The dystopian ingredients are familiar, but Heathcock combines them in a potent metaphorical stew.

40

Same hunger, subtler games.

Heathcock’s dystopian tale, set in a near-future America decimated by the ravages of climate change, conjures a haunting mood despite an abundance of familiar tropes. These primarily derive from Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series: Both follow the tribulations of a tough, competent young woman from an impoverished family struggling to survive in a hostile natural setting, plucked from obscurity by a totalitarian system eager to exploit her as a symbol to sway the hearts and minds of a desperate populace. Our protagonist, Mazzy Goodwin, like Katniss Everdeen, is motivated by concern for a younger sister and assisted by a stalwart boy from back home as she navigates the treacherous schemes of an oppressive governing body that cloaks its atrocities in the rhetoric of freedom and salvation. Also like Katniss, who took on the mantle of the Mockingjay, Mazzy embodies an avian theme: She’s called the Seraphine, named for the angelic wings that grow from her back. This is where the two works diverge: Where Collins concentrates on realistic worldbuilding and grounds her heroine in a wealth of naturalistic detail, Heathcock crafts something closer to a fable; Mazzy’s wings are desultorily explained late in the narrative, and the workings of the sinister Novae Terrae, a militaristic cult led by the enigmatic visionary Jo Sam, are conveyed in fleeting glimpses and evoked in poetically vague descriptions. Miraculous technological wonders and climatological disasters buffet the suffering multitudes who, as ever, are subject to the whims of Mother Nature and human nature, equally destructive forces immune to reason. Mazzy remains a passive character through much of the action, becoming embroiled in a revolutionary plot she doesn’t really understand, and her dour, humorless perspective, while understandable, casts a pall over the punishing narrative. Ultimately, though, Heathcock produces striking alchemy from these unpromising elements, as the cumulative impact of elusive, evocative details and a growing sense of moral horror deliver an emotional wallop that leaves the reader feeling unnerved and strangely bereft.

The dystopian ingredients are familiar, but Heathcock combines them in a potent metaphorical stew.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3741-0023-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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
  • 73

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 haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 88

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

KLARA AND THE SUN

Nobelist Ishiguro returns to familiar dystopian ground with this provocative look at a disturbing near future.

Klara is an AF, or “Artificial Friend,” of a slightly older model than the current production run; she can’t do the perfect acrobatics of the newer B3 line, and she is in constant need of recharging owing to “solar absorption problems,” so much so that “after four continuous days of Pollution,” she recounts, “I could feel myself weakening.” She’s uncommonly intelligent, and even as she goes unsold in the store where she’s on display, she takes in the details of every human visitor. When a teenager named Josie picks her out, to the dismay of her mother, whose stern gaze “never softened or wavered,” Klara has the opportunity to learn a new grammar of portentous meaning: Josie is gravely ill, the Mother deeply depressed by the earlier death of her other daughter. Klara has never been outside, and when the Mother takes her to see a waterfall, Josie being too ill to go along, she asks the Mother about that death, only to be told, “It’s not your business to be curious.” It becomes clear that Klara is not just an AF; she’s being groomed to be a surrogate daughter in the event that Josie, too, dies. Much of Ishiguro’s tale is veiled: We’re never quite sure why Josie is so ill, the consequence, it seems, of genetic editing, or why the world has become such a grim place. It’s clear, though, that it’s a future where the rich, as ever, enjoy every privilege and where children are marshaled into forced social interactions where the entertainment is to abuse androids. Working territory familiar to readers of Brian Aldiss—and Carlo Collodi, for that matter—Ishiguro delivers a story, very much of a piece with his Never Let Me Go, that is told in hushed tones, one in which Klara’s heart, if she had one, is destined to be broken and artificial humans are revealed to be far better than the real thing.

A haunting fable of a lonely, moribund world that is entirely too plausible.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-31817-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more