Fans and new readers alike will appreciate Boyle's droll humor, eye for detail, and seemingly inexhaustible imagination.

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THE RELIVE BOX AND OTHER STORIES

The prolific Boyle provides high entertainment in his latest story collection.

With novels that are all over the map in subject matter as well as quality, Boyle has proven hit (The Road to Wellville, 1993; San Miguel, 2012) and miss (The Terranauts, 2016). His batting average is higher in this collection, in which stories about global warming, cybertechnology, and genetic engineering show him addressing not only the first part of the 21st century, but whatever future it may anticipate. The title story, which has already been anthologized in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2015, imagines our culture's next step in technological self-absorption: a device that allows people to revisit any part of their past history. For many, the Relive Box's utility begins as personalized pornography, but users find it so addictive that they’re soon revisiting, for hours on end, pretty much any moment that allows them to escape the present. Narrating the story is a divorced father of a 15-year-old girl. He wants to limit her time on the device (where she turns back to a time when her family was intact), but mainly he wants to use it himself, to get lost in the box, “pinned here in this chair like an exhibit in a museum, blind to anything but the past, my past and nobody else’s, not hers or her mother’s, or the country’s or the world’s, but just mine.” Many of the stories have narrators with blinders on, whether it’s a mathematician convinced he’s on the verge of a prizewinning breakthrough as his household suffers a plague of ants (“The Argentine Ant”), a cartoonist wreaking revenge on his girlfriend through the creation of “Warrior Jesus,” or a “high midlist” novelist who had “written about death to the point of obsession” but now finds it hitting a little too close to home (“Subtract One Death”).

Fans and new readers alike will appreciate Boyle's droll humor, eye for detail, and seemingly inexhaustible imagination.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-267339-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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THE THINGS THEY CARRIED

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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Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

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THE BAZAAR OF BAD DREAMS

STORIES

A gathering of short stories by an ascended master of the form.

Best known for mega-bestselling horror yarns, King (Finders Keepers, 2015, etc.) has been writing short stories for a very long time, moving among genres and honing his craft. This gathering of 20 stories, about half previously published and half new, speaks to King’s considerable abilities as a writer of genre fiction who manages to expand and improve the genre as he works; certainly no one has invested ordinary reality and ordinary objects with as much creepiness as King, mostly things that move (cars, kid’s scooters, Ferris wheels). Some stories would not have been out of place in the pulp magazines of the 1940s and ’50s, with allowances for modern references (“Somewhere far off, a helicopter beats at the sky over the Gulf. The DEA looking for drug runners, the Judge supposes”). Pulpy though some stories are, the published pieces have noble pedigrees, having appeared in places such as Granta and The New Yorker. Many inhabit the same literary universe as Raymond Carver, whom King even name-checks in an extraordinarily clever tale of the multiple realities hidden in a simple Kindle device: “What else is there by Raymond Carver in the worlds of Ur? Is there one—or a dozen, or a thousand—where he quit smoking, lived to be 70, and wrote another half a dozen books?” Like Carver, King often populates his stories with blue-collar people who drink too much, worry about money, and mistrust everything and everyone: “Every time you see bright stuff, somebody turns on the rain machine. The bright stuff is never colorfast.” Best of all, lifting the curtain, King prefaces the stories with notes about how they came about (“This one had to be told, because I knew exactly what kind of language I wanted to use”). Those notes alone make this a must for aspiring writers.

Readers seeking a tale well told will take pleasure in King’s sometimes-scary, sometimes merely gloomy pages.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1167-9

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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