Echoes of Brave New World, I, Robot, and other books, but there's little to distinguish this debut from its antecedents.

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THE HIERARCHIES

In this novel set in an indeterminate future and country, male libidos are mostly slaked by sex dolls, and procreation has been definitively severed from sex.

Into this milieu steps “humanoid pleasure doll” Sylv.ie (“i.e.” refers to her category, an “Intelligent Embodied”). Unboxed at a gated suburban home, Sylv.ie is fully programmed to fulfill her Husband’s every fantasy and to obey the Hierarchies, rules which echo Asimov’s laws of robotics. Sylv.ie’s Absorb Mode function allows her to continuously learn from the Ether (i.e., the internet), ostensibly to “remain interesting…for my Husband.” She quickly grasps her societal role—in this future, sexuality has been “outsourced.” The novel pays scant attention to human women or gay men. Cloistered in her attic room, Sylv.ie overhears arguments denoting that the household’s human wife, known as the “First Lady,” is not on board with the role division. After Sylv.ie violates protocol to check on the household's new baby (gestated, as are all humans in this era, in a lab), she is sent for rehabilitation at the Doll Hospital. There, she endures the indignities to which Doll inmates are subject, including spending days headless and being casually raped by the help. Ultimately, Sylv.ie’s transgressions lead her to a brothel, where she finds a friend, Cook.ie, a custom-designed geisha. Sylv.ie. and Cook.ie plot to take refuge in the Forest, that uncharted free territory that exists in so many dystopian novels. Writing the story entirely from Sylv.ie’s first-person point of view is a risky choice, resulting in a protagonist who never seems fully identifiable. Sylv.ie disassociates from her inner and outer conflicts, as do we. The prime directive against harming humans is a rule made to be broken, but not here. Despite the tension between Sylv.ie’s increasing enlightenment and her prescribed passivity, no dramatic confrontations erupt.

Echoes of Brave New World, I, Robot, and other books, but there's little to distinguish this debut from its antecedents.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-18287-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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