Leith’s narrative runs mildly manic after a while, but the dichotomy between his unruffled prose and the mad events at hand...

THE COINCIDENCE ENGINE

When a British student comes to possess a physics-bending device, all hell breaks loose on his journey across America.

Former Telegraph editor Leith (Sod’s Law, 2009, etc.) spins a bewildering tale of cat-and-mouse, theoretical science and conspiracy theories in a novel that sometimes threatens to baffle its audience. A comic thriller whose characters are all deadly serious, the book shows much of the same imaginative verve as Steven Hall’s mind-bender The Raw Shark Texts (2007). The pursuers in the book are all chasing Alex Smart, a Cambridge post-grad who has impulsively flown to America to propose to his girlfriend in San Francisco. But strange happenings are afoot around Alex. The young man has inadvertently acquired a device dubbed The Coincidence Engine, which affects the way probability works and grows more powerful each time it works. This explosive effect has attracted the attention of the Directorate of the Extremely Improbable, a collection of Men (and Women) in Black led by the ambitious Red Queen. “Our job is to assess threats to national security that we don’t know exist, using methods that we don’t know work,” she says. “This produces results that we generally can’t recognize as results, and when we can recognize them as results, we don’t know how to interpret them.” We also get a satisfying back story about the engine’s mad creator, Nicolas Banacharski, who is loosely based on the reclusive mathematician Alexander Grothendieck. Trying to put things right, or at least turn them off, are Bree and Jones, a level-headed DEI agent and her psychotic partner. In Alex’s path, a 737 materializes out of a hurricane, traditional machinery malfunctions and the inevitable frogs fall from the sky. It’s a little Gravity’s Rainbow with a pinch of airport thriller and a dash of The X-Files, and a dizzying stir.

Leith’s narrative runs mildly manic after a while, but the dichotomy between his unruffled prose and the mad events at hand ultimately foster a savvy comedic groove.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-71642-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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