COMPUTER ONE

Acclaimed for his two recent novels, The Rationalist (1994) and Gents (1997), British writer Collins shows a less subtle side with this publication of an earlier work, a talky apocalyptic tale first published in 1993 in England. In the 21st century, humankind's main problem has to do with increased leisure time—and how to fill it—since a massively networked supercomputer, Computer One, has taken over everything from climate control to its own maintenance. Utopia proves a delusion, however, when biology professor Yakuda, in an address to a symposium on leisure, neatly links Darwin, Konrad Lorenz, and a sudden increase in atmospheric radioactivity to suggest that the master computer—which, since it's self-replicating, is now by definition a species itself—is taking steps to eliminate its main rival, Homo sapiens. Yakuda and a colleague are attacked soon thereafter when mirrors, part of a solar-power station, focus on them as they go for a stroll: Yakuda's friend is fried, but Yakuda himself, only partially burned, is rescued by ``externals,'' members of a separatist community who belong to a larger network of anti-computer groups living underground and avoiding contact with surface dwellers. When the professor recovers, he makes his rescuers aware of their peril, but it's not until a neighboring group of externals is wiped out by a virus, despite their precautions, that his warning hits home. Yakuda and a team of anti- computer specialists race to devise a means to fight Computer One; as they do, he has to watch not only his former society, but all animal and plant life, systematically exterminated. A supervirus finally renders Computer One nonfunctional—but Yakuda and his team return to base to find that an all-too-human tragedy has struck. A chilling story, but one has to look beyond the talking heads and an Ayn Rand style of pontificating to appreciate it.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-7145-3033-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Marion Boyars

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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