A mixed bag, like many anthologies, but sci-fi fans will find it well worth their while.

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An anthology that examines the relationship between video games and storytelling.

In his introduction, co-editor Adams asks, “if exploring video games has become one of the primary ways we create and experience narratives...Why not create some narratives that explore the way we create and experience video games?” It’s an intriguing question—which some of the entries in this volume do justice to. Stories like S.R. Mastrantone’s “Desert Walk” and Django Wexler’s “REAL” capture the spellbinding allure of an immersive game. Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s “Respawn” asks what life would be without the finality of death, while Holly Black’s “1Up” gives us a twist on a locked-room mystery. Several stories ask who we really are when we lose ourselves in a game (such as Jessica Barber’s excellent “Coma Kings”), when our identities are hidden behind avatars (Cory Doctorow’s “Anda’s Game”), when our avatars can change on a whim (David Barr Kirtley’s “Save Me Plz”). The collection is uneven, however. Some stories get stuck in the virtual world and fail to connect with any recognizable reality. But there are many good tales here and a couple of standouts—most notably T.C. Boyle’s beautiful, wrenching “The Relive Box,” in which a father and daughter struggle for control of a device that lets them relive cherished memories, and Robin Wasserman’s “All of the People in Your Party Have Died,” which will break your heart with its take on, of all things, the Oregon Trail.

A mixed bag, like many anthologies, but sci-fi fans will find it well worth their while.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-87330-4

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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