Sci-fi as it should be: engaging, moving, and grand in scope.

SEEING FOREVER

McCarter (Of Things Not Seen, 2017, etc.) returns with a tale of a man who defeats the limits of mortality only to question the worth of indefinite existence.

Paul Cruz once lived as a human being on 22nd-century Earth. At the time, the planet was recovering from elevated sea levels, displaced populations, and the resulting disease and wars that came with them, collectively known as the Shift. He was married to a woman named Viola, who took increasing comfort, as they grew older, in religion and its promised afterlife. Paul, however, wanted to become a “Singular” and upload his human consciousness to a technological platform called the Singularity. He did so at age 90, after learning of Viola’s death; they’d divorced some years before. After living in virtual worlds of varying quality and design for decades, Paul is now ready to settle at a place called “Home.” It’s a quaint virtual-seaside environment that feels real, even giving him the illusion of a sunburn. There, he meets a person named Simon, who has eyes that seem familiar. Paul recounts the story of how he and other Singulars once wrested their fates from the corrupt Osiris Corporation, which had been deleting people after invoking “obscure clauses in their contracts.” Paul’s history as a Singular is also entwined with the story of Hugh Rice, an architect of the Singularity who became his lover. In this quiet but far-reaching thriller, author McCarter explores the essence of what it means to be human. On worlds where one might become an animal, or even the wind, he shows how virtual existence could become “tiresome”: “If everything was THE BEST, then nothing was,” Paul narrates. McCarter doesn’t bog down the narrative with hard-science jargon, instead cleanly and clearly explaining how the upload process works: “they stop your biological functions, they take your brain apart a cell at a time, mapping each and every neuron.” The first half of the story is rather sinister, with Paul’s fellow Singulars June Grunwald and Kendall Rothschild vanishing, but concerns of the heart quickly take center stage as Paul discovers that “Love shouldn’t be contained or constrained by the accident of gender.” The ending, which brings the discussion of the afterlife full circle, hints at a sequel.

Sci-fi as it should be: engaging, moving, and grand in scope.

Pub Date: April 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-941153-01-7

Page Count: 182

Publisher: Little Hummingbird Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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