A bold sci-fi tale that delivers an absurdist paradise.

PIPER ROBBIN AND THE AMERICAN OZ MAKER

This debut novel sees Earth’s best wielders of magic defending humanity against a space-born evil.

In the year 2038, Piper Robbin seems like your average mango-haired barista. The Brooklyn native loves Cambodian khor stew takeout and the idea of singing on Broadway. But she is in fact Bianca Elise Cappello, a centuries-old Grand Sorceress of the Holy Roman Empire. Her father is an immortal World Maker named Edison Godfellow, aka Leonardo da Vinci and Hercules. He’s come back from a future in which the War for Utopia has been won but at the cost of the human race. Phase 1 of the Grand Human Transfiguration has already begun, killing off the world’s population of sociopaths and narcissists. In two days, a kinder humanity will merge into a “million ton mass of flesh composed...of super brutes and...beautiful divas.” But that mass organism must not fall victim to a cosmic predator that waits in the Orion Nebula. When Piper’s apartment explodes with Tao energy (on which magic runs), she knows that World Maker Catherine Romanova, her father’s nemesis, is responsible. Piper must defeat Catherine so that Edison can create his protective Oz-scapes—or place major cities like New York and Berlin inside magical domes and atop vast towers. Once Gleeson cracks open his frothy imagination, all manner of conceptual madness rushes forth. If Thomas Pynchon wrote an episode of Doctor Who, there might be a scene where “the hyper-velocity shells” of Catherine’s Glock generated “a blinding burst and a noise loud as July 4th in Disneyland compressed to one second.” Jaded sci-fi and fantasy readers should flock to this fearlessly inventive narrative that sprinkles pop-culture references (like the David Bowie line “We could be heroes, just for one day”) on unflagging optimism about humanity’s potential. The author’s daring plot devices include moving Earth to safety and changing his protagonist’s gender. The downside to this kind of full-throttle wackiness is the difficulty in creating believable danger when seemingly anything can happen.

A bold sci-fi tale that delivers an absurdist paradise.

Pub Date: April 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-9998425-4-6

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Del Sol Press

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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