An unreliable narrator, but with all his charm and knack for stumbling upon adventures, readers won’t mind.

WATT O'HUGH UNDERGROUND

Drachman’s (The Ghosts of Watt O’ Hugh, 2012) time-traveling hero returns for retribution against the man responsible for the death of his beloved.

When Hester Smith comes banging at his door, Watt O’Hugh is a Time Roamer in hiding, wanted for a crime he didn’t commit. Men are pursuing Hester, and it seems her encounter with Watt is not by chance: His ghosts—their “lives violently ripped from them back in 1863”—are needed to help rob a train and also stop a destructive social movement courtesy of the Sidonians. But what’s in it for Watt? The chance to kill Darryl Fawley, the Sidonian leader responsible for the death of Watt’s love, Lucy. Drachman’s exuberant novel is chock-full of fantastical elements; in addition to Watt’s time-roaming ability and spectral allies (often called “deadlings”), there are demons, oracles, dragons and assorted monstrosities. Appearances of such creatures are sometimes played for laughs, as when a city leader reluctant to join the movement is eaten by a “ferocious pond monster,” thereby persuading the next man in line to be a willing participant. Though the novel, set mostly in 1878 and told through flashbacks by an elderly Watt in 1936, professes to be Watt’s memoir, it more closely resembles a standard narrative, with lengthy accounts of fellow Roamer Master Yu presented in third-person, prior to his meeting Watt. Watt unambiguously labels Fawley and another Sidonian head, Allen Jerome, as villains, and he occasionally dilutes his first-person perspective by rushing through specifics, like the teased train robbery, which regrettably is given only highlights. But as an omniscient narrator, even if he has to rely on conjecture, Watt shines, especially in scenes with Yu, who walks the streets of 19th-century Chinatown in San Francisco, sometimes roaming and sidestepping passing cars. Drachman takes full advantage of his historical setting—Watt’s adversary, outwardly aligned in the fight against Sidonia, is J.P. Morgan—and has endless fun with character names: Morgan repeatedly, perhaps intentionally butchers Watt’s handle, including “Walt Hugbert” and “Hugglebuggle.” And Master Yu’s full name is the rather unfortunate Yu Dai-Yung.

An unreliable narrator, but with all his charm and knack for stumbling upon adventures, readers won’t mind.

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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