A beguiling, bookish entertainment that ends on a cliffhanger promising—well, the prospect of many sequels to come.


Biblionauts of the world, unite—German fabulist Moers (City of Dreaming Books, 2007, etc.) is back with another goofy epic from the land of living books.

Apart from the occasional Minotaur, who doesn’t like a labyrinth—especially one that leads through stacks on stacks of endless rare books? That’s the setup of Moers’ latest exercise in bibliofantasia, where the narrator turns out to have a certain distaste for the endless maze: “Even looking down the Bookholm Shafts makes me feel sick. I shall never again set foot in the Labyrinth—never!” Said narrator, whom Moers’ constant readers will recognize, enjoys a position as “Zamonia’s greatest writer,” honored by statues everywhere and streets named after him in every city—and he’s got an ego bigger than Mailer’s as a result. Comeuppance comes in the form of a mystery involving a forged document and, yes, books on books on books. Moers clearly loves them, and while one imagines that his private library rivals Umberto Eco’s, his vision of the perfect library is enough to upstage Borges’, a fabulous underworld of petrified books, stalagmitic books, books overflowing from shelves, even a book that “was the size of a coffin,” an eerie place of teetering bookcases, hastily built staircases, and of course, “beetles the size of cats and venomous albino rats” for good measure. The storyline is an afterthought in Moers’ visionary adventure; Tolkien it’s not. What matters are his engaging descriptions, zany scenarios and the weird critters that inhabit Zamonia, some of whom bear an uncanny resemblance to Barney the dinosaur.

A beguiling, bookish entertainment that ends on a cliffhanger promising—well, the prospect of many sequels to come.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4683-0126-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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