A delightfully cacophonous novel, teeming with character.

THE ESCAPEMENT

Tidhar's latest offering transports readers to a liminal otherworld of spaghetti Western pastiche.

Somewhere, in some city, a nameless man attends his dying son's bedside, powerless to save the boy. Desperate to find a cure, he slips into the Escapement: a Western world of maniacal whimsy populated by bounty hunters, stone giants, mimes, and clowns. Here, the ghost of John Wayne Gacy becomes a bloodthirsty giant, and P.T. Barnum is recast as a clown-enslaving general. The man, known in the Escapement as the Stranger, is not alone; most of the people in this weird desert come there from the real world by way of dream, drink, or death. Studded with features like the Big Rock Candy Mountains and the Desert de Soleil, the land bears intimate connections to the dying boy in the hospital bed—a boy who loves the circus and its clowns—and it's here that the Stranger hopes to find his son a panacea: Ur-shanabi, the Plant of Heartbeat. In keeping with its roots in midcentury Westerns, Tidhar's novel casts the Escapement's clowns as Native American analogs, turning the Stranger into their White savior and avenger, a man who knows that "one should never be unkind to clowns." The author draws from an eclectic mix of sources to create a dazzling story that is more than the sum of its parts, and much of the fun of reading it comes from recognizing its homages. Knowledgeable readers will notice shades of Stephen King, Lewis Carroll, and Westworld here, and Tidhar himself cites Z. Ariel's fairy tale, "The Heart of the Golden Flower," the Epic of Gilgamesh, Salvador Dalí, tarot cards, and Sergio Leone as particular sources of inspiration.

A delightfully cacophonous novel, teeming with character.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61696-327-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more