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

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...

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NINTH HOUSE

Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.

Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.

With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31307-2

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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