THE COMPASS ROSE

STORIES

As a guide to sailors this book is not to be trusted," remarks Ursula Le Guin of her latest collection of stories. "Perhaps it is too sensitive to local magnetic fields." Local magnetic fields or not, these 20 variously pointed swings through the compass headings of charted and uncharted existence have an odd tendency to steer us back to certain shores. And very nicely kept shores they are, filled with a steady perspicuous light and the sound of a clear, thoughtful voice saying fine and well-phrased things about the nobility of human aspiration. In some future Armageddon, for instance, a librarian crawls through the smoke of his burning library to save a few books from the flames ("The Phoenix"). Or: as mankind prepares literally to drown in the consequences of its own folly, the lofty of soul send their voices out over the abyss by way of playing the viola and inventing the perfect solar battery ("The New Atlantis"). And: in a society of punitive mind-censorship, a candidate for memory-erasure dreams of Beethoven and brotherhood ("The Diary of the Rose"). But, if these are the Le Guin of "literary" science-fiction, also on display here is her marvelous and unpredictable streak of comic invention: "Schredinger's Cat" explores the celebrated paradox of subatomic phenomena being altered by the very act of observing them; the even more irresistible "Intracom" is a kind of manic allegory about a pregnancy projected as an event aboard a spaceship. Furthermore, unlike most practitioners of speculative fiction, Le Guin is also genuinely interested in small lives observed in minutely sympathetic detail—as in "Malheur County" (an elderly woman and her son-in-law) or "Two Delays on the Northern Line" (a brief diptych set in the fictional Eastern country of Orsinia). And her rich feel for the past as well as the future is reflected in the gem of the collection: "The First Report of the Shipwrecked Foreigner to the Kadanh of Derb," a celebration of Venice as remembered by someone who will never see it again. Le Guin can be awfully cloying when she utters grave and euphonious pieties. But, for the most part, there are inexhaustible playings and seeings and imaginings—from a shrewd and various writer who can think something through till it seems to cohere in the mind's eye.

Pub Date: July 21, 1982

ISBN: 0060914475

Page Count: 386

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1982

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A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

THE ANDROMEDA EVOLUTION

Over 50 years after an extraterrestrial microbe wiped out a small Arizona town, something very strange has appeared in the Amazon jungle in Wilson’s follow-up to Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain.

The microparticle's introduction to Earth in 1967 was the disastrous result of an American weapons research program. Before it could be contained, Andromeda killed all but two people in tiny Piedmont, Arizona; during testing after the disaster, AS-1 evolved and escaped into the atmosphere. Project Eternal Vigilance was quickly set up to scan for any possible new outbreaks of Andromeda. Now, an anomaly with “signature peaks” closely resembling the original Andromeda Strain has been spotted in the heart of the Amazon, and a Wildfire Alert is issued. A diverse team is assembled: Nidhi Vedala, an MIT nanotechnology expert born in a Mumbai slum; Harold Odhiambo, a Kenyan xenogeologist; Peng Wu, a Chinese doctor and taikonaut; Sophie Kline, a paraplegic astronaut and nanorobotics expert based on the International Space Station; and, a last-minute addition, roboticist James Stone, son of Dr. Jeremy Stone from The Andromeda Strain. They must journey into the deepest part of the jungle to study and hopefully contain the dire threat that the anomaly seemingly poses to humanity. But the jungle has its own dangers, and it’s not long before distrust and suspicion grip the team. They’ll need to come together to take on what waits for them inside a mysterious structure that may not be of this world. Setting the story over the course of five days, Wilson (Robopocalypse, 2011, etc.) combines the best elements of hard SF novels and techno-thrillers, using recovered video, audio, and interview transcripts to shape the narrative, with his own robotics expertise adding flavor and heft. Despite a bit of acronym overload, this is an atmospheric and often terrifying roller-coaster ride with (literally) sky-high stakes that pays plenty of homage to The Andromeda Strain while also echoing the spirit and mood of Crichton’s other works, such as Jurassic Park and Congo. Add more than a few twists and exciting set pieces (especially in the finale) to the mix, and you’ve got a winner.

A thrilling and satisfying sequel to the 1969 classic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247327-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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