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IMMORTAL LIFE

A SOON TO BE TRUE STORY

A fitfully funny satire that mocks disruption culture while it questions the purpose of immortality.

In a near future where corporations have monetized the world, a trillionaire plots a depraved path to immortality.

The ever prolific Bing (The Curriculum, 2014, etc.), the nom de plume of the publicity chief of a well-known media empire, here turns his sharp voice to a dystopian satire about the monetization of immortality and the costs inherent to it. The book’s villain is particularly vile—127-year-old Arthur Vogel is Earth’s richest man and a Frankenstein’s monster of implants and other life-lengthening techniques. But time is running out, and money is no object to Artie, as demonstrated by his penchant for 3-D–printed body parts. His personal mad scientist, Dr. Bob, has developed a way to capture and migrate personalities into the cloud: “Attitudes. Memories. Sense of self. Life story. The whole person. If it goes right, you’ve created digital immortality.” But pervy Arthur wants the whole package, so to speak, so he’s wiped the mind of Gene, an innocent man intended to be his permanent vessel. After merging with Gene, Arthur also makes plans to wipe out “The Committee,” the ruling body that oversees all remaining commerce in a devastated United States. But Gene still has friends in “The Peaceable Kingdom,” an enclave of Pacific Coast freedom fighters dedicated to the destruction of digital culture. Once his friends kidnap Gene, they find they can suppress evil Arthur’s personality with lots of booze. While Gene tries to keep Arthur at bay, his friends make plans to wipe out the cloud with an electromagnetic pulse. The plot sounds serious, but Bing uses a light touch, biting mockery of Silicon Valley culture, and grotesque imagery to good effect. But while Arthur brings true villainy and The Peaceable Kingdom has some interesting members, good guy Gene remains a cipher who’s a bit hard to pin down.

A fitfully funny satire that mocks disruption culture while it questions the purpose of immortality.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1983-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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DEVOLUTION

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SECRET HISTORY

The Brat Pack meets The Bacchae in this precious, way-too-long, and utterly unsuspenseful town-and-gown murder tale. A bunch of ever-so-mandarin college kids in a small Vermont school are the eager epigones of an aloof classics professor, and in their exclusivity and snobbishness and eagerness to please their teacher, they are moved to try to enact Dionysian frenzies in the woods. During the only one that actually comes off, a local farmer happens upon them—and they kill him. But the death isn't ruled a murder—and might never have been if one of the gang—a cadging sybarite named Bunny Corcoran—hadn't shown signs of cracking under the secret's weight. And so he too is dispatched. The narrator, a blank-slate Californian named Richard Pepen chronicles the coverup. But if you're thinking remorse-drama, conscience masque, or even semi-trashy who'll-break-first? page-turner, forget it: This is a straight gee-whiz, first-to-have-ever-noticed college novel—"Hampden College, as a body, was always strangely prone to hysteria. Whether from isolation, malice, or simple boredom, people there were far more credulous and excitable than educated people are generally thought to be, and this hermetic, overheated atmosphere made it a thriving black petri dish of melodrama and distortion." First-novelist Tartt goes muzzy when she has to describe human confrontations (the murder, or sex, or even the ping-ponging of fear), and is much more comfortable in transcribing aimless dorm-room paranoia or the TV shows that the malefactors anesthetize themselves with as fate ticks down. By telegraphing the murders, Tartt wants us to be continually horrified at these kids—while inviting us to semi-enjoy their manneristic fetishes and refined tastes. This ersatz-Fitzgerald mix of moralizing and mirror-looking (Jay McInerney shook and poured the shaker first) is very 80's—and in Tartt's strenuous version already seems dated, formulaic. Les Nerds du Mal—and about as deep (if not nearly as involving) as a TV movie.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 1992

ISBN: 1400031702

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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