PanThe New York Times Book Review...an uneven [novel] whose execution doesn’t live up to its premise ... For one, I wondered about Hudson’s intended audience. The storytelling feels too libidinous and crude (and occasionally gruesome) for middle grade or young adult readers...Yet the humor and action seem too slapstick to appeal to most adult readers. And Gork’s voice — a crucial element, since he’s a first-person, present-tense narrator — often lands like a dead weight on the page ... Hudson’s bigger obstacle is that most of the novel’s events unfold on that single EggHarvest day. The pace slows to a crawl. One can sense Hudson running out of ways to thwart Gork from getting the girl. Hence, many repetitive scenes describe encounters with bullies.
MixedThe Boston GlobeTrue to form, The Twelve performs its dutiful role as a middle book, raising stakes, delivering gads of plot, and providing resolution. But not too much. Much like the ‘virals,’ thirsty readers — if they have journeyed this far — will probably keep reading. If this sort of thing is their cup of tea. Er, blood … Despite Cronin’s impressive literary pedigree, the writing is wildly uneven. Aiming for the heavens, his prose can crash and burn … Cronin is more compelling when he gets real — and gets down and dirty. His take on the ‘Homeland,’ his Orwellian militaristic colony, rips a page from today’s headlines. Cronin’s most tragic (and funny) character might be Guilder, a likable government man who loses his father to Alzheimer’s and his heart to a hooker.
MixedThe Boston GlobeCertainly Cronin has fun with his destroyed America, one in which Jenna Bush was governor of Texas, and, in an eerie parallel with today’s headlines, the oil industry is under federal protection. Later, some decades after the initial outbreak, we encounter a whole set of new characters, and they take us through the second half of The Passage. This ragtag colony survives in a Walden-like castle compound, fighting back the bloodthirsty devils … Cronin has a literary novelist’s eye for detail and local color, and an eagerness to create believable characters with feelings. However, this impulse collides with the necessities of the supernatural, sci-fi horror thriller. The collision is not always pretty.
PositiveThe Boston Globe\"Any travelers from Middle-earth or the Marvel Avengers universe dropped into Gaiman’s novelistic reboot will find this fantastical place familiar ground ... Aside from the occasionally labored, Yoda-like syntax (\'Nothing did he eat for nine days or nine nights, nothing did he drink\') Gaiman finds the right balance. He captures an appropriately legendary tone, while being more irreverent than previous tellers ... As a novelist, Gaiman was likely tempted to imbue his heroes with rich inner lives and back stories, but he manages to keep plots clean and the chatter of inner thought spare ... In these accessible, retold tales, fantasy is odd, and real, and dire. They remind us that even as the Norse gods wielded war hammers and magic spears, and smote giants that once ruled the earth, still they could not rule their own fragile destinies.\
PositiveThe Boston GlobeChanneling Raymond Carver and Stephen King, and tapping into the unsettling doom of 1990s shows like Twin Peaks and widespread Y2K hysteria, Universal Harvester reads like a melancholic, at times creepy, tone poem ... To be sure, Darnielle isn’t plotting some clunky whodunit. Each section of the four-part book offers another overlapping puzzle piece, but he subverts our expectations for the genre at every turn ... The narrative suffers from a kind of attention-deficit disorder ... If this point of view jiujitsu is distracting, the riddle of each character’s inner life keeps our attention. Like Wolf in White Van, whose protagonist constructs a fantasy role-playing game for emotional survival, Universal Harvester characters are dogged by their emotional limits ... As the fractured story line crumbles, Universal Harvester contents itself to sing this haunting, lyrical, interior-minded ode to the stoic souls of Iowa farm towns.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe direct but oftentimes repetitive, idea-driven prose of Play Anything might remind you of the applied-philosophy tactics of an Alain de Botton, even as Bogost makes no grand claim that games can make you a better person. Indeed, Bogost tries to disabuse us of what he perceives as the false gods of fun ... demonstrate[s] the importance of thoughtful, serious criticism on gaming and play.
Brian Jay Jones
RaveThe Boston Globe... a deeply researched and striking new biography ... To stitch together his tale, Jones had to rely on previous biographies, interviews, and magazine profiles, which at times make this biography feel more factual and respectful than analytic. Still, overall Jones’s narrative is undeniably spellbinding and will be especially compelling to film nerds.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewWhen Ackerman evokes this clunkier era ruled by DOS, IBM PCs and Soviet bureaucrats clueless about property rights, the story shines. But when this rich setting is abandoned, the narrative falters (unless you’re excited by endless minutiae about licensing negotiations). Oddly, despite interviewing many of the major players who shaped the destiny of Tetris, Ackerman includes almost none of their direct quotes or reflections. Further, Ackerman’s main story is broken up by 'Bonus Level' chapters that distractingly detail, for example, clinical uses of Tetris to study PTSD ... These deficits aside, at least he makes clear what was groundbreaking about Pajitnov’s creation.
PositiveThe Boston GlobeOver 13 tales, he steeps us in a realm of alternate realities close to our own, but each with a thought-provoking twist ... While the world his characters inhabit is more tech-infused than our own, their personal challenges are timeless. In direct, unadorned prose, the mostly first-person narrators recount their anxieties and fears about raising good kids, providing for families, and forming meaningful, intimate relationships ... If Weinstein has a weakness, it’s that many of his stories sound the same dire note of a future that’s closer than we’d like.
MixedThe Boston GlobeThe downside of reading such speeches, however, is this: They were written for a specific place and time and for a specific audience and purpose. Minus the caps and gowns, laughter from the audience, and Gaiman’s accent and genial tone, the text of talks like 'Make Good Art' lose much of their magic. Contrast that with the collection’s best written and reported pieces, such as the eponymous essay, which drolly captures his Oscar awards experiences. Or, one of the book’s most powerful pieces, 'So Many Ways to Die in Syria Now,' based on Gaiman’s insightful reportage from a Jordanian refugee camp.Then again it is largely to his fans that this wide-ranging, hit-or-miss rag bag seems directed. Gaiman geeks will delight in picking through the bones for meaty autobiographical bits ... Above all, The View from the Cheap Seats serves as a spirited defense of reading, art, and the imagination.
PanThe Boston GlobeWhen King dials back the horror shtick in the more harrowing tales of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, it’s the quotidian particulars of 21st century life — Walmart, DUI convictions, road rage, the stony realism of Maine’s rural poor — that haunt us more effectively than any undead vehicle.
Michael W. Clune
PositiveThe New York Times Sunday Book Reviewin the unconventionally plotted and oddly moving Gamelife, there’s no world to save, just Clune’s younger self weathering the shock waves of alienation and struggling to connect with others.