MixedPolygonMalorie doesn’t have the same tonal conflict — it’s virtually all fast-moving, stripped-down story. It spends most of its time in Malorie’s head, or Tom’s, but the literary conceits have been replaced with a kind of grim monotony, as Malorie endlessly shouts orders at her children, and endlessly circles around the new information she’s gotten, and the compulsions it’s creating. It’s a harrowing and truthful portrait of PTSD and obsession, but it’s so repetitive that it doesn’t always make for satisfying or compelling reading ... Malorie will likely make a thrilling, engaging movie. But as a novel, it sometimes seems far too curt. The late arrival of a familiar threatening force comes out of nowhere, is never explained, and is casually dismissed in the finale in a bafflingly impersonal and distanced way that never seems real ... There’s a lot missing from this book’s headlong action that would make it a more rich and satisfying standalone experience.
George R. R. Martin
RaveThe A.V. ClubThe thousand-page novel is staggeringly dense with interlaced characters, whose complicated interactions stretch back through hundreds of years of lineage, and it stretches to encompass Martin’s entire world, taking in POV characters from the entire series in order to cover events in a dozen locales ... It’s always been a joy to get lost in the flow of his words, even when it’s unclear where they’re leading. And Dragons shows him continuing to develop as a writer: It can be difficult, but it’s richly rewarding. Martin remains boundlessly creative, sketching out intricately realized new civilizations, societies, religions, and factions on one continent while continuing to complicate the established political agendas on another. No part of his world ever feels like an afterthought or an easy fantasy cliché.
MixedA.V. Club\"Malerman veers back and forth between the slightly too lyrical, elegiac style of a high-blown literary novel, and the blunt prose of a propulsive horror story. He similarly crowds his book with minutia, while not focusing on some of the details that matter ... The erratic tone and focus can be distracting, and so can the unsubtle attempt to drum up tension by hiding Malorie’s intentions ... Malerman excels at building tension with his eerie descriptions of blindfolded characters groping their way through a world of the dead, aware that something inhuman and beyond comprehension might be observing them, or possibly standing right in front of them ... Malerman overreaches a bit in his debut, which could use as much attention to the cast as to the mood, but the mood is chillingly effective. Reading it feels like accepting a dare to walk into a strange place, eyes closed, with no idea who, or what, might be reaching out to make contact.\
David Lynch and Kristine McKenna
PositiveNPR...fans looking for insight into Lynch\'s methods will certainly find it in the book\'s accumulation of memories and opinions, drawn from his family, romantic partners, and collaborators ... Lynch rarely acknowledges McKenna\'s reportage, which can make the doubled timeline repetitive. There\'s little tension between their perspectives, or collusion in their storytelling. But they certainly cover a lot of ground ... Gradually, they coalesce into a portrait of an artist who\'s spent his life getting vivid, elaborate visions, then reproducing them in film, TV, paintings, photography, music, woodwork, or even pottery, all without needing to question or analyze them ... The book still feels intimate and honest, as McKenna\'s interviewees unfailingly describe Lynch\'s charisma and warmth, and his methodical but instinctive dedication to craft. There are small revelations for fans scattered throughout, about character decisions Lynch made, and projects he turned down ... it\'s breezy, entertaining, and almost entirely surface-level. It may not give readers the dream, as Lynch puts it, but at least it brings the dream into sharper focus.
PositiveNPRWalton's fans will still find plenty to enjoy in Starlings, where every piece is a reminder of her remarkable knack for crafting distinctive voices and tones ... Starlings' diversity of subjects and styles just makes it feel like her bibliography in miniature ... [the] liner notes are almost as valuable as the stories, because they reveal so much about the inner workings of Walton's mind — especially how often she writes things just to explore a particular literary or poetic style, or indulge a passing fancy. As a result, Starlings isn't particularly consistent, and some pieces certainly feel like momentary distractions, preserved for a dubious posterity. But even the fragments are fascinating because of the way they combine keen, resonant ideas with a variety of voices.
MixedNPRThe brisk pacing and reader-friendly explanations of chemistry and engineering conundrums are similar. And for better and worse, the protagonist's snarky, hipshot, goofy voice is much the same as Mark Watney's in The Martian ... Like The Martian, Artemis is blunt and simple, with characters dumping exposition on each other in graceless speeches or convenient pen-pal letters. The characters are thinly sketched vehicles for action and information ... Artemis' take on sex in general is juvenile and foregrounded; Weir seems to know a lot more about low-gravity welding than about how 20-something women think about their bodies and partners ... But the book has the same strengths that made The Martian so compelling — Weir's palpable fascination with the rigors of life in space, and his devotion to scientific accuracy, which lets real-world facts drive the plot.
PositiveThe AV ClubThat’s often true in Atwood’s writing, which tends to be beautifully mannered and precise as its characters think things through in bloodless detail, then act according to hidden desires rather than their own well-presented reasoning ...many other characters in these stories are late in life, looking back toward old traumas, papered over by decades of other events. The theme isn’t heavily underlined, but it’s enough of a backbone to make these otherwise disparate, mostly new stories hold together ... The major frustration in Stone Mattress is that some of these stories are more ruminative and expansive than others, to the point where a few feel like incomplete novel openings ...Stone Mattress never comes across as rushed or ill-considered. Her writing remains balanced between accessible and flowery; she has a long-sustained knack for metaphor-strewn writing that feels carefully considered, but not dense or overworked.
RaveThe A.V. ClubInitially framed as a faux-scholarly, dry historical novel, complete with close to 200 footnotes citing magical texts and explaining references, Jonathan Strange initially lulls readers with the drawing-room realism of a Jane Austen novel ...the book flowers into a sprawling, wild adventure. Clarke seems as comfortable with her seamless blend of history and fiction as she is with her brand of antiquated spelling... Norrell and Strange's various movements throughout society, politics, the Napoleonic Wars, England, Europe, and ultimately Faerie are as phantasmagorical as any moony children's book about unicorns and dragons, but Clarke grounds it all in convincing, compelling style ...Clarke's gorgeous debut might simply have taken the Harry Potter books' slot as a proving ground, an example of how dedication, creativity, and skill can breathe new life into any genre.
RaveThe A.V. ClubThe narrator, known only as Kathy H, begins the book speaking obliquely of carers and donors, and later of Sales, guardians, completions, possibles, and Exchanges, all innocuous words that take on secretive and ominous meanings as Ishiguro brings them up repeatedly in different contexts before explaining their significance … In one sense, Never Let Me Go is a mystery novel, with the question of the characters' purpose and future hanging constantly in the air. But the clues are all in place, and the mystery is easy enough to unravel; the book isn't meant as a thriller with a big, high-impact reveal at the end. It's far more like one of Margaret Atwood's recent novels … Once again, it's amazing how Ishiguro says so much, and so well, about people who themselves say so little.
PositiveA.V. ClubAs a thriller, Bones is surprisingly abstract and poetic: Susie's shudder-inducing mixture of frankness and euphemism in detailing the crime sidesteps the most exploitative aspects of the story, instead reaching for a tone that's gentle and almost sentimental, though still deeply unsettling ... Susie sees the world with an all-encompassing vision that extends into mortals' minds and experiences, which lets Sebold forge an unusual blend of first-person narration and omniscient authorship ... the author flouts expectations for a first-time novelist. Her debut is refreshingly experimental, and ambitious in the extreme ... Sebold stretches her story far past the logical ending and into more cosmic territory, drawing on coincidence and confluence to reach a balance between comforting fantasy and grim reality ... Beautifully written, consistently surprising, and utterly assured.
RaveA.V. ClubAmerican Gods is assured and ambitious, resembling nothing except Gaiman's Sandman stories. Shadow's solid, believable grounding in the minute trivia of the real world rivals the book's grounding in the fantastic and arcane world of ancient theologies; those two aspects meet and merge to form a cohesive, compelling whole that approaches Gaiman's finest work. Like most road-trip novels, American Gods can be disjointed and episodic, but, like the best of them, it's still worth the trip.
MixedNPR...the strange and fascinating thing about Harmony is how it uses its female points of view to turn the male characters into evocative mysteries ... Harmony is a frustratingly short book that skips past the chance to fully develop some of the plot hooks it teases...answers come with startling abruptness, cutting off a compelling, seductive narrative that could have sustained much more thorough exploration. Harmony's strengths come in its observations about what it takes to parent an unpredictable, unusual child.
PositiveNPRShadows has a visible case of middle-book syndrome, with its slow build and lack of major plot movement. But that winds up being a relief. Magic introduced four separate worlds, and a few major, memorable characters. The sequel actually takes time between crises to let readers get to know them all better. It develops the immense internal stresses that will affect the more external battles to come, but it also builds a compelling portrait of life in a fantasy world that isn't constantly under siege.