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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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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