PanThe Guardian (UK)Death in Her Hands, seems a disappointment, unable to reach [the author\'s] prior heights. Some signature Moshfegh moments remain, but in general the book simmers for a while and then fizzles out ... We are meant to be plunged into an ambiguous space between thriller, mystery and psychological drama. We may also be intended to regard the narrative as dark humour, as the note leads the narrator down a rabbit hole of circular and obsessional thoughts ... Unfortunately, Vesta’s storytelling style means that the reader must hear in the abstract about \'how my garden might grow,\' then get a somewhat repetitive description of the \'seeds ready to plant,\' the pay-off for which is a scene in which a garden we would easily have taken the existence of on faith appears to have been destroyed by unknown forces. This may seem a small point, but it exists in a context in which the reader must endure not only the minutiae of Vesta’s days, but the point-blank sadism of Vesta listing the particulars ... unfortunately, you can be too good at portraying boredom.
Clarice Lispector, Trans. by Katrina Dodson
RaveSlateFor almost all of New Directions’ remarkable new Complete Stories, brilliantly translated by Katrina Dodson, I felt wrapped in flame ... Sometimes when you don’t care about how many writing rules you break, you wind up somewhere sublime and subversive and original. Reading Lispector, you see this happen with startling regularity. Also with startling regularity, mundane situations in her fiction have incisive or other-dimensional qualities, wedded to a seeming contradiction: She’s awfully good at plunging in and getting to the point, but equally good at digression and adding seeming tangents. These stories change texture and direction at will, but not capriciously ... The Complete Stories also reveals Lispector’s questing, ever-roving engagement with language, her lifelong task of making words do things other than originally intended ... Even the drunkest or least fortunate of her protagonists are sharp, questing people who have interesting views of the world ... Finding the absurdity or oddness in reality is, in isolation, a good enough magician’s trick, one that has sustained entire literary careers. But the joy in discovering Lispector is that she fuses the trick to a simultaneous sense of the universal, often in the same sentence or paragraph. Her characters could never be anyone else, yet they are also all of us ... joyous and revelatory.
RaveLos Angeles Times\"Black Leopard, Red Wolf is bawdy (OK, filthy), lyrical, poignant, violent (sometimes hyperviolent), riotous, funny (filthily hilarious), complex, mysterious, and always under tight and exquisite control ... Throughout, James makes the unreal real, without resorting to the kind of sludgy exposition that sometimes is referred to with a deepening sigh as \'world-building.\' James’ settings feel lived-in and complex, down to the stink-eye the urban folk of Kongor give to the naked riverfolk ... It’s a masterful opening, as full of ghosts as the beginning of Seven Killings, and teaches us how to read the novel as a whole, in which the past, present and future often converge ... Black Leopard, Red Wolf isn’t without some faults, minor though they may be ... But these are quibbles at best. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is, for the most part, absolutely brilliant — and the last third of the novel attains a kind of page-turning intensity without sacrificing psychological complexity ... I can honestly say that James has created a novel and a world that is both fresh and beautifully realized and written. Whether this is innovation or renovation, I don’t know for sure. All I know is I loved it.\
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Johnson’s first novel, longlisted for the Man Booker prize, builds on that achievement [of her first book] by blending a deep understanding of character and storytelling sophistication to examine a troubled mother-daughter relationship ... the novel’s sense of place is so organic and detailed. As in Fen, Johnson’s affinity for the natural world is extraordinary, even when dark and ominous ... a unique, strange mythology ... time becomes blurred, as if all moments occur at once and in the same place, dominated by the flow of the river. It’s an ambitious gambit, but what could be muddled and tangled is in fact rendered with astonishing clarity.
David R. Bunch
RaveThe New York Review of BooksThat these tales come off as a seamless meld of the eccentric poetics of E.E. Cummings, the genius-level invention of Philip K. Dick, and the body horror of Clive Barker perhaps explains both why they remain vital today and why they were characterized as \'fringe\' during Bunch’s career. They are wild, visceral, and sui generis, without the signifiers of a particular era that might provide anchors for mystified readers ... Bunch...foregrounded lyricism over plot and chose to write from the potentially unsympathetic viewpoint of a hyper-aggressive warmonger ... Nothing quite like the Moderan stories had been written before and nothing like them has been written since. In their intensity and structure, at times they resemble prose poems. They convey an astonishing amount of information and characterization beneath a hyperkinetic exterior that houses a powerful intention ... It’s impossible while reading parts of Moderan not to think of the setting as the wet dream of a certain kind of realtor or land developer or as the apotheosis of those clips shared on social media showing modern inventions that, for example, can destroy a tree in seconds flat ... The stories are at heart about how we no longer recognize dystopia because it’s been sold to us as utopia, about how we may not understand the irreplaceable value of aspects of the human and nonhuman world until they are irreplaceably gone from our lives ... Yet the humor, insight, energy, empathy, and rare moments of beauty in these stories also suggest that there may be light in even the worst kinds of darkness.
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewMiéville’s ruminations on language are brilliant, as are explorations of the relationship between Avice and various Ambassador pairs, which deepen the political intrigue. Miéville also sets up an interesting factionalism within the Ariekei by presenting a sect of the aliens who use a Festival of Lies as a deadly serious gambit to change their civilization. The crisis that emerges is intensified by the author’s cross-cutting between real-time and past events, a technique which results in a richly layered portrait of Embassytown and its inhabitants … Embassytown isn’t a perfect novel—it is infuriatingly dull and plodding in places—but it’s also original, sophisticated, bristling with subversive ideas, and filled with unforgettably alien images.
MixedThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewLepucki’s main characters, the 20-somethings Frida Ellis and Calvin Friedman, live in a near-future in which the most privileged have withdrawn to communities (called Communities) defended by private security forces. The less fortunate — those of them who haven’t died from the flu, anyway — eke out an existence in failing cities … Because the wilderness doesn’t hold much threat, the book derives most of its tension from the friction that exists between Frida and Cal when they’re not blissful in bed. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why they’re arguing, though, and other times it’s equally difficult to understand why they’re not … The last chapter of California, with its emphasis on security over freedom, supports a reading in which Frida and Cal never had a chance, still unable to make the connection between the ills of a runaway consumer society and environmental devastation.
PanThe GuardianIt's a big, sloppy, nostalgic homage to the kind of unsubtle doorstoppers of the late 1980s horror boom, in which a good (but possibly flawed) character encounters some emblem of supernatural evil against a backdrop of working- or middle-class America. Like most of those novels, [NOS4A2] has energy, plenty of narrative hooks, and a brash intensity. It's also overlong and clumsy – not the kind of narrative vehicle that can make abrupt turns around tight corners … For the most part, [NOS4A2] exists in a pleasantly naive bubble of time and space, within which events such as the Iraq war and global warming have had no visible influence. This is a legitimate stance for a novel that wants to have fun with monsters: but Hill could have offered readers more complicated villains and more genuine surprises.
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesRobin Sloan’s delightful new novel, Sourdough, the follow-up to his runaway success Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, displays both lightness and a yearning for escape, but only in the best sense. It is that rare thing: a satire that has a love of what it satirizes while also functioning as a modern fairy tale about, of all things, the magic of certain carbohydrates … Despite the proliferation of many interesting Loises in Sloan’s story, though, there is really only one Lois for me: the narrator, Computer Lois, who tells a sure-footed and lovely tale of being gifted with a strange sourdough starter … Once we’re past the setup, Sloan continues the high-wire balancing act of including satire with his fairy tale, all with an astounding conciseness and sure-footedness.
RaveBookforumIt would be easy to get lost in these generous meta references, except The Gift’s other gift is that whoever wrote this novel—Andersen or Browning—has a magnificent sense of play, and does a superb job of dropping her doppelgangers and social and aesthetic analysis in among the rhythms and travails of the narrator’s life, which include the failing health of her mother, her friendship with the reclusive Sami, and what you might call performance or just daily acts of 'creative faith' ... There is a lovely grace and beauty to the arc of the novel despite the complex granularity of the ideas that contaminate what I guess I’m going to have to reduce to calling, crudely and in direct contradiction of Browning’s clear wishes, the plot ... the entire book is bursting with the intertwining of the physical and the philosophical, storytelling and sensuality ... a beautiful meditation on art, and a balm for readers in these difficult times.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Book of Joan has the same unflinching quality as earlier works by Josephine Saxton, Doris Lessing, Frank Herbert, Ursula K. Le Guin and J.?G. Ballard. Yet it’s also radically new, full of maniacal invention and page-turning momentum ... But while Herbert’s writing, especially in the later Dune books, was marked by an airless abstraction, Yuknavitch’s prose is passionate and lyrical, very much in the moment. Fusing grand themes and the visceral details of daily life, she offers a revisionist corrective that shows the influence of writers like Clarice Lispector and Angela Carter. Like Carter, Yuknavitch writes about the body with an easy intimacy ... a rich, heady concoction, rippling with provocative ideas. There is nothing in The Book of Joan that is not a great gift to Yuknavitch’s readers, if only they are ready to receive it.
Omar El Akkad
PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesThe reader grows attached to Sarat and Simon not merely because of their perilous situation but because El Akkad is skilled at capturing the details that make them into real, flesh-and-blood people. Working against this nuance are jumps in time as long as a decade that interrupt the arc of the narrative ... The pacing trucks on at the same steady rate whether there’s action or conversation, while frequent transcripts of diaries, political speeches and journalistic accounts attempt to add more context for the civil war. Most of the time, however, entries like [these] are dishwater dull. These sections also seem oddly beholden to the original Civil War, and not in an illuminating way ... Despite these flaws — which may register to some readers as quibbles — American War is a worthy first novel, thought-provoking, earnest and mostly well-wrought ... El Akkad’s formidable talent is to offer up a stinging rebuke of the distance with which the United States sometimes views current disasters, which are always happening somewhere else. Not this time.