Pure starlight.

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THE BIRTHDAY OF THE WORLD

AND OTHER STORIES

Eight stories, including seven reprints and a never-before-published novella, by the masterful Le Guin (The Telling, 2000, etc.), who has racked some SF and fantasy classics onto her shelf since receiving her first rejection slip, at age 11, from Amazing Stories. The first six tales take place on the world of Ekumen: “Coming of Age in Karhide” spells out societal differences among the androgynes that confused Le Guin 36 years ago when they arrived piecemeal into her imagination for The Left Hand of Darkness. “The Matter of Seggri” gathers documents by the Historians of Hain about Earth’s Seggri society and turns on the killing of female fetuses and babies. The amusing “Unchosen Love” and “Mountain Ways” are set on a world near Hain. The standout, charmingly limpid title story tells of the daughters of God and the infant Tazu, who will be four tomorrow on “The Birthday of the World” (see The Year’s Best Science Fiction 2001). In the wry “Solitude,” an ethnologist’s daughter discusses gender, sexuality, and the lack of marriages among introverted people of Hainish descent who survive a gigantic population crash. “Old Music and the Slave Women” connects with four stories in Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995), chronicling a revolution in the slave-based social economy on the planets Werel and Yeowe. Longest by far, the blissful novella “Paradises Lost,” written for this collection, tells of a generation of 4,000 space-voyagers aboard the ship Discovery. Their parents, born earlier on that paradisiacal dirtball Earth, did not live to see New Earth, the planet the ship sails toward; perhaps only their grandchildren will. And these new Adams and Eves, upon arrival at New Earth, must of course start naming things before innocence fades.

Pure starlight.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-06-621253-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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