An entertaining, uncompromising, often farcical near-future tale that revels in pop culture.

RADIO GA GA

A MIXTAPE FOR THE END OF HUMANITY

An unnamed narrator details the events that ultimately led to humanity’s extinction on Earth in first-time novelist Bulsara’s sci-fi-infused satire.

Humans are gone, and the apparent sole survivor is this book’s narrator—“the emissary for an extinct race.” According to the narrator, the end of humanity begins with a pop star’s mental collapse, which monopolizes the press. Her agency’s response is to bring a class-action suit against the company where she got started as a child. Other celebrities who began as child stars turn on their former companies as well, and legislators outlaw child labor in the entertainment industry. One entrepreneur’s response is to create an entirely digital singer, from voice to body. The bot, Cyndi Mayweather, becomes a huge star to audiences who believe she’s human. But Cyndi is also the precursor to The Great Disruption—more than 80 percent of jobs become automated and render 71 percent of humans unemployed. Meanwhile, humanity can no longer ignore climate change, which culminates in devastating floods, droughts, and fires in major U.S. cities. The upper class consequently creates geodesic domes that pop up in cities around the world. In America, racism flourishes. Those in a newly minted and domed Metropolis are predominantly white; black and brown Americans live in poverty. As they’re contending with the effects of class conflict, humans also face and are grossly unprepared for viral outbreaks. As humanity is evidently doomed, the narrator has a plan to document its history and find a way to warn the universe, provided there is life on other planets. Despite the author’s opening “Liner Notes” calling this novel a “mixtape” and the narrator “glitchy,” Bulsara’s story is fairly traditional. The narrative, for example, is primarily linear and often focuses on specific characters, such as JA-NL, a young black girl fighting against the wealthy’s attempts to control less fortunate citizens. Likewise, Bulsara so seamlessly incorporates song lyrics—and occasionally movie quotes—that readers who don’t catch a particular reference won’t be lost. Though JA-NL is a standout, other striking characters include Brand-N, whom readers see undergo the Becoming of Age ceremony (an initiation into upper society), and the narrator, who eventually reveals their identity. Bulsara is funny; the international domed nations form the United Federation of City-States (UFoCs), so that the inhabitants are known as UFoCers. Additional signs of satire are much more biting, like celebrity name-dropping and a noticeably dim view on social media (a platform for easily manipulating people into becoming fans of Cyndi). There are also blunt but insightful points on racial discrimination: the Moloch 5000 is a machine that decides a student’s future career and educational path by first scanning said student’s skin color. The novel’s addenda consist of a short but helpful glossary (e.g., dronarazzi, which are essentially paparazzi drones) and a breakdown of the social structure within the story. And notwithstanding the narrator’s assurance to readers that humans are extinct, the ending is not as bleak as some may anticipate.

An entertaining, uncompromising, often farcical near-future tale that revels in pop culture.

Pub Date: April 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73371-256-9

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Posthuman Post

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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