Benson's prose is as limp as ever (“Tokyo lay before him, a sprawling, metropolitan machine”)—but for mindless escapism,...

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THE MAN WITH THE RED TATTOO

THE NEW JAMES BOND ADVENTURE

James Bond, British Intelligence's immortal action hero, returns to Japan to stop a Mishima-quoting crimelord whose killer mosquitoes threaten to disrupt a G8 conference, and worse.

With terrorists maintaining a daily presence in the news, the greatest challenge for Benson, the American author currently working the Bond book franchise, is plotting a tale that can have Bond do what the US military doesn’t: infiltrate a terrorist organization and take down the bad guy in charge. Benson succeeds by sticking with the tried if not-so-true formula: deluxe tourism (Bond endures endless lectures about Japanese culture, sees the sights and stays in only luxury hotels, so he can maintain his cover as a wealthy playboy, Benson tells us), over-the-top action (a flashy sword-fight during a Kabuki performance, a bout with a karate-kicking dwarf inside the 50 km-long undersea Seikan Tunnel) and sex—first with Reiko Tamura, a brainy aide to Tiger Tanaka, the semiretired head of Japanese law enforcement first introduced in Fleming's You Only Live Twice (1967), then with Mayumi McMahon, a high-class prostitute “practically perfect in every way” who inherits a drug company after Japanese mafiosi murder her relatives. Tattooed Japanese nationalist Goro Yoshida, first introduced in Never Dream of Dying (2001), needs the drug company to breed genetically altered mosquitoes whose sting inflicts a fatal form of West Nile disease. Yoshida's reasons for setting his bugs loose at a G8 conference, and then in cities throughout the world, aren't terribly clear, but it's enough for Bond to get involved, equipped with an exploding Palm Pilot, a collar-stay knife, a packet of gas-making antacid pills, and his trusty Walther PPK.

Benson's prose is as limp as ever (“Tokyo lay before him, a sprawling, metropolitan machine”)—but for mindless escapism, Bond suffices when nothing else will.

Pub Date: June 10, 2002

ISBN: 0-399-14884-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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