How much you enjoy this is in direct proportion to how much trouble you think we’re all in. Sleep tight.

QUALITYLAND

An outcast in a supposedly utopian future tries to figure out what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it. Join the club.

Well, sure, why not? Kling, the author of a bunch of texts about living with a kangaroo that got translated into a podcast and then turned into three books (all in German, so Google Translate is your friend), enters mainstream author mode with this bitter satire of consumer culture and the modern political sphere. In this kind of book, there’s typically an ordinary guy to represent us, the reader—think Arthur Dent as opposed to Ford Prefect in The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Our main guy here is Peter Jobless, although the point of view bounces around all over the place. Welcome to QualityLand, where everything, from your stuff to your love life, has been optimized for you by algorithm. If you couldn't tell from his moniker, Peter is a bit of a screw-up, just coming off a long-term relationship with Sandra Admin, who’s happily dumped him based on the admonishment of QualityLand's dating service, QualityPartner, which matched them up automatically in the first place. Black humor abounds: There's John of Us, the political candidate who happens to be an android, and TheShop, which essentially serves as the company store for the world. The interstitial bits—news bulletins, guidebook entries, and the inevitable comments section—are particularly funny and give context to QualityLand's odd rules and tics. Despite the novel's comic approach, the nature of the narrative is heavily political, holding up a black mirror to our own troubled times. In addition to the pitch-black political satire, the novel's portrayal of economic inequality highlights a problem that wreaks havoc on our own lives. The characters aren't particularly likable and the narrative is a bit unhinged, but these days, a little comic relief might do us all some good.

How much you enjoy this is in direct proportion to how much trouble you think we’re all in. Sleep tight.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-3296-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

more