A creative and repetitive analysis of our collective infatuation with glowing screens.

GRID CITY OVERLOAD

A story of near-future distress from author Bramble (Affliction Included, 2009).

The futuristic town of Grid City, Colo., is every bit as cold and melancholy as the name would imply. Full of neon corporate logos, industrial pollution and an unvaryingly unhappy population, Grid City encompasses all that people who fret about the future of American cities are worried about. Within this maze of despair are a handful of characters that range from a drug-addicted used car salesman who will latch on to anyone resembling a father figure to a stunningly sexy, evil computer expert who will latch on to anyone she can control. In alternating narratives, the novel plumbs the lives of these characters as they lose themselves in drugs and technological advances in an effort to block out all the noise around them and find out who they really are. This proves easier said than done. The people of Grid City (and presumably much of the world’s population circa 2025) are not just more interested in looking at their electronic devices than the real world, at times the gadgets assume a life of their own. In the book’s most inventive section, one particularly lonely and paranoid character manages to carry on a love affair with a cellphone. Other sections prove far less inventive as again and again, people who were born human become altered due to the constant barrage of devices and “sensory overflow.” The average reader is likely to recognize a world where even upscale, busy waiters feel the need to check their phones continually. Whether they get their highs from drugs or political corruption, there are not many characters to root for in Grid City, so the reader is left largely indifferent to their fates. Though spiced up with Pynchon-esque flourishes, these tangents add only to the already-obvious message of people drowning in technology.

A creative and repetitive analysis of our collective infatuation with glowing screens.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1475295931

Page Count: 482

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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