Possibly preachy, but usefully so, and eloquently expressed.

ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELDS

From the Wayward Children series , Vol. 6

The sixth novella in the Wayward Children series introduces yet another child who tumbles through a portal to a magic land and is forever changed.

Three years ago, when she was 7, Regan Lewis rejected her sweet and quirky friend Heather in favor of mean queen bee Laurel. But the gravity of her mistake doesn’t really strike home until Laurel viciously rejects Regan when Regan, now 10, reveals something her parents have just told her: Regan is intersex, which explains why she isn’t maturing like the other girls. A distraught Regan flees into what’s left of the local woods and inadvertently passes through a magical door to the Hooflands, populated by fauns, minotaurs, kelpies, and all manner of other hoofed beings. A kindly band of centaurs takes Regan in, and she gladly becomes part of their simple life herding unicorns, discovering true friendship with the centaur girl Chicory and satisfaction in her apprenticeship to their healer. But her contentment cannot last, because all denizens of the Hooflands know that human visitors to their realm will ultimately become heroes and save them from dire threat, whatever that happens to be. Can Regan defy her destiny, or must she inevitably meet the mysterious Queen Kagami and defeat a hitherto undefined evil? McGuire revisits her well-known themes: the cruelty demonstrated by some children as well as the strong and beautiful friendships that more open-hearted children can build, the pain of trying to conform in a society that punishes outliers, and the rewards of following one’s own path and finding that place where one fits and flourishes. Because she is the only human among them, Regan is free to express her humanity in any way she chooses...up to a point, anyway—the point at which the story turns. This is probably the most literal iteration of McGuire’s ongoing argument that biology is not destiny. The author can’t seem to stay away from transmitting these messages over and over, both in this series and in her other works, but she does transmit them beautifully, and some people may need to read them over and over, either for reassurance or to let the ideas sink in.

Possibly preachy, but usefully so, and eloquently expressed.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-21359-4

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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

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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

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

THE SWALLOWED MAN

A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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