RaveShelf AwarenessJoan Silber is a painstaking observer of how lives touch each other across social divisions ... Silber can capture the weight and texture of years in just a couple of piercing lines. There\'s nothing didactic in Silber\'s portrayal of contemporary lives shaped by financial considerations—a master storyteller, she lets persuasive offhand detail accumulate over the course of the novel, making the case by holding a mirror to life ... Despite the deceptively straightforward prose, Secrets of Happiness can be dizzying as it spins its connections and themes ... In telling or hearing or reading those stories, we find life\'s shape, maybe even hints at its meaning.
RaveShelf Awareness... a tense and pained study of the loneliness of spycraft, the toll of maintaining dual identities and the terror of living a life where everyone around you might secretly be playing the same game. Vidich\'s Cold War echoes that of Alan Furst or even John le Carré, a shifting labyrinth of dangers both violent and existential ... almost unbearably suspenseful. But Vidich\'s tight plotting and focused, polished prose keeps The Mercenary...concise and quick moving, despite the complexity of the story. His attentiveness to the disorienting misery of undercover work, the divided loyalties and threats to identity, power the narrative rather than slow it down. His hero\'s every interaction is fraught with danger that movie-style violent heroics would only make worse. Vidich dramatizes that dread and that humanity with elegance.
PositiveShelf Awareness... this novel about the near future is a step behind the year of its publication, a danger with fictional riffs on current events. Those riffs, though, are fierce and funny, as Wilson charts the failures, compromises and addictions of a generation of New Yorkers caught up in mass unemployment and the possible rise of an American socialism ... A murder, next-gen tech, videogame addiction and every kind of illegal drug figure into Wilson\'s lulu of a plot, but the pleasure here is the sharpness of Wilson\'s prose, his observant satire and the richly evocative feelings of loss.
Rodrigo Márquez Tizano, Trans. by Thomas Bunstead
RaveShelf AwarenessOutraged and outrageous, disgusted and disgusting, every bit a miniature labyrinth in itself, Jakarta offers a way of seeing, over its 160 pages ... With the splattery verve of a horror writer, Tizano guides readers through his narrator\'s experience gathering diseased corpses and slaughtering rats...But Jakarta is horror-touched rather than horror itself, with beguiling short chapters--running from a few lines to a couple of pages, without paragraph breaks--and a mad variety of interests. One burst of prose might consider the history of infections over centuries, quoting fictitious journals from original European invaders, who let disease implement the hard work of conquest. The next might hilariously survey the fervor for a made-up team sport in Atlantika in the days before the final outbreak, or recall the nun whose geography lessons years ago inspired the narrator to fantasize about unknowable Jakarta. To show it all at once, Tizano dares readers to get a little lost.
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... [a] whipsmart thriller ... Hand, a genre-hopping master of dark suspense, writes the holy hell out of the scene ... Hand makes the Hell Gate a richly layered study of horror and sin, sex and truth, American piety and American reality. But she does so without fuss or strain, glancing up against the big ideas so gently that, as Pin bumps along in her little boat, readers can feel like we’re the ones coming up with them. She has crafted Curious Toys as a tense, short-chaptered contemporary thriller, the kind where you might think “I’ll read just two more pages” and then catch yourself having gulped down twenty. Yet like Pin herself the novel is something much more complex than it at first might appear ... Hand has pared down her wordcounts while still saying everything that needs to be said ... Hand doesn’t say less these days, but she suggests more. Every detail is telling; every scene essential; every theme nudged toward readers to think about for ourselves ... the frisson of surprise insights is as reliable a pleasure here as the suspense plotting.
Kim Stanley Robinson
RaveThe Village VoiceThe most immediate pleasure of Robinson’s latest speculative epic is its tour of sea-swallowed Gotham. Lower Manhattan’s a city of canals, the Hudson and East rivers now New York’s least predictable thoroughfares ... Yes, gentrification is a crisis even in the flood zone, and that’s the heart of Robinson’s novel... The plot, loose as it is, centers on a mystery consortium’s attempts to snatch the building up for billions...New York 2140 surveys life as it’s lived in the city to come. Like Dickens, Robinson examines class and capital through the serialized misadventures of caricatures. Like Dos Passos, he pauses the story for chapters of context...Robinson’s characters’ great project isn’t the establishment of some new home for humanity. It’s the humanizing of an old one.
Joyce Carol Oates
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksOates shows us radicalization as something of a relief for a man uncertain about his place in a changing America and secretly bored with his proscribed role as father/husband/family leader...Oates stirs empathy for Luther and his family, never lampooning their earnest beliefs. The prose in Luther’s chapters bear the stamp of his mind: The vocabulary is blunt and limited, the descriptions repetitive, the phrasing stiff and often passive, as if the world acts upon him ... Some of Oates’ detours are wearying: Her plot demands that two separate women, both public intellectuals, essentially abandon their children, and neither case is developed enough to be convincing. But most prove fruitful ... Oates is never more persuasive or powerful than when steeping us in the lives of young women alienated from their families, their communities, their bodies. The prose grows richer, more deliberative when written from their perspectives.