An imaginative and soundly executed SF morality tale.

A STAND-IN FOR DYING

From the Brink of Life Trilogy series , Vol. 1

A man agrees to sell his body—literally—in exchange for a better life in this science fiction novel from Moskovitz (The Methuselarity Transformation, 2014, etc.), the first in a trilogy.

In 2041, Marcus Takana is approached by a woman named Terra, who makes an offer. A wealthy benefactor will provide for him for the rest of his life, giving him the money and access he needs to achieve his potential. However, when that benefactor’s body reaches the end of its mortal life, he and Marcus will switch bodies—resulting in Marcus’ immediate death. The process is known as Ambrosia Conversion. “So you're the devil and you've come to buy my soul?” he asks Terra. She responds: “Not your soul, Mr. Takana. You can keep that. It’s no use to us at all. It’s your body we want. And we’re prepared to pay you handsomely for it.” Marcus, who has nothing else in his life save his immaculate physique, agrees. The future inhabitant of Marcus’ body is Raymond “Ray” Mettler, who rose to celebrity with an invention that seemed as though it would save the environment—and who became a pariah when it began to destroy it instead. Marcus’ new life soon becomes an amazing success story involving love, children, and influence, so much so that he wonders: Should he really be expected to give all this up? In Marcus and Ray, Moskovitz has constructed an ingenious scenario probing the ethics of technology, class, and identity. His prose blends the technical and the emotional to create moments of unexpected beauty: “Terra airlifted him by drone to the edge of the city by the waterfront. It was still dark when she disappeared back into the sky. Marcus could hear water lapping against the seawall and a cacophony of barking sounds. ‘Seals.’ ” The author’s commitment to deeply developing his characters—as well hitting them with more than a few twists and turns—elevates what could have been merely an interesting thought experiment into a compelling novel with some emotional heft. The reader looks forward to additional fables of the high-tech future in the following volumes.

An imaginative and soundly executed SF morality tale.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73417-890-6

Page Count: 333

Publisher: Fluke Tale Productions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2019

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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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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...

HOME FRONT

 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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