Dodson has produced an unwieldy creature that is generally more fun than tiresome and impressive for the creativity and...

BATS OF THE REPUBLIC

Science fiction, the Old West, a book within a book, and wide-ranging graphics are among the paraphernalia that festoon this tale of bats, bloodlines, witches, and love played out over two centuries.

In the year 2143, seerlike priestesses control a nourishing liquid and vie with the police for political power in a post-apocalyptic U.S. that comprises seven city-states walled off from the surrounding wasteland. A young man named Zeke Thomas misplaces a letter possibly vital to asserting his bloodline and his future as a senator if he can deal with his envious cousin. His mate is embroiled in the missing letter, her gay father’s unorthodox dealings with the government archives he founded, and a friend’s pregnancy. A problematic epistle and a pregnancy—among numerous other parallels—are at the center of the 1843 narrative, in which the impecunious head of Chicago’s Museum of Flying dispatches his daughter’s suitor, novice naturalist Zadock Thomas, to deliver an important letter to a military figure in Texas. The westward odyssey allows the budding Audubon to sketch animals (shown in two-page spreads) before stumbling into a massive bat cave that may be a portal to the future (and perhaps to a sequel). In Zadock’s long absence, the daughter, Elswyth, must deal with his nasty cousin and her younger sister’s heedless coupling while getting advice from a seerlike aunt. As the author plays with history and fiction, the book within the book (shown literally in pages therefrom) tells some of the 1843 narrative. It is one of two written by Elswyth’s mother, another seer, who also wrote one called The City-State “set far in the future.” Dodson, a book designer, embellishes his debut novel with all manner of textual variations and graphic displays—and slyly has Elswyth say, “The City-State is tiresome to read, Louisa, it has too many devices and made-up words.”

Dodson has produced an unwieldy creature that is generally more fun than tiresome and impressive for the creativity and control he displays with his many disparate elements, if not for the wobbly coherence of the whole.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53983-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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