THE INVESTIGATION

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

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 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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GOLDEN SON

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 2

Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both—fantasy, the...

Brown presents the second installment of his epic science-fiction trilogy, and like the first (Red Rising, 2014), it’s chock-full of interpersonal tension, class conflict and violence.

The opening reintroduces us to Darrow au Andromedus, whose wife, Eo, was killed in the first volume. Also known as the Reaper, Darrow is a lancer in the House of Augustus and is still looking for revenge on the Golds, who are both in control and in the ascendant. The novel opens with a galactic war game, seemingly a simulation, but Darrow’s opponent, Karnus au Bellona, makes it very real when he rams Darrow’s ship and causes a large number of fatalities. In the main narrative thread, Darrow has infiltrated the Golds and continues to seek ways to subvert their oppressive and dominant culture. The world Brown creates here is both dense and densely populated, with a curious amalgam of the classical, the medieval and the futuristic. Characters with names like Cassius, Pliny, Theodora and Nero coexist—sometimes uneasily—with Daxo, Kavax and Sevro. And the characters inhabit a world with a vaguely medieval social hierarchy yet containing futuristic technology such as gravBoots. Amid the chronological murkiness, one thing is clear—Darrow is an assertive hero claiming as a birthright his obligation to fight against oppression: "For seven hundred years we have been enslaved….We have been kept in darkness. But there will come a day when we walk in the light." Stirring—and archetypal—stuff.  

Comparisons to The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series are inevitable, for this tale has elements of both—fantasy, the future and quasi-historicism.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-345-53981-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

MORNING STAR

From the Red Rising Trilogy series , Vol. 3

An ambitious and satisfying conclusion to a monumental saga.

Brown completes his science-fiction trilogy with another intricately plotted and densely populated tome, this one continuing the focus on a rebellion against the imperious Golds.

This last volume is incomprehensible without reference to the first two. Briefly, Darrow of Lykos, aka Reaper, has been “carved” from his status as a Red (the lowest class) into a Gold. This allows him to infiltrate the Gold political infrastructure…but a game’s afoot, and at the beginning of the third volume, Darrow finds himself isolated and imprisoned for his insurgent activities. He longs both for rescue and for revenge, and eventually he gets both. Brown is an expert at creating violent set pieces whose cartoonish aspects (“ ‘Waste ’em,’ Sevro says with a sneer” ) are undermined by the graphic intensity of the savagery, with razors being a favored instrument of combat. Brown creates an alternative universe that is multilayered and seething with characters who exist in a shadow world between history and myth, much as in Frank Herbert’s Dune. This world is vaguely Teutonic/Scandinavian (with characters such as Magnus, Ragnar, and the Valkyrie) and vaguely Roman (Octavia, Romulus, Cassius) but ultimately wholly eclectic. At the center are Darrow, his lover, Mustang, and the political and military action of the Uprising. Loyalties are conflicted, confusing, and malleable. Along the way we see Darrow become more heroic and daring and Mustang, more charismatic and unswerving, both agents of good in a battle against forces of corruption and domination. Among Darrow’s insights as he works his way to a position of ascendancy is that “as we pretend to be brave, we become so.”

An ambitious and satisfying conclusion to a monumental saga.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-53984-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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