A slender collection of six stories from Cuban-born Su†rez (The Cutter, Latin Jazz), though infused with a sense of quiet alienation and existential despair, vividly evokes Hispanic- American life. Whether the character is a young Cuban exile working as a painter; a boy helping his immigrant father sell ice-cream; a son forced to condone his father's illegal gambling; or a Hispanic- American college student trying to forget his unhappy family—all share a sense of being outsiders caught up in situations not of their choosing. In ``Welcome to the Oasis,'' the longest and most accomplished piece here, the young man employed to paint the apartment block discovers that in its own way the place is as riddled with fears and tensions as Cuba was. With fatal results, he's reluctantly drawn into the lives of the other Cuban exiles who live in the block. In another notable story, ``A Perfect Hotspot,'' a high-school student who'd prefer to be working as a life-guard must help his immigrant father sell ice-cream from a shabby truck. Ashamed of the truck, and of his father's treatment of the customers, the boy daydreams about swimming; but though his father eventually lets him go—``Dreamers like you learn the hard way''— he knows he will have to pay and braces himself for the ensuring violence. When a college student returns home (``Headshots'') and learns that his younger brother has been arrested for drug possession, he's reminded by his father that ``what had happened to my brother could never happen to me.'' But he recalls a drug and drinking spree in New Orleans in which he tried to forget his unhappy parents ``who hated one another, not because of what they had become, but because of what each had depleted in the other.'' A tightly controlled but affecting exploration of fundamental tensions in a community for whom Su†rez is becoming an eloquent and promising voice.

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 1-55885-043-0

Page Count: 124

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1992

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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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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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