carry out his wilder ideas. Durden finances his scheme with a soap-making business that secretly steals its main ingredient—the fat sucked from liposuction. Durden's cultlike groups spread like wildfire, his followers recognizable by their open wounds and scars. Seeking oblivion and self-destruction, the leader preaches anarchist fundamentalism: "Losing all hope was freedom," and "Everything is falling apart"—all of which is just his desperate attempt to get God's attention. As the narrator begins to reject Durden's revolution, he starts to realize that the legendary lunatic is just himself, or the part of himself that takes over when he falls asleep. Though he lands in heaven, which closely resembles a psycho ward, the narrator/Durden lives on in his flourishing clubs.

This brilliant bit of nihilism succeeds where so many self-described transgressive novels do not: It's dangerous because it's so compelling.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-393-03976-5

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1996

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A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

RED RISING

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 1

Set in the future and reminiscent of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones, this novel dramatizes a story of vengeance, warfare and the quest for power.

In the beginning, Darrow, the narrator, works in the mines on Mars, a life of drudgery and subservience. He’s a member of the Reds, an “inferior” class, though he’s happily married to Eo, an incipient rebel who wants to overthrow the existing social order, especially the Golds, who treat the lower-ranking orders cruelly. When Eo leads him to a mildly rebellious act, she’s caught and executed, and Darrow decides to exact vengeance on the perpetrators of this outrage. He’s recruited by a rebel cell and “becomes” a Gold by having painful surgery—he has golden wings grafted on his back—and taking an exam to launch himself into the academy that educates the ruling elite. Although he successfully infiltrates the Golds, he finds the social order is a cruel and confusing mash-up of deception and intrigue. Eventually, he leads one of the “houses” in war games that are all too real and becomes a guerrilla warrior leading a ragtag band of rebelliously minded men and women. Although it takes a while, the reader eventually gets used to the specialized vocabulary of this world, where warriors shoot “pulseFists” and are protected by “recoilArmor.” As with many similar worlds, the warrior culture depicted here has a primitive, even classical, feel to it, especially since the warriors sport names such as Augustus, Cassius, Apollo and Mercury.

A fine novel for those who like to immerse themselves in alternative worlds.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53978-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2013

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