A smart, fun satire—Jonathan Swift in space, with twists befitting Vincent Price.

THE FOUR FINGERS OF DEATH

A rollicking romp through deep space and Arizona alike, improbable and thoroughly entertaining, courtesy of master storyteller Moody (Right Livelihoods, 2007, etc.).

Mash up Isaac Asimov with Thomas Pynchon, with dashes of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, and you begin to approach Moody’s madcap view on the world. His near-future tale opens in 2024 with a sad sack of a writer named Montese Crandall, who—shades of Twitterous tweets—has been perfecting the art of reducing an epic to a single line: “We went with the stealth bomber,” and “Last one home goes without anesthesia.” Crandall is quite proud of this, exulting, “I, Montese Crandall, M.F.A., write very short, very condensed literary pieces, and by short, I mean very, very short.” Well, the insiderish, self-referential joke’s on us, for Moody—or, better, Crandall—then proceeds to deliver a massive shaggy dog of a tale, a novelization based on an old 1960s grade-Z film called The Crawling Hand. (That film is real, and no one you’ve ever heard of, apart from maybe Alan Hale of Gilligan’s Island fame, is in it.) And why, of that hand, do only four fingers figure? Well, something has happened to the middle of them, along with the corporeal remains of a crew of astronauts unfortunately exploded over the Arizona desert on re-entry from Mars to Earth. Those four fingers make a lethal little package, however, creepy-crawling around and transmitting icky space sicknesses to the inhabitants of terra firma. Moody brings in dozens of characters major and minor, from a chimpanzee to a “fucking ridiculously hot girlfriend” to desert rednecks to astronauts and bureaucrats, and not a one of them wasted; as he gamely intertwines their destinies, he switches mood, voice, register and generally has a grand old time twitting the conventions of science fiction and literary narrative alike. It’s a big old goof, but punctuated by telling commentary about the direction society, the planet and literature are all going—which, suffice it to say, is not the ideal one.

A smart, fun satire—Jonathan Swift in space, with twists befitting Vincent Price.

Pub Date: July 28, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-11891-0

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2010

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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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A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.

THE CHASE

From the Briar U series

In this opener to Kennedy’s (Hot & Bothered, 2017, etc.) Briar U romance series, two likable students keep getting their signals crossed.

Twenty-one-year-old Summer Heyward-Di Laurentis is expelled from Brown University in the middle of her junior year because she was responsible for a fire at the Kappa Beta Nu sorority house. Fortunately, her father has connections, so she’s now enrolled in Briar University, a prestigious institution about an hour outside Boston. But as she’s about to move into Briar’s Kappa Beta Nu house, she’s asked to leave by the sisters, who don’t want her besmirching their reputation. Her older brother Dean, who’s a former Briar hockey star, comes to her rescue; his buddies, who are still on the hockey team, need a fourth roommate for their townhouse. Three good-looking hockey jocks and a very rich, gorgeous fashion major under the same roof—what could go wrong? Summer becomes quickly infatuated with one of her housemates: Dean’s best friend Colin “Fitzy” Fitzgerald. There’s a definite spark between them, and they exchange smoldering looks, but the tattooed Fitzy, who’s also a video game reviewer and designer, is an introvert who prefers no “drama” in his life. Summer, however, is a charming extrovert, although she has an inferiority complex about her flagging scholastic acumen. As the story goes on, the pair seem to misinterpret each other’s every move. Meanwhile, another roommate and potential suitor, Hunter Davenport, is waiting in the wings. Kennedy’s novel is full of sex, alcohol, and college-level profanity, but it never becomes formulaic. The author adroitly employs snappy dialogue, steady pacing, and humor, as in a scene at a runway fashion show featuring Briar jocks parading in Summer-designed swimwear. The book also manages to touch on some serious subjects, including learning disabilities and abusive behavior by faculty members. Summer and Fitzy’s repeated stumbles propel the plot through engaging twists and turns; the characters trade off narrating the story, which gives each of them a chance to reveal some substance.

A steamy, glitzy, and tender tale of college intrigue.    

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72482-199-7

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

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