SEAGULLS IN MY SOUP

FURTHER ADVENTURES OF A WAYWARD SAILOR

Companion volume to Jones's Saga of a Wayward Sailor (1979) and not a continuation of this season's To Venture Further (p. 1062). Saga was a song of love for women of the sea, while this self- styled work of ``fictionalized fact''—written in 1979 and displaying the author at his verbal richest—is a paean to the misfits who found refuge in Jones's company. We meet Jones in a downpour, aboard his ketch Cresswell, with his 170-pound British mate, Cecilia (``Sissie'') St. John—the Bishop of Southchester's sister—and his three-legged, one-eyed dog, Nelson. When St. John falls into the noisome harbor while helping a catamaran tie up, Jones turns ``to see poor Sissie's yellow oilskin jacket just below the oily, slimy surface, rising to float, flailing, in the muck- bestrewn, turd-flotilla'd, dog-corpse-littered waters of Ibiza Harbor.'' And so it goes, with Jones and St. John under dirty weather of gold-lined clouds. Their first big adventure is being hired to deliver a fancy yacht from Algiers to Marseilles. Once aboard, Jones finds that the owner is apparently an anti-Algerian terrorist and that his steel-hulled yacht must sail without papers, in the dead of night. They leave in a hail of bullets, chased by an Algerian gunboat. Eventually, Jones locks the owner below deck and gets away in a launch while the gunboat captures the terrorist. Enter St. John's loud-chortling brother, Bishop Willie, and millionaire ``art collector'' Elmyr Dore-Boutin, who shows Jones his huge cache of original Picassos, Dalis, Dufys and Renoirs- -though at book's end Jones visits Dore-Boutin in his tastefully appointed Ibizan jail cell and drinks his champagne: Dore-Boutin is actually the world's greatest forger. Good dialogue and great Jonesian prose, so dense you can walk on it and watch your tracks fill up with sea water.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 1991

ISBN: 0-924486-17-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1991

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

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EXHALATION

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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