Stylized sketches rather than fully realized fiction.


De Rosnay’s stories demonstrate 11 ways to deceive and/or leave your lover.

In this prolific French novelist’s first short story collection, infidelity is a given, particularly for the male of the species. Retribution, however, is women’s work. Technology is the petard by which many straying spouses are hoisted: in “The Texts,” a wife opts for feigned ignorance of her husband’s escapades—if only she can resist the temptation to hack his cellphone. In “The ‘Baby Phone,’ ” a baby monitor permits a hitherto trusting wife to overhear hanky-panky, and in “The Answering Machine,” an unerased message is the harbinger of betrayal. Many of the stories have O. Henry–esque twist endings that American readers may find a bit old-fashioned. Among these is “Hotel Room,” wherein a man drops off a letter ending his passionate liaison moments before the no-tell hotel—and perhaps his mistress—is engulfed in flames. Similarly, in “The Red Notebook,” a cheating wife bemoans her husband’s staidness, which is a sure sign she’s in for a surprise. Readers seldom are, however: in “The Brunette from Rue Raynouard,” a suspected affair turns out to be sex therapy, and in the “USB Key,” a husband chooses an unusual medium to reveal that he's gay, with predictable results. The most promising stories seem to end just as interesting complications begin to arise. “The Password,” about a randy professor and a young American studying abroad, refers expressly to the difference between French and American attitudes toward sexual harassment but, sadly, ducks the opportunity to elaborate. (The American women all have names like Hunter, Holly, Taylor, etc., as if de Rosnay has been cribbing from The Preppy Handbook.) In most cases the revenge meted out by the women is not particularly inventive, whether it involves fisticuffs, (“The Au Pair Girl”), sharp objects (“The ‘Baby Phone’ ”), a dignified exit (“The Woods”), or a Raymond Carver–worthy apartment trashing (“The Strand of Hair”).

Stylized sketches rather than fully realized fiction.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06880-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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It's being called a novel, but it is more a hybrid: short-stories/essays/confessions about the Vietnam War—the subject that O'Brien reasonably comes back to with every book. Some of these stories/memoirs are very good in their starkness and factualness: the title piece, about what a foot soldier actually has on him (weights included) at any given time, lends a palpability that makes the emotional freight (fear, horror, guilt) correspond superbly. Maybe the most moving piece here is "On The Rainy River," about a draftee's ambivalence about going, and how he decided to go: "I would go to war—I would kill and maybe die—because I was embarrassed not to." But so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged: O'Brien is writing a book more about earnestness than about war, and the peekaboos of this isn't really me but of course it truly is serve no true purpose. They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for that matter) being hell and heaven both. A disappointment.

Pub Date: March 28, 1990

ISBN: 0618706410

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1990

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Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

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Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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