A funky little action comedy that whips enough social satire and ethical dilemmas on readers to enlighten while it...

LUCKY BASTARD

A San Francisco private eye gets up to his ears in femme fatales, the Chinese mob and one hell of a run of bad luck.

Proving that his wildly inventive debut Breathers (2009) was no flash-in-the-pan, satirical storyteller Browne (Fated, 2010, etc.) hits the funny bone hard with another supernaturally themed comedy. Following on the heels of zombie boyfriend Andy Warner and Fated’s beleaguered bureaucrat Fabio, this time Browne introduces P.I. Nick Monday. He’s a slave to routine who eats Lucky Charms every morning, has a thing for cute barista girls and spends his days in his shabby little office off Union Square. Except—there’s always an exception to reality in Browne’s twisted little fantasies—Nick is also one of the few hundred people in America who are able to poach luck, and then sell it on the black market. Nick explains, in his soft-boiled, noir-tinged prose: “But even though people pay good money to acquire it, for those who aren’t born with it, good luck can be unpredictable. Fickle. Which I suppose is why it’s frequently personified as a lady. And like the song says, sometimes it has a way of running out.” Nick’s trouble begins when a knockout named Tuesday Knight breezes in with an offer of $100,000 to recover her father’s stolen luck. Not long after, a Chinese crime boss named Tommy Wong tries to strong-arm Nick into poaching a particularly rare form of luck. Meanwhile, a couple of government agents are on Nick’s tail, and who knows what motivates the mysterious Scooter Girl orbiting around the whole scene. Like his previous works, Browne’s latest is smartly constructed fiction with a likable hero and a peculiar sense of humor that sets it apart from the crowd. Unpredictable plots and dapper dialogue tie the whole pretty package together.

A funky little action comedy that whips enough social satire and ethical dilemmas on readers to enlighten while it entertains.

Pub Date: April 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5719-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

THE HANDMAID'S TALE

The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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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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