While not pushing to the limits to which Bob-Waksberg is demonstrably capable, a savage sendup of love in all its dubious...

SOMEONE WHO WILL LOVE YOU IN ALL YOUR DAMAGED GLORY

Eighteen sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-biting short fictions from the creator of Netflix’s Bojack Horseman.

This offbeat collection of bad romances will be a treat for fans of Bob-Waksberg’s animated cult comedy but also fits squarely into the type of wry humor practiced by peers like Amy Sedaris and Simon Rich. It opens with a disastrous date in “Salted Circus Cashews, Swear to God,” which uses both typography and tension to land its unresolved ending. There’s a dash of Welcome to Night Vale in a longer selection, “A Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion,” in which the happy couple getting married must wrestle with how many goats to sacrifice. Elsewhere, we find an uncomfortable reunion in “These Are Facts,” a collection of mundane superheroes in “up-and-comers,” and a scathing satire of professional theater in “You Want to Know What Plays Are Like?” While the author’s longer prose is deft, his humor lands more squarely in pieces that might seem gimmicky—lists, riffs, and bitterly funny imagined scenarios. These include "short stories," which is made up of a list of premises such as “ 'You’re not like other girls,’ he said to every girl”; “Missed Connection—m4w,” in which “timeless romance” takes on a very different meaning; the deeply uncomfortable “Lies We Told Each Other (A Partial List),” which ends with “I love you too”; "Lunch with the Person Who Dumped You," a lurid choose-your-own-adventure scenario; and "Rules for Taboo," a deeply weird set of rules for a game of that name. Bob-Waksberg caps his collection with a theme park of dead presidents in “More of You That You Already Are,” strongly reminiscent of David Sedaris’ “Santaland Diaries,” and a chaser in “We Will Be Close on Friday 18 July,” which pushes existential angst into a simple grammar error.

While not pushing to the limits to which Bob-Waksberg is demonstrably capable, a savage sendup of love in all its dubious glory.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3201-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

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

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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