An uneven but often enjoyable thriller.

STEEL WOMBS

In this debut novel, an American geologist spends part of his retirement investigating a strange science project in Mexico.

Dr. Cal Larsson is a former science professor living in North Carolina who gets recruited by a former classmate to visit Sweden to meet Dr. Inga Rundstrom, a Swedish geneticist whom Cal met at a conference decades earlier. Inga is concerned about the giant embryos that she’s helping to create at a top-secret Mexican facility, and, for some reason, she wants Cal—a geologist—to help her to look into them. Cal agrees, in part because the longtime bachelor quickly falls for Inga, captivated by her “glacial blue eyes.” She develops similar feelings for Cal, but she holds back for reasons that initially go unexplained. The couple travels through Europe while being stalked by such characters as Inga’s cousin Aryanne Wolf, who wants to be Inga’s lover, and her computer-controlled pack of dogs; Aryanne’s brother, Adolph, who lusts for his sister and wants Inga out of the way; and Adolph’s large henchman. Later, circumstances bring Cal back to his first love, an Irishwoman named Kara O’Malley. This is an inventive, sometimes-outlandish adventure, and its odd blend of science fact and fiction, action, and romance works well. Cal, Inga, and Kara are frequently in over their heads, but they entertainingly escape by using their wits. Overall, Lindholm develops these three main characters well, although his secondary players, particularly the villains, are largely one-dimensional. This is a relatively brief, taut story, usually good qualities in a thriller. However, this novel’s brevity means that several subplots end abruptly, which will frustrate some readers. Still, enough puzzles are left unsolved that this feels like the first book in a series—one that Lindholm hopefully plans to pursue.

An uneven but often enjoyable thriller.

Pub Date: March 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4834-6626-2

Page Count: 172

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2017

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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

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

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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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