For thoughtful readers, the questions posed by the book are well worth pondering.

MERGE / DISCIPLE

TWO SHORT NOVELS FROM CROSSTOWN TO OBLIVION

Two more novellas in one volume, continuing Mosley’s Crosstown to Oblivion series (The Gift Of Fire On The Head Of A Pin, 2012), the common theme being, "a black man destroys the world."

Longer, more substantial and carefully worked-out, Merge begins when Rahl Redman notices something resembling a dead branch in his apartment. The being, an Ido, is one of many refugees from a remote planet with an eerie and complex ecology. He feeds the creature, and slowly, it transforms into something approximating human. Meanwhile, the news is rife with stories of other Ido that drink blood, spew poison gas or explode. They can only survive on Earth by merging with an existing life-form. Earth’s governments, meanwhile, decide that the Ido represent an existential threat and prepare to use any and all means to exterminate them. Rahl decides to merge with his Ido and help their race—an action that will bring him through transcendental bliss and unimaginable agony to, perhaps, salvation. Disciple, by contrast, is the more mystical, less logical, and weaker partner. Hogarth “Trent” Tryman, a nonentity toiling in a dead-end job, receives a bizarre instant message from someone calling himself Bron. What Bron has to say seems unbelievable, but in a matter of days, Hogarth finds he’s now the boss of the corporation. Bron, it emerges, serves a godlike entity called the Stelladren, which if it dies, will wither the souls of all intelligent beings everywhere. But to preserve the Stelladren, most of humanity must die. So what is Mosley offering here? Analogy, parable, allegory? Are only black Americans disaffected or alienated enough to go along, or do his protagonists just happen to be black?

For thoughtful readers, the questions posed by the book are well worth pondering.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7653-3009-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

GIDEON THE NINTH

From the Locked Tomb Trilogy series , Vol. 1

This debut novel, the first of a projected trilogy, blends science fiction, fantasy, gothic chiller, and classic house-party mystery.

Gideon Nav, a foundling of mysterious antecedents, was not so much adopted as indentured by the Ninth House, a nearly extinct noble necromantic house. Trained to fight, she wants nothing more than to leave the place where everyone despises her and join the Cohort, the imperial military. But after her most recent escape attempt fails, she finally gets the opportunity to depart the planet. The heir and secret ruler of the Ninth House, the ruthless and prodigiously talented bone adept Harrowhark Nonagesimus, chooses Gideon to serve her as cavalier primary, a sworn bodyguard and aide de camp, when the undying Emperor summons Harrow to compete for a position as a Lyctor, an elite, near-immortal adviser. The decaying Canaan House on the planet of the absent Emperor holds dark secrets and deadly puzzles as well as a cheerfully enigmatic priest who provides only scant details about the nature of the competition...and at least one person dedicated to brutally slaughtering the competitors. Unsure of how to mix with the necromancers and cavaliers from the other Houses, Gideon must decide whom among them she can trust—and her doubts include her own necromancer, Harrow, whom she’s loathed since childhood. This intriguing genre stew works surprisingly well. The limited locations and narrow focus mean that the author doesn’t really have to explain how people not directly attached to a necromantic House or the military actually conduct daily life in the Empire; hopefully future installments will open up the author’s creative universe a bit more. The most interesting aspect of the novel turns out to be the prickly but intimate relationship between Gideon and Harrow, bound together by what appears at first to be simple hatred. But the challenges of Canaan House expose other layers, beginning with a peculiar but compelling mutual loyalty and continuing on to other, more complex feelings, ties, and shared fraught experiences.

Suspenseful and snarky with surprising emotional depths.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31319-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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