Blending outrÇ-dimensional, drooly-tentacled, Lovecraftian slipslop weirdness with Robert A. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, Laidlaw (Kalifornia, 1993, etc.) lays out a work far more fine- grained than Heinlein's and nearly as compelling as Lovecraft's. San Francisco hack writer Derek Crowe stumbles onto a gold mine when his latest book attracts the interest of Eli Mooney, an elderly wheelchair-bound astral voyager who invites him home. Mooney's the real thing, a seeming crackpot whose phantasmal travels have made him the channel for invading forces shaped like mandalas—``elaborate wheels with wavering arms and spiral centers.'' Aside from three arcane histories that the mandalas have dictated to him, he also owns the skin of a dead Cambodian imprinted with 37 mandalas that focus the invaders' powers. Mooney begins dictating to Crowe, then dies, and so Crowe romps off with the skin and earlier dictation. Published, the evil mandalas make Crowe a famed New Ager, although his The Mandala Rites perverts Mooney's hard-earned fatalism with fluffy New Age optimism. Himself still not believing in Mooney, Crowe writhes ``in the hair shirt of his occult hypocrisy, writing books for the praise of people he considers imbeciles.'' On a book-signing trip in North Carolina, Crowe hypnotizes Lenore, a hippie math genius, and accidentally channels in the 37th mandala, an astral jellyfish that sticks to her head. Lenore and her housemate Michael follow Crowe to San Francisco, where Club Mandala becomes the host center for the mandala invasion that Crowe doesn't believe in. While painting himself into a corner plotwise, Laidlaw strives to resolve Crowe's dilemma at the same keenly drawn level on which it is presented. Stick-fast storytelling and brilliant discursive detail about occultism. Deserves high marks indeed—and those mandalas cry out for celluloid computerization.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1996

ISBN: 0-312-13021-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet