A daring cross between Dante and Isaac Asimov that, at its best, pays off handsomely.

OTMA 82--The First Day

TRIAL AND RESURRECTION

Jusyp’s debut novel offers a trippy tour through an extraterrestrial afterlife.

Philip, Candace, Bongo and Clara, undergraduates at Canada’s York University, are driving out of town for some end-of-semester rest and relaxation. George and Ben are chess enthusiasts heading home after a tournament. When the two cars collide at an intersection on the outskirts of Toronto, four of the six passengers die, but George and Philip are catapulted to OTMA 82, an interstellar limbo for the seemingly departed who, as it turns out, aren’t quite dead. Jusyp’s ambitious novel grapples with the age-old question of what happens when we pass on, but it offers some wild new answers. It turns out that death frequently leads to resurrection—not only for humans but for sentient beings all over the universe. The afterlife is, first and foremost, a time of personal reflection, intellectual growth and eventually, final judgment. As the author leads readers on this idiosyncratic journey, he proves to be a skilled and inventive storyteller. This inventiveness, however, is both a strength and a weakness. The novel feels genuinely original: Every time readers feel Jusyp might be drifting toward cliché or convention, he veers off into new ideas. However, because his world is so totally new, he’s forced to load his book with back-breaking amounts of exposition. As a result, chapters occasionally devolve into tedious Q-and-A sessions. Indeed, his characters constantly ask questions—sometimes of themselves, sometimes of the celestial emissaries that serve as their guides. “Was I in a mechanical body or device of some kind?” “[H]ow many of us from Earth are on OTMA 82 today?” “Are all of us on OTMA 82 supposed to be omniscient?” As the queries pile up, the plot slows to a crawl. When the pace picks back up, on the other hand, Jusyp’s novel is an enthralling ride.

A daring cross between Dante and Isaac Asimov that, at its best, pays off handsomely.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462021765

Page Count: 276

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2014

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

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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

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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