A smart and emotionally sound sci-fi novella whose timely moral questions and determined characters make an old premise...

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THE GENEROUS DEAD

Earth is visited by an alien race with questionable motives in Mann’s sci-fi novella.

Film student Chelsea, a Los Angeles native, is studying abroad in England when aliens contact planet Earth. The interplanetary beings are hairy, horse-faced individuals who speak in elongated trills (the long faces and vocalizations bring about the moniker “Elongi”). Chelsea is astonished by the news of their arrival, but she carries on living life just as everyone else does. She is quite interested in her Japanese friend Hiri, and the two spend romantic evenings together in his luxury condo, feeling they are living in a time of great excitement. After the Elongi land on Earth rather suddenly, they silently roam about, studying the Earth and its occupants, purportedly to rid the planet of all pollution. As it becomes clear that the Elongi’s tactics for cleaning up the environment have consequences more dastardly than some had hoped, Hiri heads home, while Chelsea stays in England. Along with friends, she leaves London for the Midlands, feeling it will be safer. While her journey around the U.K. becomes more complex, the Elongi’s plan for Earth brings about destroyed lives and troubling philosophical and moral questions. Mann’s fairly innovative take on the alien invasion narrative is a frightening one. The Elongi are enigmatic, authoritarian characters whose cryptic communications offer scant details of what is to come. They appear in the background, quietly meandering around, usually leaving people alone. Their power is absolute, however, and Mann is quite good at presenting the story in a direct and unsentimental way, even as Chelsea’s relationship issues carry equal weight with the aliens’ arrival. Chelsea is as in love with England as she is with Hiri, and as a young and hopeful student, she wrestles with questions of love and loss, issues over which she has little control. Some longer sentences don’t quite work, but the memorable story demonstrates how sci-fi can be both chilling and beautiful.

A smart and emotionally sound sci-fi novella whose timely moral questions and determined characters make an old premise relevant and intriguing.

Pub Date: March 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5003-3679-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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