An experimental, deeply meta novel about the search for meaning and the disappointments of reality.

THE INFINITE FUTURE

A struggling American writer, a Brazilian librarian, and a Mormon historian come together in a dubious mission to unearth a long-lost science-fiction masterpiece.

Wirkus (City of Brick and Shadow, 2014) delved into the lives of Mormon missionaries in his debut novel and here makes a science fictional play at The Book of Mormon with a lightly comical meditation on the search for meaning in literature. It begins in a very meta fashion as “Tim Wirkus” meets Danny Laszlo, an old Brigham Young University creative-writing classmate, who presses upon the author his translation of a story by an obscure Brazilian science-fiction writer. Sad-sack Danny picks up the narration, relating how he ended up in Sao Paolo on a deceitful writing scholarship from the Coalition of Aggrieved Christians, who want him to write a book about Mormon missionaries in Brazil. But a more intriguing mystery presents itself when Danny’s library liaison, Sérgio Antunes, gives him several stories by Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie, a long-forgotten sci-fi novelist whose most famous work was to be titled The Infinite Future. They find this description, written in his own hand: “Strictly speaking, THE INFINITE FUTURE is not a novel. It is, instead, a prose-poem epic that discerns in the imagined empires of the future the germ of humanity’s eventual henosis—its sublime and terrible union with the infinite future. It is, in other words, a prophetic text on a par with the Holy Bible or the I Ching.” (Spoiler alert: it is not.) Next we get a prolonged road trip during which Danny and Sergio connect with Dr. Harriet Kimball, a disgruntled Mormon historian, to track down the mysterious author in the wilds of Idaho. The revelation that follows is a surprise by itself, but then Wirkus offers more than 150 pages of The Infinite Future, a pulpy yet literary nugget that reads like a cross between Flash Gordon and The Seventh Seal.

An experimental, deeply meta novel about the search for meaning and the disappointments of reality.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2432-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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