Good work from a writer—never less than authoritative (The Ice Curtain, 2002, etc.)—who, with a little less techno and a bit...

TYPHOON

A solid, Arctic-set technothriller in which a cold war—cold as icebergs—breaks out when a pair of inimical subs (one US, one Russian) take each other on.

Oh, that Baikal! Not only is the Russian sub humungous—big as an aircraft carrier—but it’s supposed to be defunct. Originally, six Typhoon class submersibles, Baikal and her sisters, were built by the Russians, their number steadily diminished by a variety of mishaps. And then there was one, which the US paid the Russians to scrap. “Those son of bitches took our money and kept the boat,” fumes the captain of the U.S.S Portland, the sleek nuclear sub that suddenly comes upon this formidable monster. In an act both rash and characteristic, Commander James Vann decides to pursue the Baikal and blow it out of the water if he can—never mind the very real risk of WWIII. Fortunately, there are some cooler heads on the Portland, belonging to Lieutenant Commander Willy Steadman, Vann’s exec, and Senior Chief Jerome Browne, the very model of a seasoned, savvy career enlisted man. Also on board , for the first time in US submarine history, is a woman: the pretty, plucky, and cool-headed Lieutenant Rose Scavullo, a crack Russian translator. Vann hates everything about her, including the aroma that stems from soap a tad more delicate than standard issue. Most of all, however, he hates the fact of her: an alien presence, he decrees, on what was obviously meant to be an all-boys bastion. Vann’s hunt for red Baikal persists, growing ever more obsessive until, it becomes clear to Steadman, Browne, and Scavullo, intervention is inescapable. Shades of Bligh and Queeg.

Good work from a writer—never less than authoritative (The Ice Curtain, 2002, etc.)—who, with a little less techno and a bit more thriller, might have nudged this up to outstanding.

Pub Date: March 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-14935-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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