Well-written bitchery, but it’s all so-o-o Dynasty and so dated.

BITCH GODDESS

Has-been sex symbol tells all—well, not quite all—in this latest from the author of Drag Queen (1995).

It’s up to Viola Chute’s ghostwriter to fill in the blanks in her memoirs, and E. Manfred Harry will do just about anything for money since the publication and instant remaindering of his masterpiece, Mincing in Urania, an overwrought gay romance that received no more than a sneer or two from callous reviewers. Harry, a showbiz trivia buff and bad-movie aficionado, sets to work taping chatterbox Viola, beginning with maudlin (and mostly bogus) memories of her Cornwall childhood, moving quickly through her brief marriage to a filthy-rich tycoon before she leapt to a very minor kind of stardom in crummy toga flicks like The Private Life of Agrippina and Passion on the Nile, now cult classics. Old newspaper and magazine clips provide more information on Viola’s second marriage, hateful daughter, and headline appearance in a musical mega-bomb based on the life of Sylvia Plath. Harry has to admire his employer’s wondrous knack for rising phoenix-like from the ashes, then falling right back in again. Her devoted New York fans (mostly gay men) have never forgotten her naked dance at Studio 54 . . . or the tail of toilet paper attached to her flawless bottom. Fired by the temperamental diva and furious about it, Harry takes an assignment from another actress, who wants him to dig up some real dirt on the unsuspecting Viola. Georgia Kirkby is bent on revenge: after all, she had the lead role on a scandalous and highly successful TV soap until archrival Viola stole it. There has to be something in Viola’s past that could be used against her now. Part of her life story doesn’t make any sense at all . . . something about a nobleman with a penchant for humiliating housekeeping games? Tune in tomorrow for the who-cares denouement.

Well-written bitchery, but it’s all so-o-o Dynasty and so dated.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-452-28310-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Plume

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more