Groff’s skill makes commonplace occurrences seem compelling.

DELICATE EDIBLE BIRDS

AND OTHER STORIES

Tales of ordinary transformations and everyday occurrences are made magical in a collection of nine stories by Groff (The Monsters of Templeton, 2008).

The details make the difference in this sophomore effort. They range from specific realities, as when a lonely teen swimmer watches her breath rise in “a great silver jellyfish-bubble of air” before her small town falls apart in “Lucky Chow Fun,” to dreamlike metaphor, as when another young woman feels her depression as “this black sack filled with cobras” in “Majorette.” “Lucky Chow Fun,” which returns to Templeton, the fictionalized Cooperstown, N.Y., of the author’s debut novel, was previously published, as was the vivid “L. DeBard and Aliette,” a retelling of a tragic romance, set in New York during the flu epidemic of 1918. As a collection, the stories are loosely connected by their themes of metamorphosis, as girls grow up, lose their illusions and, often, find unexpected happiness. Images of water and fire run through these tales as well: Aliette, the Heloise substitute, regains her strength after polio via swimming lessons with the handsome L. DeBard, and, in “Watershed,” a diver tells of an elderly couple who end their pain by diving into a waterfall. “There is no ending, no neatness in this story,” the narrator offers. “There never really is, where water is concerned.” The “wild, febrile, kind, ambiguous” nature of the elements may serve to explain the power in these stories, which could have faltered in the hands of a lesser writer.

Groff’s skill makes commonplace occurrences seem compelling.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4086-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Voice/Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

EXHALATION

Exploring humankind's place in the universe and the nature of humanity, many of the stories in this stellar collection focus on how technological advances can impact humanity’s evolutionary journey.

Chiang's (Stories of Your Life and Others, 2002) second collection begins with an instant classic, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” which won Hugo and Nebula awards for Best Novelette in 2008. A time-travel fantasy set largely in ancient Baghdad, the story follows fabric merchant Fuwaad ibn Abbas after he meets an alchemist who has crafted what is essentially a time portal. After hearing life-changing stories about others who have used the portal, he decides to go back in time to try to right a terrible wrong—and realizes, too late, that nothing can erase the past. Other standout selections include “The Lifecycle of Software Objects,” a story about a software tester who, over the course of a decade, struggles to keep a sentient digital entity alive; “The Great Silence,” which brilliantly questions the theory that humankind is the only intelligent race in the universe; and “Dacey’s Patent Automatic Nanny,” which chronicles the consequences of machines raising human children. But arguably the most profound story is "Exhalation" (which won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Short Story), a heart-rending message and warning from a scientist of a highly advanced, but now extinct, race of mechanical beings from another universe. Although the being theorizes that all life will die when the universes reach “equilibrium,” its parting advice will resonate with everyone: “Contemplate the marvel that is existence, and rejoice that you are able to do so.”

Visionary speculative stories that will change the way readers see themselves and the world around them: This book delivers in a big way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-94788-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Screenplay prose.

THE LIONS OF LUCERNE

Debut thriller from the host of PBS’s Traveling Lite proves its own title. The sole survivor of a ski-slope nabbing of the US president, Secret Service Agent Scot Harvath is America’s latest cookie-cutter superspy to be vaulted into international intrigue by terrorism. All evidence points to the Mideast’s largest terrorist organization, but Harvath’s not fooled—he knows that Middle East groups “are not tacticians. . . . Essentially, they’re cowards. They don’t do in-your-face operations.” “Call it an ingrained bigotry,” but Harvath just knows that a Mideast terrorist group could not pull off a scam of this magnitude. Turns out he’s right—it was the Swiss. Aided by a pair of conniving senators and a squirrelly vice president, a crack Swiss commando unit has snatched President Potus and stuffed him away inside a mountain. When Harvath’s investigation starts to get warm, he’s framed—and won’t be able to clear his name unless he can free the president. Oh, yes, there’s also a Swiss agent named Claudia who’s hot and knows how to handle a 9mm SIG-Sauer 229 semiautomatic. Thor’s tangled writing often interferes with the plot-drenching: “The uncomfortable hog tie position in which he was restrained threatened to drive him insane”; “He lay in a trance like state in the warm void half-way between sleeping and waking until his mind began to assemble different explanations for what he was hearing and he felt himself being forcibly dragged upward toward the surface world of the wakeful.”

Screenplay prose.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7434-3673-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more