A cerebral work of feminist cyberpunk literature that challenges modern concepts of gender, literacy, privacy, humanity and...

Invisible Soft Return

In Degnore’s (Stuck Up, 2012, etc.) sci-fi novel, 33-year-old Evet is accused of murdering her beloved cat and a little girl who may be her daughter.

In a world where computer-simulated experiences called Sims are uploaded directly into one’s brain, people commonly live out their dark fantasies and forbidden urges. However, even the most banal real-world experiences are considered taboo, and murder is unheard of. After Evet is accused of such a violent crime, her friends suggest that perhaps she committed murder by mistake, confusing reality for a Sim. However, Evet is a Sim designer herself, so she’s among the few people in her society who are permitted to engage in real-world experiences. Therefore, she understands the distinction better than most—and she knows she didn’t commit the crime. However, she still grieves over the loss of her cat (who, oddly enough, was also her lover), and over the loss of a daughter she doesn’t remember having—and those memories meld into one. When law enforcement officers detain Evet and torture her by controlling her thoughts, her grip on reality further slips. The lines between individual and collective memory become blurred as she falls in and out of a series of dreams that take her to different points in history. The novel pushes even the most open-minded readers’ boundaries early on, as it opens with a shocking description of a sexual encounter between a woman and a cat. However, in this story, animals also serve as a reminder of how humanity has been lost, absorbed into simulated realities. The author forces readers to suspend their expectations about appropriate relationships and challenges them to abandon comfortably held notions of the nature of reality. This isn’t a casual read and may leave some readers behind, but it has a jarring elegance that may leave a profound impression on those willing to open themselves up to it.

A cerebral work of feminist cyberpunk literature that challenges modern concepts of gender, literacy, privacy, humanity and reality.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0615900551

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Digital Fabulists

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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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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