A sometimes-exciting but ultimately meandering portrait of a society gone horribly wrong.


In Tadros’ (The War of the Words, 2013, etc.) terrifying future tale, one man resists the total control of the state in a last-ditch attempt to save a world in disarray.

It’s the 23rd century, and the Occidental Union controls the world. Its rulers have successfully brainwashed a poor, blindly dependent public into supporting its supposedly collectivist politic. However, despite its power, the state fails to meet even the basic needs of its population. One man tells of his own personal rebellion as the Occidental Union tries to keep power in an increasingly chaotic world. The disillusioned narrator is inspired by his visits to the idyllic Free Islands, which are home to the last strongholds of the Coptic Orthodox Christian community. With his dog, Anup, he braves disorder, disease and countless adversaries in an attempt to discover the truth behind the state’s secret plan, the aptly named Project United We Fall. As in all dystopian stories, the slow elaboration of the speculative setting is the main thrill here. Tadros’ academic vocabulary and tendency toward explanation lend themselves to such a book, which is ultimately a cautionary tale—a worst-case scenario for an unchecked welfare state and a perverted rhetoric of social justice. Indeed, the old-school liberal philosophy underpinning the book is fairly explicit: Tadros writes that the Union’s ideology of “Scientism–Collectivism searches for the one grand theory to unify everything and everyone. It is the final assault against the individual and individual experience in the pursuit of Enlightenment-driven progress.” Such clear political tensions, featuring obvious “good” and “bad” guys, frequently drown potentially lively action scenes in extended reflections on the merits of individual rights, as exemplified by other thinkers, such as Aldous Huxley and Thomas Hobbes. Even though many readers may agree with these principles, the book’s bold emphasis on them often works against the story.

A sometimes-exciting but ultimately meandering portrait of a society gone horribly wrong. 

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0987553027

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Nightlight Books

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize

  • National Book Award Finalist


Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet