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A MIXTAPE FOR THE END OF HUMANITY

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

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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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A LITTLE LIFE

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

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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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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