A well-conceived parable of aging and love.

HARMONY

A woman attempts to find meaning in post-divorce life in this satirical, speculative novel.

At age 50, Harmony is feeling self-conscious about being too old, especially after her husband, Garth, leaves her for a younger woman. Though indistinguishable from a human, Harmony is actually a RealGirlz: a synthetic woman who was originally created “with an approximate physical age of sixteen” by a 3-D printer in order to serve as an unpaid sex worker for the Regal Corporation. She was released from that life by court order at age 20, but Garth still throws her sex-worker past at Harmony when he leaves. To add insult to injury, the same day Harmony receives her divorce papers, she also gets a notice about Compassionate Release, the program by which single women over 50 are encouraged to take advantage of an assisted suicide service. After Harmony makes a desperate, flailing pass at Lydia, her trans best friend who was also abandoned by her partner, the two women try to figure out how to proceed in life as middle-aged singles. It’s a world of devious men and frightening statistics. But is happiness really possible for a woman in Harmony’s situation, or should she just accept the sweet embrace of death? Mann’s prose is crisp and clever as she paints a portrait of a future just slightly (and yet believably) advanced from the audience’s present. The premise is rife with humor. When Harmony attends the RealGirlz 50th Birthday Bash, one of her synthetic sisters observes: “We may be 50 biologically, but we’re just 34 chronologically. Have you thought about that?” While the book takes a while to find its voice—the first few chapters are oddly serious for what turns out to be mostly a comedic work—the author has plenty to say about how much society defines women primarily by their relationships with men. (Though there’s always alternate fulfillment: “Living for the children, I suppose,” Harmony’s Compassionate Release rep defines it. “If you have them.”) Even with the speculative elements, Mann hews closely to her characters’ interior lives, giving the story some emotional heft—and readers a lot to think about.

A well-conceived parable of aging and love.

Pub Date: March 18, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 72

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 88

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more