With its companion, great thinkers viewed from unusual angles—but better as refreshers than first introductions.

THE GHOST OF KARL MARX

From the Plato & Co. series

Cheerfully bidding readers to chill (“Don’t be afraid! It’s only a sheet!”), the ghostly Marx rises up to explain the origins of his social philosophy.

The narrator uses the example of Silesian peasants—who, forced off their farms, forced to take up work as weavers in the city, then forced into factories at starvation wages, rebelled (this was in 1844, though the date doesn’t come up here) and were massacred—to explain the desperate need for an alternative to the market system. A succession of capitalist oppressors delivers variations on “it is not my fault; these are the rules of the Market!” as a refrain. Following a visit with ruthless tycoon “Das Kapital,” he proposes a “labor theory of value” and the abolition of private property. In the end, with a promise to come back and “haunt the world, to try and unite it around my radical solutions!” he sails off to pay a call on “Miss Wall Street Panic!” Printed on rough paper and illustrated with garishly colored, posterlike scenes of massed workers, smoking factories, and clouds of numbers and gears, this sympathetic introduction to basic Marxism harkens back to tracts produced during the Soviet Union’s earlier days. Co-published in the same format but with mildly humorous scenes of doll-like figures with huge, staring eyes, Jean Paul Mongin’s account of The Death of Socrates (illustrated by Yann Le Bras and also translated by Street) paraphrases passages from The Apology and other dialogues to present Socratic ideas and methods of discourse.

With its companion, great thinkers viewed from unusual angles—but better as refreshers than first introductions. (Philosophy. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-3-03734-545-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Diaphanes/Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity.

FUTUREDAZE

AN ANTHOLOGY OF YA SCIENCE FICTION

A low-wattage collection of original stories and poems, as unmemorable as it is unappealingly titled.

The collection was inspired by a perceived paucity of short science fiction for teen readers, and its production costs were covered by a Kickstarter campaign. The editors gather a dozen poems and 21 stories from a stable of contributors who, after headliners Jack McDevitt and Nancy Holder, will be largely unknown even to widely read fans of the genre. The tales place their characters aboard spacecraft or space stations, on other worlds or in future dystopias, but only rarely do the writers capture a credibly adolescent voice or sensibility. Standouts in this department are the Heinlein-esque “The Stars Beneath Our Feet,” by Stephen D. Covey & Sandra McDonald, about a first date/joyride in space gone wrong, and Camille Alexa’s portrait of a teen traumatized by a cyberspace assault (“Over It”). Along with a few attempts to craft futuristic slang, only Lavie Tidhar’s fragmentary tale of Tel Aviv invaded by successive waves of aliens, doppelgangers, zombies and carnivorous plants (“The Myriad Dangers”) effectively lightens the overall earnest tone. Aside from fictional aliens and modified humans, occasional references to dark skin (“Out of the Silent Sea,” Dale Lucas) are the only signs of ethnic diversity. Most of the free-verse poetry makes only oblique, at best, references to science-fictional themes.

A change of pace from the teeming swarms of fantasy and paranormal romance but too underpowered to achieve escape velocity. (author bios) (Science fiction/short stories. 12-14)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-9847824-0-8

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Underwords

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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This potentially inspiring tale staggers along under the weight of a worthy agenda.

BLOOD RUNNER

A general indictment of apartheid is thinly wrapped in a tale about a young Zulu marathoner who runs for his country in the Olympics.

When police fire into a crowd watching a peaceful demonstration, they orphan young Samuel and his two older brothers, radicalizing the latter. In later years one brother loses his mind on Robben Island, and the other is killed in a gun battle. Samuel, though, grows up to leverage his love of running barefoot over his dusty tribal “homeland” into a spot on South Africa’s Olympics team after apartheid collapses and Mandela is freed. Riordan loosely bases his disconnected main plot on the experiences of Josiah Thugwane, the first black gold medalist from South Africa. He begins his book with the graphically depicted opening massacre, closely followed by a disturbingly gruesome hospital scene. To these he adds angry rhetoric (“Where was British justice now?”) and ugly words when Samuel goes to get a passbook and later boards a “Whites Only” train car by mistake. For readers who still aren't with the program, he provides infodumps about South Africa’s racial history and the African National Congress and a triumphant set piece when Samuel casts a vote in his first national election. Samuel runs (and wins) the climactic race with a letter from Mandela tucked in his shoe.

This potentially inspiring tale staggers along under the weight of a worthy agenda. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-84507-934-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2012

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